The Village Board commended the Caledonia Police, Caledonia Fire department, and the WIsconsin Humane Society on how the animal seizure case was handled at Orphaned Kanines, 1922 Kremer Ave. on Thursday.
Orphaned Kanines owner Debra Gray could get decades behind bars after police say she kept dozens of dogs, 10 cats and 2 pigs in deplorable conditions at the shelter she owned and two residences.
Caledonia Police Chief Toby Schey shed more light on the case following the village board meeting on Monday night. Meanwhile, a number of Gray’s supporters say media outlets have the story wrong and that Gray loved the animals.
Gray, 55, was charged Monday in Racine County Circuit Court with 85 misdemeanor counts of intentional mistreatment of animals and 1 count of operating an animal shelter without a license. If convicted, she faces up to 64 years, three months in jail and/or up to $860,000 in fines.
She is accused of keeping too many dogs in an unlicensed facility that was also deemed filthy and unfit for the animals. After Caledonia police received a complaint May 29 from the Caledonia Fire Department about conditions at Orphaned Kanines, the animals were seized and taken to Wisconsin Humane Society campuses in Mount Pleasant, Milwaukee and Grafton.
“I don’t think Countryside Humane Society could have handled it at all,” said village trustee Kevin Wanggaard.
Schey told the board that the Wisconsin Humane Society had over 20 personnel on scene, two veterinarians, several veterinary technicians and a communications director to handle media calls.
“I was very impressed with how professional and how quickly they were able to streamline that process,” Schey said. “You are talking about several animals in a few hours. They were able to get out there and triage them at the scene, do a medical assessment on the ones that needed help the most and got those the care they needed as soon as they could.”
Schey said they had not had any complaints about Gray in the last few years about smell or noise.
“We in fact had talked to the neighbors that day and they said they hadn’t noticed anything out of the ordinary,” Schey said. “But one thing we knew is that they weren’t using their ventilation system.”
However, Gray’s husband Scott told the police that there was a mechanical issue. Schey said they suspect that the couple knew there was an odor problem.
“She (Debra) was not allowing anyone in the place and she had little help, but the people that did come by she normally met them outside, so no one was really getting access in there,” Schey said.
The Central Racine County Health Department is still trying to determine if Scott and Debra’s home at 4646 North Main is habitable because they found a 100-pound pig in the home, 12 dogs and no cats. Schey said the dogs in this house were very aggressive.
Prior to the warrant being served at the home on Main Street, Caledonia Police watched the home and saw Scott, Debra’s husband, bringing out bags of feces from the dogs and throwing it in a dumpster in the driveway.
Racine Police took six dogs out of a home on College Avenue, Schey said.
Gray denied owning the dogs at a court appearance today.
There is also a possibility that Scott could be charged as well. However, the Racine County District Attorney’s Office is still trying to determine what his role was — if any — in the operation of Orphaned Kanines, Schey said.
According to the Orphaned Kanines Facebook page, Gray’s supporters are starting a letter writing campaign to help defend her and have been collecting money for a defense fund for her.
Here’s what they are saying:
Dan Donahue: “We’re hoping your Mom comes out ahead in the end. We got Coal from her and she was always nice to us and answered any and all ?’s we had.”
Shirley Kauers “Did any other than the authorities actually see the inside of the homes? How do we know that this is true? There’s something funny about this case & the big tado they’re making about it.”
Lisa Clark Walker: “Deb, I just want to say THANK YOU for all that you have given to our family and other families. You have invested your life into what you believe is right and good. Michael Torre and I thank you for bringing our two adopted puppies (Betsy and Chloe) from Orphaned Kanines into our lives. We support you!”