The owner and co-founder of a Sugar Camp dog rescue arrested for mistreatment of animals had her first court appearance postponed Monday after the assistant district attorney handling the case requested more time to make a final charging decision.
Stephanie J. Schneider was due to appear before Branch I Judge Patrick O'Melia after she was arrested Feb. 16 by the Oneida County Sheriff's Department. Schneider, who operates It Matters To One Animal Rescue, was issued misdemeanor citations for failing to provide food or water, mistreating animals and obstructing law enforcement, according to sheriff's captain Terri Hook.
On Feb. 6, 39 dogs were removed from the rescue and transported to the Oneida County Humane Society following an investigation involving several agencies and the Department of Agriculture, the Oneida County Health Department announced in a press release.
According to Hook, about three weeks earlier, a dog that had been there for "a long period of time" was removed from the shelter and treated for "medical issues" after past employees, volunteers, and citizens who have adopted or were considering adopting dogs from the group had reported information about possible neglect of the dogs to the sheriff's department and humane society, according to Hook.
On Monday, Hook said that all reports relating to both incidents had been forwarded to the district attorney's office, and she did not know why Schneider's initial appearance for that day had been postponed.
Mary Sowinski, the ADA assigned to the case, acknowledged Monday that she had received the reports from the investigation. She said there were a lot of reports to review, including one from Dr. Brian Buchberger, DVM, of Rhinelander who is the veterinarian treating the animals seized from It Matters To One.
"One is a three-page medical report, half of the words I can't even pronounce," Sowinski said. "There's no way I could have been ready to go today."
She said she could not give an estimate as to when she would make a decision on what, if any, charges will be filed against Schneider.
Sowinski added that the dogs remain at the humane society.
The River News has made numerous unsuccessful attempts to contact Schneider for comment, however It Matters To One has repeatedly denied the allegations on its Facebook page. Many people who have adopted dogs from the group have also posted messages of support for the group on Facebook.
The most recent message from "The IM21 Team" on Facebook was on Feb. 18.
"The allegations against IM21 have not only personally attacked Stef, the IM21 team, volunteers, and faithful supporters, but most importantly our dogs. This has put our beloved dogs under an immense amount of stress by being taken from their temporary home at the rescue," the post said.
In addition to mentioning the positive messages from supporters on Facebook, the post requests supporters make statements regarding Schneider's character and their experience with the rescue.
"We have had a multitude of fundraisers openly discussing the condition of many dogs and asking for donations towards their treatments. Please see these transformations for yourself before you let the media cloud your judgement," the post went on to say. "Our dogs are loved, happy, healthy, and some of them are even a bit chunky! We all stand with Stef and our mission to save lives. Many people are aware of our "less-adoptables" and the condition some of our dogs come into the rescue. IM21 is their home until we find that perfect match. We know them by name and a personality, not a number. What kind of treats they like, what toys are their favorite, what dogs they can have play-time with. Some of these dogs would be deemed unadoptable and euthanized at any other shelter. Treatment over euthanasia has always been the IM21 way."
The post goes on to say the group is concerned that some of the dogs are being portrayed as "feral" or "un-adoptable" and are in danger now because of their current location.
"We sacrifice everything we have to make sure that our dogs are properly taken care of, and placed into good homes because each of their lives matter to us. We take every life and every adoption extremely seriously, and any person who has chosen this path is going to have scrutiny. It's hurtful and painful, but those feelings must be put aside, because there is a bigger mission here. A mission to SAVE lives," the post said.
"This attack on our founder and organization is heartbreaking," it added.
According to another post on the group's Facebook page, it says that the Department of Agriculture has not revoked the group's license, but an investigation by that agency is still pending.
Jamie Taylor may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted: Friday, March 17, 2017
Article comment by:
Everybody knows these poor dogs weren't being fed. Schneider needs to stop playing the victim on Facebook and be accountable. Everyone makes mistakes, good intentions don't prevent that.
Posted: Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Article comment by:
Mary Sowinski should recuse herself because of her Sugar Camp ties.
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