40 Animals Rescued from Juneau County
Time certainly does continue to move forward. And yet the things that we've experienced in the past remain part of who we are today. CCHS staff and volunteers have certainly seen and done a lot, and we think it's important to remember these events. The JCHS Rescue may have happened years ago, yet we'll never forget those days and nights. It's a testament to the fabric of which CCHS is woven, and yet another reasons why the Dog Sellers Legislation is so critical in Wisconsin. We'd like to share the JCHS Story here so that it is never forgotten.
Note: Updates are posted at the end of this story!
On November 9, 2005, CCHS Shelter Manager Chuck Wegner received a call regarding animals in need of our help. The call was from a relative of the manager of the Juneau County Humane Society. While information was sketchy, we were told that the animals needed to be removed from the shelter as quickly as possible. The decision was made that we would do whatever we could to assist another shelter in need of our help. So, the next day we rented the biggest U-Haul truck we could find, and three members of the CCHS staff headed to New Lisbon. When we arrived at the Juneau County Humane Society, it was immediately evident that we needed to remove all of the animals that we possibly could.
While we are not sure exactly what had occurred at JCHS, the animals were our primary concern. To put it bluntly, the animals were not living in good conditions. Most of the cats were in need of medical care, as they were suffering from upper respiratory conditions, and many of them had severe cases of ringworm. The dogs were living in very small kennels, with little human contact. The kennels had a small outdoor section, which had not been cleaned of dog feces for some time. We were able to remove 11 dogs and 29 cats and bring them to CCHS.
This rescue has definitely been a challenge for CCHS. First of all, we were already full to our capacity for animals. Suddenly, we were bringing in 40 more animals. Our hallways were lined with cages and every dog pen was occupied. This creates an incredible amount of work for our volunteers. We want to express our gratitude for all of the work that was done. Each volunteer that had to clean and care for extra animals is most appreciated! This rescue also had a financial impact on CCHS. Each of the dogs needed to be vaccinated and wormed, and many need to be spayed or neutered. As stated earlier, most of the cats required medical care. Each cat was "combo tested" to be sure they were free of FelV and FIV. Our thanks go to Dr. Jean Liljegren of Grassland Veterinary Service for her quick response in assisting us with the tests. Thankfully, all of the cats tested OK. Each was then vaccinated and wormed. Those with upper respiratory conditions were treated, and care for the ringworm victims was also started. In addition, many of the cats suffered from giardia and/or coccidia, resulting in very messy diarrhea. That has also been treated. But all of the care does not come without a cost. This has been a very expensive rescue for CCHS.
We have been asked why we would help animals that were not even in our county. This is a very unique situation, as we were dealing with another shelter. As a Humane Society, we are part of a very special group of people, whose goal is to help animals in need. Part of being a Humane Society is also assisting other shelters when they are in need. While we may never know exactly what happened at JCHS, we do know that they asked for help. And we responded. We would hope that the same response would be given to us if we were ever in a situation where we needed help from another shelter. It's that simple.
The rescue took place over a month ago, and we are happy to say that the animals are doing well. Several of the dogs have already been adopted to new homes. Most of the cats are now available for adoption, while those that remain under medical care are making progress. There are some special stories on the survivors that we would like to share.
The first is a dog we nicknamed "Spinner". It was apparent that the dogs did not get out of those small kennels for exercise when we observed Spinner. As we stood outside his cage, Spinner constantly spun in a small circle the size of his cage. Even when he was placed in a large kennel at our facility, he continued to spin in the small 3' circle that was the size of his former pen. Fortunately, Spinner has found a new home with a loving family, and he has stopped spinning!
Another is "Hank". Hank is an extremely loving, sweet little kitten. When we found Hank we were told that he suffered from food allergies. It was most definitely more than that. Hank had the worst case of ringworm that we had ever seen. He had huge bald patches on his legs, tail, tummy, and all over his body. He also suffered from a terrible upper respiratory infection. Hank is now on the mend, and his fur is almost completely grown back!
