Animal welfare groups come together to aid neglected animals

CAZENOVIA, WI (May 19, 2009) – More than 300 animals — including dogs, horses, fowl, livestock and other small animals — have been seized by the Richland County Sherriff’s Department from the Thyme and Sage Ranch in Cazenovia, Wisconsin. 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. United Animal Nations (UAN) is providing temporary sheltering for the animals removed from the ranch through its volunteer-driven Emergency Animal Rescue Service (EARS) program.

The rescue was set into motion by investigators with The Humane Society of the United States (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. The American Humane Association is providing assistance with animal handling. 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.

“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.”

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.

Please see statements from involved groups below.

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Statements from other 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.”

* 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.”

* 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.”

Founded in 1987, United Animal Nations (UAN) focuses on bringing animals out of crisis and strengthening the bond between people and animals through a variety of programs, including emergency sheltering, disaster relief services, financial assistance and education. Learn more at www.uan.org.

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