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W. Dundee woman pleads guilty to stabbing husband's pet lizards
By Adam Kovac | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 5/21/2008 12:17 PM | Updated: 5/21/2008 8:09 PM

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A West Dundee woman faces probation or prison after she acknowledged stabbing two of her estranged husband's pet lizards and hurling them against a wall, killing one of the reptiles, authorities said Wednesday.

Sara Tinsley, 38, pleaded guilty to a charge of aggravated cruelty to animals in the April 2, 2007, attack on a pair of bearded dragons, named Fred and Ethel. The allegations drew the ire of local and national animal rights groups.

Tinsley, of 541 S. Second St., is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 21 before Kane County Judge Grant Wegner. There was no plea deal and she faces probation or up to three years in prison, prosecutor Nemura Pencyla said.

Attorney Timothy Mahoney intends to keep Tinsley, who has custody of two children, out of prison. He said she was the victim of an abusive marriage, including a violent row that sparked the attack on the lizards.

"It's abhorrent," Mahoney said. "Everything in this woman's background would show that she should get probation."

Earlier this year, animal rights activists scrutinized the case after Mahoney said he would challenge the state's "companion animal" law and argue Tinsley's offenses should be reduced, in part because bearded dragons were not on par with other pets, such as dogs and cats.

Illinois law allows for felony charges to be filed when animals considered by their owners as pets or commonly thought of as pets are abused.

Similar to iguanas, there are roughly 50 types of bearded dragons. The most popular among them grow to about 2 feet long.

Tinsley was arrested after she threw Fred and Ethel against a well and knifed the lizards several times during an argument while she was on the phone with her then-husband, Harry E. Tinsley. Ethel died and Fred recovered after surgery, Pencyla said.

Harry Tinsley, 38, of 1209 Bishop St., West Chicago, was later charged with domestic battery, accused of choking Sara Tinsley a day before she exacted revenge on him through Fred and Ethel.