And then there is "Half Pint". Half Pint was found in a cage with two other kittens and an adult female cat. Poor little Half Pint was laying face down in the litter box and could barely breathe due to nasal congestion. His eyes were stuck shut and covered with fecal matter and cat litter. Half Pint is now in foster care and is still under treatment for ringworm. But he is a darling little kitten who purrs like crazy and can't wait to be held and cuddled. He is a survivor!
And that's what this story is all about. Right or wrong, the animals were in a situation that was not their doing. They had no choice in how they were being cared for. We do have a choice. And we chose to help them find a way out.
Half Pint Update (3/23/06): Sadly, Half Pint's story does not have a happy ending. As much as we loved the little fellow and as hard as we tried, it just wasn't enough to restore his health and save him. Due to the rough start Half Pint had, his resistance level was impaired and he could not properly fight off infections. Half Pint recently passed away. His spirit will live on with everyone that loved him, and it is our hope that his tragic life will have a lasting effect. We're hoping that his legacy may be a Wisconsin Pet Facilities Inspection bill. Several states have this in place and it would have prevented the Juneau County Humane Society situation. Hopefully, Half Pint will not have died in vain. We miss him.
Six of the dogs rescued from JCHS have now been adopted to loving new families. They are doing well in their new homes and happy to have found their new life.
Only one of the cats rescued has been adopted so far. This is because of the medical conditions most of the cats were dealing with were much more severe. Seventeen cats are still recovering from ringworm. However, that means there are eleven that are waiting to find their new family right now! If you might be interested in adopting a new feline friend, please contact CCHS to submit an application.
CCHS continues to be proud of the work we are doing to help the JCHS animals. We are pleased to see the progress they are making, and even happier to see some of them being adopted. After all, that's what this story is really all about. While we appreciate beyond measure all of the donations and support we have received, our best reward is seeing the animals go to new homes.
We continue to be puzzled by the situation at Juneau County Humane Society. Like everyone else, we have heard on the news that there is an investigation by the Juneau County Sheriff's Department into animal neglect and misuse of funds. We certainly have no idea how that will turn out. However, we have been shocked that we have had no contact from JCHS. As Shelter people ourselves, we would have expected to have follow-up calls from JCHS regarding the animals and how they were doing. We received nothing. That is, until today, when we received the following email from the JCHS Manager:
"Dear Clark County Humane Society
Hope you raised a lot of money at our expense. Lawsuits are messy and expensive, we are starting one. Look forward to contact with our lawyer.
Board of Directors Juneau County Humane Society"
Quite frankly, we are stunned and very disappointed. All of the information we have provided to the public is fact-based. The pictures of the animals speak for themselves. We are confident that everything we have done has been for the benefit of the animals in need. We have done nothing wrong. And to JCHS, we say "Bring it on!"
And the saga continues...
Letter to the Editor
On Saturday, March 18th, a letter to the editor appeared in the Juneau County Star Times. Written by former JCHS Manager and Treasurer Lynn Rittenhouse Leatherberry, a lot of untrue and mean statements are made about CCHS in the letter. The letter follows in its entirety:
Clark County Humane Soc. is lying
I have some questions for you to think about. Why are you so ready to believe the worst about the Juneau County Humane Society?
Why is the Clark County Humane Society so much more credible? Why didn’t they come out with their story until after they had the animals for six weeks? Was it timing-because right before Christmas would get them more donations?
Wouldn’t they have reported to the Sheriff’s Department right away if it was that bad? If it was so bad, why didn’t they take all the animals? Isn’t that what a Humane Society would do in the situation that they are describing? Are they more believable because they had pictures? Did they take those pictures on the date they said they did? Why are the pictures of the kittens taken at their shelter and not at JCHS?
If animals had such bad ringworm why don’t they have gloves on when it is highly contagious? Are those kittens really from Juneau County? How much money do you think they are getting in donations with this story?
