WAUKEGAN, Ill. (STMW) — The owner of a northwest suburban animal shelter was sentenced Tuesday to 2-1/2 years of periodic imprisonment for starving more than a dozen dogs to death.

Diane Eldrup, 49, of Deer Park faced up to five years in prison for the 18 counts of animal torture and up to three years in prison for the 18 counts of aggravated animal cruelty that a jury convicted her of last month.

“It takes a certain mean spirit, a certain meanness of heart,” Lake County Circuit Judge James Booras said. “She was running a concentration camp for dogs, taking those dogs in so that she could kill them.”

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Eldrup will be held in a facility next to the Lake County Jail and will be let out for counseling, court obligations and work. Booras also ordered Eldrup serve 2-1/2 years on probation, perform 200 hours of community service that does not involve contact with dogs and pay a $1,000 fine.

A jury heard evidence that Eldrup allowed 14 dogs to die of starvation and dehydration while they were under her care at the Muddy Paws animal shelter. Their rotting carcasses were found amid piles of moldy feces, and near empty food and water bowls.

The 14 dead dogs and four live dogs were found Dec. 16, 2010, prosecutors said. Evidence was presented at Tuesday’s sentencing hearing that another eight to 10 carcasses were found at Muddy Paws after the snow melted.

“The defendant has been hiding and killing dogs far longer than the evidence of trial. … She starved them to death. She prolonged their suffering,” Asst. State’s Atty. Suzanne Willett said. “This was a torture camp for animals and she was a prison guard.”

Defense attorney John Curnyn said Eldrup has no prior criminal history and has a 9-year-old son, and he pointed out that psychologists found she has obsessive-compulsive disorder and a depressive disorder.

Curnyn also said Eldrup was undergoing a divorce and a failing business while she “shut down.”

“At trial, my argument was that she didn’t specifically intend this. While that failed, I still believe that,” he said.

Booras said he found Eldrup’s apology believable.

“I stand before you, your honor, truly sorry and very remorseful for what my actions have done … my actions were wrong. I was unable to see that at the time, but with help, I am starting to see that now. I don’t deny any guilt,” Eldrup said.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2010. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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