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 February 6th, 2012  
St. Lucie County Sheriff Mascara announces arrest of animal shelter founder for stealing thousands of dollars intended for improving the shelter
In April 2011, authorities removed 167 emaciated dogs and cats from the Sanctuary Animal Shelter on Carlton Road in western St. Lucie County.

Ten months later, St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken J. Mascara announced the arrest of the shelter's founder for stealing more than $260,000 intended to improve the shelter.

Palena Rae Dorsey, 59, was arrested in Sumter County, Florida, on a St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office charge of first degree grand theft, Sheriff Mascara said. The investigation showed Dorsey had taken money bequeathed to the sanctuary and spent more than $190,000 to buy a home, another $26,000 to buy two cars and $34,000 more for personal items including food from fast food restaurants.

She admitted to detectives that she had converted the money to personal use claiming she was not in her right mind at the time.

A related Sheriff's Office investigation into animal cruelty and neglect is continuing, Sheriff Mascara said.

The animal sanctuary, opened in 2004, was the scene of an altercation in April 2011 between sanctuary workers and a couple who came to claim several dogs they had taken to the sanctuary months earlier. When sanctuary workers refused to give the dogs to the couple, deputies were called to the scene. They in turn summoned county animal control investigators, who confirmed the deplorable condition of the animals.

With the help of local, regional and out-of-state veterinarians and animal protective groups, 167 dogs and cats were given medical care, nourishment and new homes. The resulting criminal investigation led to the arrest of Dorsey.

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