FREEHOLD – A man pleaded guilty today to charges of animal cruelty admitting his neglect caused the deaths of four German Shepard puppies in his care, announced Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni.

Daniel McDonald, 26, of Freehold, pleaded guilty to four counts of third degree Animal Cruelty before Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Vincent N. Falcetano, Jr. The charges are related to the deaths of four German Shepherd puppies found deceased on a property in Howell where he was temporarily residing.

McDonald also pleaded guilty to third degree Receiving Stolen Property after admitting he was in possession of a John Deere front end loader reported stolen out of Monroe.  

McDonald is scheduled to return for sentencing on January 8, 2021.  Per the plea agreement, the sentencing recommendation is five years in a New Jersey state prison to run concurrent to McDonald’s pending charges in Middlesex and Bergen counties.  As part of the plea, McDonald will be required to perform community service, and agreed to an order to never to own or reside with animals. 

The remains of two deceased German Shepherd puppies were found in a fire pit on a property in Howell where McDonald was temporarily residing on Monday, May 18, 2020.  The Howell Township Police Department and Monmouth County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Law Enforcement Division, conducted an investigation leading to the discovery of the remains of two more deceased puppies which had been buried on the property.    

The joint investigation ultimately revealed that the puppies were stolen from a farm in Somerset County on or about May 12, when the puppies were only three weeks old.  Investigators learned McDonald was staying at the Somerset County farm prior to the time the puppies went missing. Investigators also learned the puppies were ill, in distress, and were struggling to breathe prior to their deaths.  A necropsy performed on the two buried puppies revealed the puppies suffered from parasites and also were severely emaciated and malnourished with “no indications of recent nutritional ingestion.”  During his plea, McDonald took full responsibility for not getting the puppies the proper care resulting in their deaths.

This case is assigned to Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Melanie Falco, Director of the Office’s Professional Responsibility and Bias Crimes Unit, and liaison to the Monmouth County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Law Enforcement Division. 

McDonald is represented by Paul Zager, Esq. of Red Bank.

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