Note: Updates are posted at the end of this story!
On November 9, 2005, CCHS Shelter Manager Chuck Wegner received a call regarding animals in need of our help. The
call was from a relative of the manager of the Juneau County Humane Society. While information was sketchy, we were
told that the animals needed to be removed from the shelter as quickly as possible. The decision was made that we would
do whatever we could to assist another shelter in need of our help. So, the next day we rented the biggest U-Haul truck
we could find, and three members of the CCHS staff headed to New Lisbon. When we arrived at the Juneau County Humane
Society, it was immediately evident that we needed to remove all of the animals that we possibly could.
While we are not sure exactly what had occurred at JCHS, the animals were our primary concern. To put it bluntly,
the animals were not living in good conditions. Most of the cats were in need of medical care, as they were suffering
from upper respiratory conditions, and many of them had severe cases of ringworm. The dogs were living in very small
kennels, with little human contact. The kennels had a small outdoor section, which had not been cleaned of dog feces
for some time. We were able to remove 11 dogs and 29 cats and bring them to CCHS.
rescue has definitely been a challenge for CCHS. First of all, we were already full to our capacity for animals.
Suddenly, we were bringing in 40 more animals. Our hallways were lined with cages and every dog pen was occupied.
This creates an incredible amount of work for our volunteers. We want to express our gratitude for all of the work that
was done. Each volunteer that had to clean and care for extra animals is most appreciated! This rescue also had
a financial impact on CCHS. Each of the dogs needed to be vaccinated and wormed, and many need to be spayed or neutered.
As stated earlier, most of the cats required medical care. Each cat was "combo tested" to be sure they were
free of FelV and FIV. Our thanks go to Dr. Jean Liljegren of Grassland Veterinary Service for her quick response in
assisting us with the tests. Thankfully, all of the cats tested OK. Each was then vaccinated and wormed.
Those with upper respiratory conditions were treated, and care for the ringworm victims was also started. In addition,
many of the cats suffered from giardia and/or coccidia, resulting in very messy diarrhea. That has also been treated.
But all of the care does not come without a cost. This has been a very expensive rescue for CCHS.
We have been asked why we would help animals that were not even in our county. This is a very unique situation,
as we were dealing with another shelter. As a Humane Society, we are part of a very special group of people, whose goal
is to help animals in need. Part of being a Humane Society is also assisting other shelters when they are in need.
While we may never know exactly what happened at JCHS, we do know that they asked for help. And we responded.
We would hope that the same response would be given to us if we were ever in a situation where we needed help from another
shelter. It's that simple.
The rescue took place over a month ago, and we are happy
to say that the animals are doing well. Several of the dogs have already been adopted to new homes. Most of the
cats are now available for adoption, while those that remain under medical care are making progress. There are some
special stories on the survivors that we would like to share.
The first is a dog we nicknamed
"Spinner". It was apparent that the dogs did not get out of those small kennels for exercise when we observed
Spinner. As we stood outside his cage, Spinner constantly spun in a small circle the size of his cage. Even when
he was placed in a large kennel at our facility, he continued to spin in the small 3' circle that was the size of his
former pen. Fortunately, Spinner has found a new home with a loving family, and he has stopped spinning!
Another is "Hank". Hank is an extremely loving, sweet little kitten. When we
found Hank we were told that he suffered from food allergies. It was most definitely more than that. Hank had
the worst case of ringworm that we had ever seen. He had huge bald patches on his legs, tail, tummy, and all over his
body. He also suffered from a terrible upper respiratory infection. Hank is now on the mend, and his fur is almost
completely grown back!
And then there is "Half Pint". Half Pint was found in
a cage with two other kittens and an adult female cat. Poor little Half Pint was laying face down in the litter box
and could barely breathe due to nasal congestion. His eyes were stuck shut and covered with fecal matter and cat litter.
Half Pint is now in foster care and is still under treatment for ringworm. But he is a darling little kitten who purrs
like crazy and can't wait to be held and cuddled. He is a survivor!
what this story is all about. Right or wrong, the animals were in a situation that was not their doing. They had
no choice in how they were being cared for. We do have a choice. And we chose to help them find a way out.
Half Pint Update (3/23/06): Sadly, Half
Pint's story does not have a happy ending. As much as we loved the little fellow and as hard as we tried, it
just wasn't enough to restore his health and save him. Due to the rough start Half Pint had, his resistance level
was impaired and he could not properly fight off infections. Half Pint recently passed away. His spirit will live
on with everyone that loved him, and it is our hope that his tragic life will have a lasting effect. We're hoping
that his legacy may be a Wisconsin Pet Facilities Inspection bill. Several states have this in place and it would have prevented
the Juneau County Humane Society situation. Hopefully, Half Pint will not have died in vain. We miss him.
