Hearing begins in civil case involving dogs seized from shelter
Testimony resumes May 25 as It Matters to One seeks to have animals returned
BY KEVIN BONESKE
The spectator seats in the Oneida County Circuit Court Branch II courtroom were filled to capacity Tuesday afternoon during a hearing in a civil case involving the It Matters to One animal rescue in Sugar Camp, where 39 dogs were seized Feb. 6 by the Oneida County Sheriff’s Department and then turned over to the county Humane Society in response to an investigation into allegations of animal neglect.
It Matters to One’s co-founder and operator, Stephanie Schneider, who was arrested following the seizure but has yet to be formally charged criminally, was in court for the hearing along with the shelter’s attorney, Hank Schultz. It Matters to One has petitioned to have animals that were seized returned, while lawyers representing the county and the Humane Society were in court Tuesday opposed to that action.
Tuesday afternoon’s hearing lasted more than two hours when the county’s attorney, Michael J. Fugle, called two witnesses with one of them yet to finish testifying when Judge Michael H. Bloom adjourned the hearing for a full day of testimony set to resume May 25 at 8:30 a.m.
The first witness to testify was Colin Benell, an animal inspector with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. Benell testified about being present when the animals were seized and what the conditions were like at It Matters to One, where he and another individual with DATCP shot several photos that were exhibits at the hearing.
Benell pointed out various instances in the photos taken at It Matters to One that he said didn’t conform to state administrative code for licensed animal shelters, such as dog feces that had not been removed for several days. He noted the accumulation of feces has the potential of transferring diseases and parasites.
Benell said he had previously informed Schneider last year about the need for removing feces daily to comply with the administrative code and that she indicated she would do so in the future.
The other witness to testify, sheriff’s department deputy Nancy Reklau, who has been certified as the county’s humane officer, was also asked by Fugle about a series of photos shot as evidence in connection with the seizure of animals at It Matters to One.
When the animals were seized, the sheriff’s department accused Schneider of failing to provide food and water, mistreating animals and obstructing law enforcement.
Reklau will be called back to the witness stand May 25 to finish her direct testimony and also be available for cross examination by Schultz. Bloom noted he expects several other witnesses to be called to testify when the hearing continues.
In addition to the individuals supportive of It Matters to One being in the courtroom at Tuesday’s hearing and declining to speak afterwards with the media, several others who packed the seats wore “I Stand with Darcy” shirts in reference to a pit bull dog with skin problems that had been taken from the shelter and is now recovering.
Among those wearing the shirts was Kellie Snow, who noted she previously helped out at It Matters to One and reported problems at the shelter to authorities.
“I was extremely proud and grateful (of all those who were in the courtroom wearing ‘I Stand with Darcy’ shirts), and I think once more evidence is released, there’ll be a much bigger crowd,” Snow said.
Snow, who indicated she hopes to be called to testify when the hearing resumes May 25 in the civil case and is frustrated Schneider has yet to be criminally charged, also pointed out she has put together a “I Stand with Darcy” Facebook page that includes evidence related to the dogs being seized at It Matters to One.