RHINELANDER - Stephanie Schneider and the It Matters to One (IM21) animal rescue center in Sugar Camp will not get their dogs back.
Lawyers in a civil case reached an agreement in Oneida County Court on Thursday. Schneider and the rescue had petitioned the county and the Oneida County Humane Society for the return of the dogs. But on Thursday, Schneider and the rescue asked that petition be dismissed.
About 40 dogs have been in the care of the Oneida County Humane Society since early February. At that time, the sheriff's deputies seized the dogs from the rescue after allegations of animal mistreatment. Before she dropped her challenge, Schneider had hoped to get the dogs back.
"I am extremely happy," said Kellie Snow after Thursday's brief hearing.
Snow, a former IM21 employee, first reported animal mistreatment to the Humane Society, and later the Sheriff's Office, in early 2017.
"When this whole thing started, there were so many people on It Matters to One's side, but then, slowly, as things have been released, more people are starting to realize the truth," Snow said.
Before the last-minute motion to drop the petition, Snow and several others had been preparing to testify in civil proceedings Thursday.
"I am a little disappointed," Snow said, mentioning she was looking forward to testifying. "The community needs to know."
Schneider was not present in court Thursday.
For several weeks after the seizure, the Oneida County Humane Society was unable to adopt seized dogs to new owners, as the civil case continued. But over the last few weeks, Schneider and the Humane Society reached an agreement to begin allowing adoptions of some dogs, even before the civil case had formally concluded. More than half of the 40 dogs were adopted out during this time.
The Humane Society has 12 former IM21 dogs currently eligible for adoption.
"Hopefully, with this new availability to adopt them out, we can start getting the people that wanted to adopt, get them back in to adopt these dogs," said Humane Society Director Bria Swartout.
The former IM21 dogs fit a certain profile.
"The dogs that are available are dogs that mostly need homes that don't have other pets or small children," Swartout said. "They would be very adult-friendly dogs."
While the civil matter of custody of the dogs is now resolved, any potential criminal charges against Schneider remain unclear.
The Oneida County Sheriff's Office arrested Schneider on February 16. It recommended various animal mistreatment charges to the Oneida County District Attorney's office. No charges have filed as of Thursday.
"There should definitely be charges already," Snow, the former IM21 employee, said Thursday. "I want to see felony charges."
Oneida County Assistant District Attorney Mary Sowinski is in charge of making a decision on whether to prosecute Schneider criminally. On May 10, she said she was unlikely to make that decision until after the civil case concluded. An attempt to reach Sowinski Thursday was unsuccessful.
Schneider seems confident she will not be prosecuted.
"I knew months ago that there were no charges going to filed [sic
]," she said via text message. "The allegations were false."
Read previous stories on this case by clicking the links below.
Former It Matters to One employee tells of neglect, mistreatment at Oneida Co. animal rescue center
No decision on return of dogs to It Matters to One owner as opponents pack courtroom
Documents: Animals, surfaces covered with feces at Northwoods animal rescue; It Matters to One license suspension first ever in state
Update: Arrest made after 39 dogs taken from It Matters to One in Sugar Camp earlier this month