Anyone who questions
why shelters/rescues are being included for licensing and regulation in
2009 Wisconsin Act 90 should have been with the
Richland County Sheriff's Department and investigators from over half a dozen
state and national humane organizations as they executed a search warrant for
Thyme and Sage Ranch, an animal shelter located in Cazenovia, WI,
on May 19. 2009. Jennifer Petkus, the operator of Thyme and Sage Ranch,
considers her facility a rescue sanctuary, and reportedly has also been
accepting $750 per month payment as the county Animal Control officer since
the Sheriff's Dept. and local animal shelters had received complaints about
conditions at Thyme and Sage Ranch and about the health of animals purchased
from the rescue. Recently, local vets were becoming increasingly alarmed at the
rising number of sick and dying puppies brought to them for treatment by
clients who had "adopted" the pups from Thyme and Sage.
complaints to PetFinder, Thyme and Sage was barred from listing with that
website (though Ms. Petkus later relisted animals under "Richland County
Animal Control"). In spite of all the complaints, due to Wisconsin's vague
humane laws at the time, authorities could find no violations serious enough to
allow them access to all of the Ranch's facilities.
In Depth: Personal Stories
About Thyme and Sage Ranch
In the fall of 2008,
Wisconsin Federated Humane Societies, of which Wisconsin Puppy Mill Project is
a member, requested that the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) look
into Thyme and Sage. That spring, when the HSUS took a hidden camera to the
so-called rescue, they recorded very solid information about what was actually
going on behind Thyme and Sage's tightly closed doors. A vet from Dane County
Humane Society had previously visited Thyme and Sage on a frigid day in
February armed with both a hidden camera and a temperature probe. Her videos of
frozen water bowls and shivering dogs, along with proof of the frigid
conditions the animals were living in, contributed vital evidence in obtaining
the search warrant.
serving the warrant were accompanied by representatives from Dane County Humane
Society (DCHA), Wisconsin Federated Humane Societies (WFHS), Humane Society of
the United States (HSUS), American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to
Animals (ASPCA), American Humane Association (AHA), United Animal Nations
(UAN), and the Hooved Animal Rescue and Protection Society (HARPS).
Sage's website stated, "The mission of Thyme and Sage Ranch, Inc. is
to provide re-homing or rehabilitation and a high quality of life for the
remaining years of the animals entrusted to its care."
investigators found, however, were animals housed in deplorable conditions with
little or no food or water. Some had open wounds. Most were suffering from
neglect -- rotten teeth, ear and eye infections, mange, malnutrition, fur so
matted with filth and feces that it had to be shaved, and various internal
infections. Many of the dogs were pregnant, leading shelter workers to wonder
if Ms. Petkus were intentionally breeding puppies for sale.
All in all, according
to a May 29, 2009 report by the ASPCA, investigators seized "315 dogs, 23
horses, 21 rabbits, 14 birds, two chinchillas, one cat, one ferret and one
rooster." Several dead animals were also discovered on the premises. See
the RIchland Observer's
In Depth: Thyme
and Sage Ranch for more details. (Caution: graphic descriptions may be
upsetting to some readers.)
Humane Society in Madison shouldered the responsibility for the dogs and small
animals as the initial court documents were filed (the horses were housed
elsewhere). Workers set up emergency tents outside the DCHS shelter to
accomodate the animals confiscated from Thyme and Sage; Wisconsin Federated
Humane Societies worked in advance of the warrant being served to make sure
that volunteer vets and vet techs would be on hand to assist with medical
evaluations, vaccinations, and treatment as the animals were brought in.
founding member of the all-volunteer Badger Animal Rescue Transportation
Services (BRATS), said, "I served in Viet Nam in 1968. The scene when I
arrived at Dane County Humane Society reminded me of a military MASH unit.
Everybody had a job to do and they were all doing it...and well."
Hanamann, a staff member at Fox Valley Humane Association in Appleton
volunteered for three days on the site. She said, "I never saw so many
rotten teeth, eye and ear infections and matted coats in all my life. The
condition of some of these dogs was absolutely appalling. It's just criminal to
allow animals to get to this point."
One of many
state shelter employees and Veterinarians who arrived on the scene to help
stated. "In my years of practice I've seen some pretty bad things, but
I've never seen so many dogs in one place in such bad shape. Many of them were
On May 20,
2009, Jennifer Petkus was charged with 16 misdemeanor counts, ranging from
Mistreating Animals to "Unlawful Deposit of Animal Carcass."
You can read
the entire Criminal Complaint here (pdf). (Caution: graphic descriptions
of animal abuse may be disturbing to some readers.)
Complaint against Jennifer Petkus (pdf)
However. it wasn't
until Friday, May 29, 2009, that the court convinced Ms. Petkus to sign over
approximately 200 dogs to the Dane County Humane Society. That weekend,
200, Wisconsin Federated Humane Society's plan to transport the
dogs from their temporary quarters at DCHS to animal shelters throughout
Wisconsin for rehabilitation and eventual adoption, was put into action.
transport drivers took dogs to fourteen pre-arranged shelters:
From these shelters, the
animals were made available for adoption.
over 70 dogs still remained at Dane County Humane Society, some held as part of
the on-going case against Ms. Petkus. DCHS was very grateful for urgently-
needed donations from the public as they dealt with the needs of the
confiscated animals throughout the criminal investigation that will follow.
Register a complaint:
The public was given the opportunity to register a complaint if they had
adopted / bought a sick or injured animal from Thyme & Sage Ranch.