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The Thyme & Sage Ranch Investigation

One of the dogs confiscated from Thyme and Sage Ranch.

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Dirty, matted, and scared poodle mix confiscated from the Thyme & Sage Ranch in May 2009.

       On May 19, 2009, a task force made up of the Richland County Sheriff’s Department, the Richland County District Attorney’s Office, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), and the Dane County Humane Society (DCHS) executed a search warrant for Thyme and Sage Ranch, an animal shelter located in Cazenovia, WI. More than 400 animals were seized at the site, many of whom were ill and suffering.

       Jennifer Petkus, the operator of Thyme and Sage Ranch, considered her facility a rescue sanctuary, and reportedly had also been accepting $750 per month payment as the county Animal Control officer since spring 2007. Numerous public complaints and an internal investigation led authorities to conclude that Thyme and Sage and its owner (Jennifer Petkus) were engaged in multiple acts of animal cruelty which resulted in the raid.

       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.

       The dogs and small animals were taken to emergency tents outside the Dane County Humane Society shelter, where volunteer vets and vet techs were on hand to assist with medical evaluations, vaccinations, and treatment as the animals were brought in. Hundreds of volunteers assisted the task force through donations of time, monetary, and in kind contributions and the majority of the animals were saved.

       The authorities initiated a criminal prosecution against Petkus asserting 39 counts of animal cruelty and neglect.

       On Friday, May 29, 2009, after being charged 9 days eariler with counts ranging from Mistreating Animals to "Unlawful Deposit of Animal Carcass," Jennifer Petkus signed over approximately 200 dogs to the Dane County Humane Society. That weekend, Operation Freedom 200, Wiconsin Federated Humane Society's plan to transport the dogs from their temporary quarters at DCHS to humane societies and animal shelters throughout Wisconsin, was put into action.

       Meanwhile, over 70 dogs remained at Dane County Humane Society, some as "evidence," until the court case was finished.

       On February 21, 2011, Petkus stood for trial for what became an 18-day trial. On March 10, 2011, the jury returned a verdict, finding Petkus guilty of certain of the misdemeanor charges, including intentionally mistreating animals, failing to provide water to certain animals, and providing insufficient sanitation. Petkus lodged an aggressive defense and was found not guilty of certain other charges.

       On April 28, 2011, the Court withheld its sentence on the six counts for which Petkus was convicted and sentenced her to three years of probation, to be served concurrently. The Court further ordered Petkus to pay the costs of supervision, court costs, and restitution and disallowed her from owning any further animals other than those then on the property by agreement with authorities.

       This section details the Thyme and Sage investigation and the amazing efforts by Dane County HS and members of Wiconsin Federated Humane Society to house, vet, comfort, and transport these four-footed victims of abuse and neglect.

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