We would like to express our appreciation to WEAU-TV, Channel 13, in Eau Claire for their support of CCHS. They
have been wonderful in getting our story out to the public. The first story on our rescue aired on Tuesday, December 20th,
when reporter Cathy Rinka came to CCHS. Then, on December 28th, John Jedda returned to CCHS to do his weather broadcast from
our Shelter! Shown to the left is a picture of John interviewing Shelter Manager Chuck Wegner. John really seemed to
enjoy his time at CCHS, and all of the kitties certainly delighted in assisting him with his weather forecast. We are very
pleased to count John, Cathy, and WEAU among our Shelter friends. Thank you!
[To read WEAU, Channel 13's story on this rescue,
please visit their website www.weau.com. Just enter "Humane Society" in their search area and then select "Rescued Animals".]
Six of the dogs rescued from JCHS have now been adopted to loving new families. They are doing well in their new
homes and happy to have found their new life.
Only one of the cats rescued has been adopted so far. This is because of the medical conditions most of the cats
were dealing with were much more severe. Seventeen cats are still recovering from ringworm. However, that means
there are eleven that are waiting to find their new family right now! If you might be interested in adopting a
new feline friend, please contact CCHS to submit an application.
CCHS continues to be proud of the work we are doing to help the JCHS animals. We are pleased to see the progress
they are making, and even happier to see some of them being adopted. After all, that's what this story is really all
about. While we appreciate beyond measure all of the donations and support we have received, our best reward is seeing
the animals go to new homes.
We continue to be puzzled by the situation at Juneau County Humane Society. Like everyone else, we have heard on
the news that there is an investigation by the Juneau County Sheriff's Department into animal neglect and misuse of funds.
We certainly have no idea how that will turn out. However, we have been shocked that we have had no contact from JCHS.
As Shelter people ourselves, we would have expected to have follow-up calls from JCHS regarding the animals and how they were
doing. We received nothing. That is, until today, when we received the following email from the JCHS Manager:
"Dear Clark County Humane Society
Hope you raised a lot of money at our expense. Lawsuits are messy and expensive, we are starting one. Look forward
to contact with our lawyer.
Board of Directors Juneau County Humane Society"
Quite frankly, we are stunned and very disappointed. All of the information we have provided
to the public is fact-based. The pictures of the animals speak for themselves. We are confident that everything
we have done has been for the benefit of the animals in need. We have done nothing wrong. And to JCHS, we
say "Bring it on!"
And the saga continues...
Letter to the Editor
On Saturday, March 18th, a letter to the editor appeared in the Juneau County
Star Times. Written by former JCHS Manager and Treasurer Lynn Rittenhouse Leatherberry, a lot of untrue and mean statements
are made about CCHS in the letter. The letter follows in its entirety:
Clark County Humane Soc. is lying
I have some questions for you to think about. Why are you so ready to believe the worst about the Juneau County Humane Society?
Why is the Clark County Humane Society so much more credible? Why didn’t
they come out with their story until after they had the animals for six weeks? Was
it timing-because right before Christmas would get them more donations?
Wouldn’t they have reported to the Sheriff’s Department right away if it was that bad? If it was so bad, why didn’t they take all the animals? Isn’t
that what a Humane Society would do in the situation that they are describing? Are
they more believable because they had pictures? Did they take those pictures
on the date they said they did? Why are the pictures of the kittens taken at
their shelter and not at JCHS?
If animals had such bad ringworm why don’t they have gloves on when it is highly contagious? Are those kittens really from Juneau County? How much money do you think they are getting in donations with this story?
They had a signed agreement to call and the Juneau County Humane Society would take the animals back if they were sick
or aggressive, why didn’t they? Why didn’t any one talk to the JCHS
before they presented the story as fact? Is it because they might have found
out that there were over 40 local people through the shelter in the last two weeks before Clark County was asked to take some
of JCHS animals and they tell a different story?
JCHS was open for business until Nov. 11, 2005, with local people
coming through the shelter nearly everyday. There were even three adoptions on
Nov. 10, 2005. So are they
assuming that the good citizens of Juneau County
are the kind of people who would ignore “sick and dying animals” and not say or do something?
Why didn’t Clark County Humane Society report that they were given nearly $15,000 worth of equipment, cages,
animal food, cat litter, vaccines, and things? Did the refrigerator, the pictures
off the walls, the microwaves, the new air conditioner, the Christmas tree, a $4,000 engraving machine, and all the other
things that they spent the whole day loading in their truck need to be “rescued” too?