They had a signed agreement to call and the Juneau County Humane Society would take the animals back if they were sick or aggressive, why didn’t they? Why didn’t any one talk to the JCHS before they presented the story as fact? Is it because they might have found out that there were over 40 local people through the shelter in the last two weeks before Clark County was asked to take some of JCHS animals and they tell a different story?
JCHS was open for business until Nov. 11, 2005, with local people coming through the shelter nearly everyday. There were even three adoptions on Nov. 10, 2005. So are they assuming that the good citizens of Juneau County are the kind of people who would ignore “sick and dying animals” and not say or do something?
Why didn’t Clark County Humane Society report that they were given nearly $15,000 worth of equipment, cages, animal food, cat litter, vaccines, and things? Did the refrigerator, the pictures off the walls, the microwaves, the new air conditioner, the Christmas tree, a $4,000 engraving machine, and all the other things that they spent the whole day loading in their truck need to be “rescued” too?
If there was a little black kitten in such bad shape, why did they leave it sitting in a carrier outside in November all afternoon while they loaded their truck with things? Why did they report that they put one of the JCHS dogs down if they are a true no-kill animal shelter as they advertise? Again there was an agreement in writing and they just had to call, so are they really a no-kill shelter?
This is a publicity stunt that is hurting people, the people they are accusing, their families, the people who volunteered at the shelter, and the people of Juneau County by saying they are the kind of people who would turn a blind eye to abuse and neglected animals in their own Humane Society.
CCHS stands behind our work to save the JCHS animals. We do not wish to engage in a battle of name-calling and innuendos with the former JCHS staff. We know what we did was right. The suggestion that this was a publicity stunt is ridiculous. We can think of a lot of ways to raise funds that would involve a lot less work and heartache.
We did not contact the media to release this story. They contacted us for information; we do not know how they knew of the story. We simply shared the facts with them when they asked. The public reacted to the story of animals in need.
Ms. Rittenhouse-Leatherberry’s report of items which we received is misleading. JCHS staff told us the shelter was closing, and they wished the items to go to another shelter where they would be put to good use. The value of these items was considerably less than $15,000 by the time we received them. All items were absolutely filthy and we spent innumerable hours in an effort to make them useable.
We are very offended by the implication that we do not respect the people of Juneau County and that we think they would have ignored such a situation. The ones we don't respect at all are the perpetrators of this inhumanity inflicted on the resident animals of that shelter. Juneau County residents have been incredibly supportive of our work. We have received many, many emails thanking us for the rescue. These are fine, upstanding people, who in most cases had no idea of the extent of the situation and are telling us they are saddened to find out that this had been going on for some time. We very much appreciate their words of emotional support. It's helped us to get through a difficult time.
If CCHS has benefited from this experience, it is not because we intended to, but rather because of the outpouring of help from truly kind and caring people. We have always believed that goodness is its own reward and we sincerely hope that those responsible for the misdeeds that occurred at JCHS will be brought to justice.
On Tuesday, March 21st, 2006, Juneau County Assistant District Attorney Stacy Smith filed charges against recent executive board members of the Juneau County Humane Society (JCHS). June Kline (past president), Michelle Ott (past secretary) and Lynn Rittenhouse Leatherberry (past treasurer and shelter manager) are EACH facing 3 felony and 45 misdemeanor counts of intentional mistreatment of an animal. The felony charges are for resulting in the death of an animal. Their first court appearance is scheduled for April 17th. We are very pleased to see that the District Attorney's office has brought charges, and we hope that justice will prevail!
WKOW News Story
Initial Court Appearances
WKOW, Channel 27 in Madison, has continued their coverage of the JCHS rescue, including the initial court appearances on Monday, April 17th.
MAUSTON, Wis. -- Workers with the Juneau County Humane Society were in court on Monday to face charges of abusing the animals that they were supposed to help.
Three women -- former Juneau County shelter manager Lynn Rittenhouse-Leatherberry, of Elroy, June Kline, of Mauston, and Michelle Ott, of Wonewoc -- are facing more than 40 charges of mistreating animals in January.
