The woman at the center of an alleged animal hoarding case will face charges for not properly caring for dozens of animals at her Caledonia farm.
Susan Schmidtke will face 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; and 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.
Schmidtke will be in court Nov. 4 for her initial appearance and charges are officially filed against her.
According to the 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 say they were told outdoor pens were filled with feces; food and water dishes were either empty or contaminated; and there were dead animals sharing space with live animals. Police noted in their report that they were familiar with Schmidtke because of past animal hoarding reports and animals at large. When officers arrived at the property and asked Schmidtke for access, she would not let them inside her gate.
On Oct. 16, police returned with a search warrant and seized 24 of the small animals with the assistance of the Wisconsin Humane Society and asked the Namaste Equine Rescue to assess the conditions of the horses, ponies and donkeys, the complaint reads. While officers were walking through the property, Schmidtke asked to walk with them, but she had to be secured in the back of a squad car when she started tipping over water dishes and moved out of sight of police.
On their Facebook page, Namaste confirmed that they were not taking possession of any of the horses, donkeys or ponies.
“It was our opinion they did not need to be seized at that time and the equines that were questionable in their body condition were under current veterinary care,” they wrote.
A number of bird cages and small animal enclosures were positioned at the north and front sides of the ranch home on the property. Inside the cages, police say they found numerous birds, guinea pigs, rabbits, and a chinchilla. Another cage held four cockatiels who had scars on their heads, and two lovebirds were in another cage. All the cages had large amounts of droppings and bird seeds and officers say temperatures were too cold for these types of birds to be outside.
Animals in cages with dirty or empty water dishes were found in the home; one cage was divided into three sections containing 11 guinea pigs plus one that was deceased, two cats who appeared to be suffering were also found among piles of paper, feces and the strong smell of urine. One cat had no teeth and was bleeding from the gums, and the other cat was emaciated with respiratory problems, the complaint reads.
Off the back of the residence was a sunroom where officers say they found an African grey parrot with a foot so dislocated, it was turned upward. There were two additional birds there, one with crossed digits, and no heat to keep the birds warm.
Outside there was a pen with two emus, three swans, ten turkeys, six geese, and a partially eaten swan carcass. The carcass of a goose was also in the enclosure, and officers also say they found six baby guinea hens with no access to food or water.
When police asked Schmidtke if she would be willing to surrender any of her animals, she said she would not give up any of the horses or donkeys and that she would rather “have her throat slit” than surrender the birds, the complaint reads. Schmidtke did agree to surrender the animals outside.
In addition to the 24 small animals seized, a number of animals remain on the property – four emus, five sheep, eight turkeys, twelve chickens, six geese, six guinea hens, seven to ten cats, approximately ten peacocks, six ponies, one llama, three donkeys, three horses. Scmidtke was ordered to provide veterinary care and proper hygiene for them, and Caledonia police Lt. Gary Larsen confirmed that officers will be following up with Schmidtke.