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May 19, 2009

More than 300 Animals Rescued from Appalling Conditions in Cazenovia Cruelty Case

Animal Welfare Groups Come Together to Aid Neglected Animals

The Humane Society of the United States

CAZENOVIA, Wis. — More than 300 animals — including dogs, horses, fowl, livestock and other small animals — have been seized by the Richland County Sheriff's Department from the Thyme and Sage Ranch in Cazenovia, Wis. Members of the Richland County Sheriff's department served a search warrant at the property this morning along with responders from local and national animal welfare organizations, including The Humane Society of the United States.

The rescue was set into motion by investigators with The HSUS, who received numerous tips about cruel conditions and neglected animals in need of veterinary care and who, in conjunction with the Dane County Humane Society, presented evidence to the Richland County District Attorney's office. The Richland County District Attorney also requested assistance from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to oversee evidence gathering and forensics. Other participating agencies include the American Humane Association, providing assistance with animal handling, and United Animal Nations, providing sheltering assistance. Dane County Humane Society is acting as the lead local animal agency and has called upon the Wisconsin Federated Humane Societies to provide support. Much-needed supplies were provided by PetSmart Charities®, which sent its Emergency Relief Waggin'® full of donated goods such as wire crates, dog food and medical supplies.

When rescuers arrived at the property, they were greeted by a disturbing scene. Breeds ranged from Scottish terriers to Labrador mixes; some were suffering from serious medical ailments and housed in poor conditions. Some of the dogs had severely matted fur and serious skin infections. They were being housed in feces-ridden, unheated barns and outdoor structures.

The ASPCA is evaluating all animals found at the site and collecting evidence for the prosecution of the criminal case, as well as lending the services of its special forensic cruelty investigation team, comprised of disaster animal rescuers and field service investigators. More than a dozen ASPCA animal responders are also on site, along with the ASPCA's "Mobile Animal Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) Unit," a critical tool in the collection and processing of evidence and which brings both state-of-the-art forensics tools and unmatched expertise to crime scenes.

Rescuers are in the process of removing all of the animals and transporting them to a nearby emergency shelter set up by The HSUS and UAN at Dane County Humane Society. Once at the shelter, the dogs will be checked by a team of veterinarians and given any necessary immediate medical care. 

Any member of the public who believes their lost pet may have been currently held at the Cazenovia facility should submit their information to giveshelter.org. Local officials are also urging the public to come forward with any information that may be relevant to this case. Individuals who would like to report their experiences with the Thyme and Sage Ranch should contact the Richland County District Attorney's Office.

The HSUS will have broadcast-quality video and photos available from this operation for viewing and download by news media outlets at video.hsus.org.

A press conference will be held Wednesday, May 20 at DCHS. Their address is 5132 Voges Road, Madison, Wis. Time is TBA.

Statements from involved organizations:

  • The Humane Society of the United States: "The Humane Society of the United States is proud to come to the aid of these neglected animals," said Alyson Bodai, Wisconsin state director for The HSUS. "Thanks to the diligent efforts of our rescue teams these animals will soon have a second chance at life."
  • The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: "Animal cruelty is unacceptable, and we are doing everything we can to lend our support to this critical investigation," said ASPCA President and CEO Ed Sayres. "The ASPCA's Mobile Animal CSI unit is an important component in the effort against animal cruelty, as it offers the ability to work on-site with the necessary tools, allowing evidence to be processed more accurately and efficiently."
  • American Humane Association: "American Humane is honored to work with the Richland County District Attorney's office, the Dane County Humane Society and with our National Animal Rescue and Sheltering Coalition partners from the ASPCA, the Humane Society of the United States and United Animal Nations on this important effort to rescue hundreds of animals in distress," said Debrah Schnackenberg, vice president of AHA's Animal Protection Division and director of its Animal Emergency Services. "American Humane has sent a highly trained and professional team of Red Star emergency responders to assist with the initial rescue and handling of the wide variety of animals we now know to be in need of help at the Thyme and Sage Ranch location."
  • Dane County Humane Society: "Dane County Humane Society (DCHS) is committed to their mission 'Helping People Help Animals' and is dedicated to ensuring the safety and welfare of all animals in Dane County and our surrounding communities. DCHS stands behind the investigation of Thyme and Sage Ranch and plans to fulfill the needs of the ASPCA and HSUS teams to the best of our abilities as they work through the evidence of this overwhelming case of neglect. DCHS could not help the thousands of animals that enter our doors each year without the devotion of our community and we thank our volunteers and donors for their continued support throughout the next challenging weeks."
  • United Animal Nations: "UAN's volunteers are specially trained to care for animals who have been traumatized by natural disasters or mass cruelty situations," said UAN Emergency Services Manager Janell Matthies. "Our volunteers have traveled to Cazenovia from across the upper Midwest to give the animals rescued from the Thyme and Sage Ranch the personal attention they will need to overcome years of neglect and make a successful transition to permanent, loving homes."
  • PetSmart Charities®: "Seeing animals subjected to this level of neglect is truly heartbreaking," said Susana Della Maddalena, executive director of PetSmart Charities®. "We applaud the efforts of the local and national animal and law enforcement agencies involved in this rescue operation and are proud to be part of this team."

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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the web at humanesociety.org.

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