If there was a little black kitten in such bad shape, why did they leave it sitting in a carrier outside in November
all afternoon while they loaded their truck with things? Why did they report
that they put one of the JCHS dogs down if they are a true no-kill animal shelter as they advertise? Again there was an agreement in writing and they just had to call, so are they really a no-kill shelter?
This is a publicity stunt that is hurting people, the people they are accusing, their families, the people who volunteered
at the shelter, and the people of Juneau County
by saying they are the kind of people who would turn a blind eye to abuse and neglected animals in their own Humane Society.
CCHS stands behind our work to save the JCHS animals. We do not wish
to engage in a battle of name-calling and innuendos with the former JCHS staff. We know what we did was right.
The suggestion that this was a publicity stunt is ridiculous. We can think of a lot of ways to raise funds that would
involve a lot less work and heartache.
We did not contact the media to release this story. They contacted
us for information; we do not know how they knew of the story. We simply shared the facts with them when they asked. The public reacted to the story of animals in need.
Ms. Rittenhouse-Leatherberry’s report of items which we received is
misleading. JCHS staff told us the shelter was closing, and they wished the items
to go to another shelter where they would be put to good use. The value of these items was considerably less than $15,000
by the time we received them. All items were absolutely filthy and we spent innumerable hours in an effort to make
We are very offended by the implication that we do not respect the people
of Juneau County and that we think they would have ignored such a situation. The ones we don't
respect at all are the perpetrators of this inhumanity inflicted on the resident animals of that shelter. Juneau County residents have been incredibly supportive of our work. We have received many, many emails thanking us for the
rescue. These are fine, upstanding people, who in most cases had no idea of the extent of the situation and are telling
us they are saddened to find out that this had been going on for some time. We very much appreciate their words of emotional
support. It's helped us to get through a difficult time.
If CCHS has benefited from this experience, it is not because we intended
to, but rather because of the outpouring of help from truly kind and caring people.
We have always believed that goodness is its own reward and we sincerely hope that those responsible for the misdeeds
that occurred at JCHS will be brought to justice.
On Tuesday, March 21st, 2006, Juneau County Assistant District Attorney Stacy Smith filed
charges against recent executive board members of the Juneau County Humane Society (JCHS). June Kline (past president), Michelle
Ott (past secretary) and Lynn Rittenhouse Leatherberry (past treasurer and shelter manager) are EACH
facing 3 felony and 45 misdemeanor counts of intentional mistreatment of an animal. The felony charges are for resulting
in the death of an animal. Their first court appearance is scheduled for April 17th. We are very pleased to see
that the District Attorney's office has brought charges, and we hope that justice will prevail!
WKOW News Story
WKOW, Channel 27, in Madison, aired a great story about the JCHS rescue and the charges on Wednesday,
March 22nd. The link below is to their website, where you can watch the video of that story. Thank you, WKOW
news reporter Carl Agnelly, for covering this important story.
Initial Court Appearances
WKOW, Channel 27 in Madison, has continued their coverage of the JCHS rescue,
including the initial court appearances on Monday, April 17th. The following story appeared on their website, http://www.channel3000.com/news/8779487/detail.html.
MAUSTON, Wis. -- Workers with the Juneau County Humane
Society were in court on Monday to face charges of abusing the animals that they were supposed to help.
Three women -- former Juneau County shelter manager Lynn Rittenhouse-Leatherberry,
of Elroy, June Kline, of Mauston, and Michelle Ott, of Wonewoc -- are facing more than 40 charges of mistreating animals in
Both Ott and Kline have agreed not to have contact with animals, including
their own pets, WISC-TV reported.
Four of the charges accuse the women of negligence that lead to the death
of an animal while in the shelter's care.
About 40 animals had to be rescued from poor living conditions in the shelter,
which is located in New Lisbon, in January, WISC-TV reported.
In addition, we have learned that the three women were placed on $5,000 signature bonds on Monday and
ordered to have no contact with each other. Kline and Ott were ordered to have no contact with any animals. They were
given 72 hours to give up custody of any domestic animals they own. Leatherberry, due to owning a farm, was
allowed to maintain contact with her animals. They are to be checked on periodically by a humane officer.
Kline's next appearance is scheduled for May 1. Michele Ott's indigency hearing will be held April 24
with her next appearance on May 15. Leatherberry is scheduled for a pretrial conference on May 12 and a return date
of June 14.
Most recent news in this continuing case is that a trial has been scheduled for March 26-29, 2007.
We are looking forward to the opportunity to tell our story in court. We remain hopeful that justice will prevail.