Both Ott and Kline have agreed not to have contact with animals, including their own pets, WISC-TV reported.
Four of the charges accuse the women of negligence that lead to the death of an animal while in the shelter's care.
About 40 animals had to be rescued from poor living conditions in the shelter, which is located in New Lisbon, in January, WISC-TV reported.
In addition, we have learned that the three women were placed on $5,000 signature bonds on Monday and ordered to have no contact with each other. Kline and Ott were ordered to have no contact with any animals. They were given 72 hours to give up custody of any domestic animals they own. Leatherberry, due to owning a farm, was allowed to maintain contact with her animals. They are to be checked on periodically by a humane officer.
Kline's next appearance is scheduled for May 1. Michele Ott's indigency hearing will be held April 24 with her next appearance on May 15. Leatherberry is scheduled for a pretrial conference on May 12 and a return date of June 14.
Most recent news in this continuing case is that a trial has been scheduled for March 26-29, 2007. We are looking forward to the opportunity to tell our story in court. We remain hopeful that justice will prevail.
We would like to express our appreciation to WEAU-TV, Channel 13, in Eau Claire for their support of CCHS. They have been wonderful in getting our story out to the public. The first story on our rescue aired on Tuesday, December 20th, when reporter Cathy Rinka came to CCHS. Then, on December 28th, John Jedda returned to CCHS to do his weather broadcast from our Shelter! Shown here is a picture of John interviewing Shelter Manager Chuck Wegner. John really seemed to enjoy his time at CCHS, and all of the kitties certainly delighted in assisting him with his weather forecast. We are very pleased to count John, Cathy, and WEAU among our Shelter friends. Thank you!
Below are some of our pictures of the rescue at Juneau County Humane Society. Some of the animal pictures are quite explicit, but as they say, "a picture is worth a thousand words".
Our van, rented U-Haul truck, and all the carriers we have arrive at JCHS to begin the rescue.
The laundry room at Juneau County was extremely dirty. All supply storage areas were the same.
This is the dog kennel area at Juneau County. All of the pens are small and dirty.
"Half Pint" on November 11, 2005
"Half Pint", just begging to be cuddled!
"Half Pint" with his eyes completely matted shut
"Half Pint" on November 19, 2005
"Hank" on November 18, 2005
Hank, on December 28, 2005, is continuing to improve every day!
"Hank" on November 11, 2005
"Hank" with severe ringworm and upper respiratory infection
"Hank", our hero, well on his way to a full recovery!
To the left is "Teaspoon", another of the kittens rescued from JCHS. Teaspoon is Half Pint's sister. Teaspoon also suffered from a terrible case of ringworm as well as an upper respiratory infection. Poor little Teaspoon also suffered from terrible eye infections. Despite our best efforts, the infection was too severe to respond to medication, and Teaspoon was just not strong enough to fight it off. Unfortunately, Teaspoon will lose her left eye. In spite of it all, she is a wonderfully loving kitten and will be a wonderful companion for the right family.
UPDATE: As of 3/21/06, we are pleased to report that Teaspon has made more progress than we ever expected. While she does not have vision in her left eye, the infection did heal enough that we did not need to have the eye removed. We are so proud of Teaspoon!
PET UPDATE (8/30/06)
All of our JCHS Rescue dogs and cats have been adopted! Seeing the animals go home with their new loving families makes all of the hard work worth it! We are proud that the following have now been placed in new homes:
We are delighted with the recoveries the animals have made and that they are finding new homes. Thank you again to everyone that has supported our efforts. Together, we are making a difference for these dogs and cats!!
Caring individuals have recently formed "Justice for Half Pint", a group dedicated to the cause of a Pet Facilities Law. The group believes that no animal should suffer at the hands of the people entrusted to care for them. We couldn't agree more, and we support their efforts. Please click here to learn about this movement and how you can help make a Pet Facilities Law a reality in Wisconsin. We thank the "Justice For Half Pint" group for all of their work. We know that Half Pint would be proud!!