2/10/2017 7:26:00 AM Sheriff's office removes 39 dogs from Sugar Camp animal rescue Operators deny abusing or neglecting animals in their care
Jamie Taylor/River News
Oneida County Humane Society director Bria Swartout and Oneida County sheriff’s captain Terri Hook answer questions Tuesday about the 39 dogs seized Monday from the It Matters to One animal rescue in Sugar Camp.
Jamie Taylor/River News
The exterior of the It Matters to One animal rescue in Sugar Camp.
Short term donation point set for Oneida County Humane Society
39 dogs removed from Sugar Camp dog rescue Monday
By Brian Jopek
of The Lakeland Times
The Oneida County Sheriff's Office and the Oneida County Humane Society removed 39 dogs from the It Matters to One Animal Rescue in the town of Sugar Camp on Monday.
The resulting influx of dogs at the humane society resulted in an urgent need for supplies.
In Minocqua, Pat Wegmann, a trainer at the Lakeland Dog Training Center, went into action.
"I called the humane society in Rhinelander and found they need blankets, towels and dog food," she said. "My Lakeland dog training class will buy some but if people would donate, that would be great."
The drop-off point for donations is Ruby's Chef Shop on Oneida Street in downtown Minocqua.
"A lot of people aren't going to drive all the way to Rhinelander," Wegmann said. "Ruby's is a big supporter of our dogs and these 39 dogs from Sugar Camp need the supplies as soon as possible."
She said she would make as many trips as necessary to the humane society with the donations.
Ann Trank at Ruby's Chef Shop said the store would be open for drop-offs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
"Pat asked me if I'd be open to it and I said, 'Sure. Not a problem,'" she said. "People can drop things off Saturday. I'm sure she'll make another trip. She's like that."
Trank sent a message to The Lakeland Times through its Facebook page on Monday.
"We are starting out very strong!" she wrote.
For more information on donation procedure, call Ruby's Chef Shop at 715-356-7447.
Brian Jopek may be reached via email at email@example.com.
By Jamie Taylor and Kayla Breese River News Staff
Numerous dogs have been removed from a local animal rescue following an investigation by the Oneida County sheriff's office and other agencies.
According to the sheriff's office, 39 dogs were removed Monday from the It Matters to One Animal Rescue in Sugar Camp.
"The removal of these dogs was in response to an investigation involving the Oneida County Humane Society, the Department of Agriculture, the Oneida County Health Department, and the Oneida County Sheriff's Office," according to a press release issued by sheriff's captain Terri Hook.
"Past employees, volunteers, and citizens who have adopted or considered adopting had shared information about possible neglect to the dogs," the release states. "Approximately three weeks ago, one dog that had been in the care of the shelter for a long period of time was removed from the shelter and treated for medical issues. The dog's health has improved since it has been removed as it is receiving proper treatment. The veterinarian caring for the dog issued a letter which in part stated, 'It is my medical conclusion along with evidence as stated by diagnostic tests that this animal had to endure severe neglect for months.' During an inspection of the facility on Feb. 6, dogs were found that needed medical attention. The dogs were also in need of food and water. All the dogs were removed so that they can be medically evaluated and treated if necessary."
Hook identified the veterinarian caring for the first dog as Dr. Brian Buchberger, DVM., of Rhinelander.
In a telephone interview, Hook clarified that no charges have been filed at this time but the matter remains under investigation.
"We are early into the investigation, but yes, animal neglect is a crime in Wisconsin under chapter 951," she said. "So people could be charged with animal neglect."
Hook said reports of possible neglect at the rescue had been filtering to the sheriff's department's humane officer and humane society for some time.
"We have had some rumblings about this place," she said. "We all (the agencies involved) got together and went up there and took a look. There was this one dog that needed care and we got that dog out. When we went back out to look again, there were obviously other dogs in distress."
Hook said the dogs were removed for their own protection and the Oneida County Humane Society (OCHS) provided transport for all the dogs that were removed.
"All of the dogs have to be tested and medically cleared. That's going to take some time," she said, when asked when investigators might be ready to make a recommendation to the district attorney's office as to whether criminal charges should be filed.
In a statement posted to Facebook, the operators of the animal rescue have strongly denied harming the dogs in any way.
"Last night 39 dogs from our shelter were seized by the Oneida County Sheriffs Department due to accusations of neglect," the statement reads. "While it is extremely unsettling that someone would accuse us of neglect, we would like to make it known that we rescue animals from high-kill shelters and undesirable circumstances because we believe every dog deserves the best quality of life possible. They do not always arrive to us in good condition. Over the past four years we have placed hundreds of dogs into loving homes, dogs who were minutes from being killed, aggressive dogs, dogs who were injured, sick, neglected, pregnant, abandoned and abused. Dogs nobody else wanted or would take. We sacrifice everything we have to make sure that our dogs are properly taken care of, and placed into good homes because each of their lives matter to us. We take every life and every adoption extremely seriously, and go the extra mile to make sure that they are going to a home that will provide them with the love and care they require and deserve. The dogs are all that matter to us, today is heart-breaking because these accusations have made many people doubt our mission and our dedication. We hope that our community will remember that there is much more to this story and we are extremely grateful for those who are standing by us and telling their stories of happiness, love, and support for our rescue."
At a press conference Tuesday afternoon at the Oneida County Humane Society shelter, Hook noted investigators are aware that some of the dogs arrived at the rescue in poor health.
"Some of the dogs were rescued from other places and they came that way, but we don't know about all of those dogs," she said, adding that it is possible the operators may have become "overwhelmed" by the number of dogs in their care. "I feel like she (the rescue's founder, Stef Schneider) might have been a little bit over her head and while I think she might have had good intentions we have to go in and see that everything is being done properly."
In response to questions from the media, Hook also clarified that intent is not an element of the crime of animal neglect.
She also noted that as of Tuesday afternoon law enforcement had yet to make contact with Schneider.
All 39 dogs are now in the custody of OCHS which is in need of supplies to care for them. The organization is asking for donations of dog food and blankets for the animals that have been removed from the rescue. Monetary donations to offset vet costs would also be appreciated, according to OCHS director Bria Swartout.
Swartout said the sudden influx of new animals has put stress on the shelter's five-person staff and she has had to call in extra help. OCHS has also transferred some of their existing canine residents to other shelters to make room for the It Matters to One dogs.
According to Swartout, the shelter is comfortable housing 25 to 30 dogs and there were 17 canine residents at the shelter when the rescue dogs were brought in. Despite the tight space, Swartout wanted to reassure the public that OCHS is a no-kill shelter and no dog will be euthanized due to space issues. She is hoping foster parents will step up to care for some of the shelter's existing residents thus easing the congestion.
OCHS and the sheriff's department are also seeking anyone who may be fostering a dog from It Matters to One so that those animals can be evaluated by a veterinarian.
"We know that there are other dogs out there that belong to the organization that are being housed by people," Hook said, adding that at least one dog has contracted a parasite and the others dogs need to be evaluated.
Hook said anyone who is currently fostering a dog can contact the humane society at 715-362-5992 or the sheriff's department at 715-651-5100.
Repeated efforts to reach Schneider for further comment were unsuccessful.