The Caledonia woman at the center of an animal hoarding case is being allowed to return to her home and to keep on her property any remaining animals, including those she was boarding for others.

Racine County Circuit Court Judge Michael Piontek issued the decision Tuesday, just about a week after Court Commissioner Alice Rudebusch ordered Susan Schmidtke out of her home because it’s considered a crime scene. Rudebusch also ordered that any animals still on Schmidtke’s property be turned over to the Wisconsin Humane Society.

Piontek’s ruling comes after Schmidtke’s attorney Terry Rose filed a motion asking the court to reconsider. Rose told The Journal Times that the situation has been stressful for Schmidtke because “she’s retired and has no family. The animals are her entire life.

Schmidtke is charged with:

  • Two felony counts of mistreatment of animals
  • Three misdemeanor counts of failure to provide proper outdoor shelter for animals
  • Two misdemeanor counts of intentionally mistreating animals
  • Two misdemeanor counts of failure to provide proper food and drink to confined animals
  • One misdemeanor count of failure to provide proper animal shelter sanitation standards

If convicted, she faces up to 13 years in prison and/or up to $100,000 in fines.

According to her criminal complaint, Caledonia police were dispatched Oct. 13 to a farm in the 7800 block of 6-Mile Road for a report of animal neglect. A witness said they were concerned about the conditions in which fourteen horses, three donkeys, two emus, numerous turkeys, ducks, swans, guinea pigs, cats and birds – as well as Schmidtke – were living and felt Schmidtke was overwhelmed with carrying for so many animals.

Officers returned on Oct. 16 with a search warrant, and they seized 24 of the small animals with the assistance of the Wisconsin Humane Society.

WHS spokesperson Angela Speed told the newspaper that of the 24 animals surrendered, one of the guinea pigs had two babies for a total of 26 animals:

  • One was deceased on Schmidtke’s property
  • One is currently available for adoption
  • Six are in foster care
  • Two were euthanized because of their medical condition
  • 16 have been adopted

Schmidtke was relieved after court, saying her medications were at her home and she has bills to pay, the story continues.

“This whole thing is way out of proportion. I would rather give up my life for an animal than let an animal suffer,” she is quoted as saying.

Schmidtke remains out of jail on a $10,000 signature bond and will next be in court Nov. 30 for her preliminary hearing.