LIVE VIDEO: Right lane blocked on I-41 NB at Center due to law enforcement activity

Animals seized: 3 properties searched after “deplorable” conditions found in Caledonia shelter

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

CALEDONIA (WITI) -- A total of 95 animals have been rescued from the Orphan Kanines facility and two homes in Caledonia and after a yearly fire inspection of the animal shelter found conditions "hazardous to both humans and animals alike" -- and prompted police to conduct a more thorough investigation.

On Thursday morning, May 29th, officials executed a search warrant at Orphan Kanines on Kremer Ave. Later Thursday, two more homes were searched.

The smell outside the Orphan Kanines shelter was described as "overpowering" -- even across the street from the facility.

“You can literally taste it right now. I mean, that’s an unmistakable odor to me," Katie Tatro, who was watching investigators at the scene told FOX6 News.

The Racine Fire Department Hazardous Materials Team responded -- and noted "ammonia levels were unsafe for human exposure in excess of five minutes."

“It wasn’t safe for our people to be in there for more than five minutes, so we had to do a lot of ventilation of the building so that people could safely go inside," Lt. Gary Larsen with the Caledonia Police Department said.

The initial count of animals recovered from the building is 65 dogs, ten cats and one pig.

The facility was being vented on Thursday.

Those who entered the facility to rescue the animals described the conditions inside as "deplorable."

"There are piles of feces everywhere inside the building. It's filthy," Angela Speed, the Director of Communications at the Wisconsin Humane Society said.

Speed says in some cases, small kennels were packed with multiple dogs.

"We'll be doing our best to make sure that each animal gets the individual medical attention that he or she deserves, and to ensure that these animals are safe," Speed said.

When it is safe for officers to enter the building, a more accurate count of animals will be made -- as well as the condition of the animals.

"The cats are largely loose in the building, so it could be anywhere from five to 10," Speed said.

The Humane Society had veterinarians on scene, and planned to give each animal a medical evaluation -- and immediate treatment if needed.

Humane Society officials say some of the animals had injuries to their paws and ears.

Some of them will likely be moved to the Racine Humane Society location -- though they're also reaching out to community partners to help with housing the animals.

Those FOX6 News spoke with at the scene say it appears the owner of the facility may have just taken on too much.

"It kind of blows your mind, and I think, you know, some people think they're going to help these animals and it gets to a point where they get so overwhelmed they can't take care of them -- and they can't control it anymore -- and this is what happens," Lt. Larsen said.

The owner of Orphan Kanines is in custody.

Officials are not releasing that person's name -- but we're told charges of animal neglect and cruelty to animals are likely.

Long-time Orphan Kanines supporter Shirley Kauers is shocked.

Her dog, Ella, is a rescue from the shelter.

"I guess they're saying she abused them because she had so many. But she didn't kill them. She doesn't have any help. No state help. Just donations," Kauers said.

Kauers says the owner cared about the animals in her shelter. Kauers says her own dog had no medical problems when she was adopted a few years back.

However, Kauers says the owner never showed her the kennel area.

Later on Thursday, Caledonia police executed a search warrant at the shelter owner's home.

Neighbor Bob Stapelman told FOX6 News the woman's pets never came outside -- and the owner herself never spent the night -- or really much time at the property.

Six animals were pulled from the shelter owner's home.

Like inside the shelter, police say feces covered the home.

"Now things are going to happen at this house that are well overdue," Stapelman said.

Caledonia police tell FOX6 News there is a third location -- another home in Racine where as many as six animals were found.

That would bring the total number of animals seized on Thursday to more than 80.

Since this is a criminal investigation, the animals cannot be adopted out yet.

The Wisconsin Humane Society posted the following message on its Facebook page on Thursday night:

"Our team is still on the scene working swiftly and carefully to remove all of the animals from the Orphan Kanines facility. The animals are not yet able to move into our adoption program because it’s important to follow the appropriate legal process, but they’ll be resting in clean, comfortable conditions under the supervision of our staff until we know more. We are absolutely overwhelmed by the outpouring of community support we’ve received throughout the day. Your kind words, donations, and offerings of assistance help fuel us as we continue to pull dog after dog out of those truly heartbreaking conditions. Once we know more about the various medical conditions or foster needs, we’ll be sure to let you know. Thank you all for once again proving what a compassionate community we have the honor of serving."

We'll warn you, some of the photos in this photo gallery may be disturbing.

According to Orphan Kanines' website, it is a non-profit, no-kill dog rescue that can house approximately 65 dogs. They "work on resocializing rehabilitating, to rehome these pets into forever homes. We do not euthanize to make room for others."

Monitor FOX6 News and FOX6Now.com for updates on this developing story.

28 comments

  • john p.

    Thank God that the suffering of these poor animals was discovered, may justice be done to the filthy human beings that operated this discussting shelter. Severe penalties for all those who mistreat animals !

  • Robert Burgess

    And where were all these animals obtained from? Local citizens? Area shelters? When will facilities such as this face the same inspections as municipal shelters to ensure the animals they take on are receiving
    humane care?

  • Jennifer Primich

    The sad part is, donation ran, county ran, gov’t funded, a pretty website, and a big heart does not equal clean conditions. I toured 16 shelters in this state and some of the gov’t aided ones were the worst. Check out a place before you donate, 501c3 does not mean clean and quality. Places like this should know when to say no, and when to euthanise. The problem still lies with the fact shelters are needed and abused by the public that fails the animals. I would love to be out of a job because I was no longer needed for this line of work. Glad the situation is ending in one way or another for the animals, and euthanasia is not to be taken lightly and if you criticize it’s need maybe you should try doing it or better yet foster or adopt from a reputable shelter so this will not happen again. Jennifer Primich

    • zan

      Well said, Jennifer. I volunteer at a shelter here in WI that is NOT no-kill. However, we take everyone. Not all animals can be saved… that said, it IS more humane to give these animals a safe, quiet, gentle end, than to attempt to keep them alive indefinitely in terrible, dirty, loud, frightening conditions.

  • Diane Kordus

    i adopted my dog in March, 2013 from the Racine location. At that time, it was supposedly under new management, and i hoped that they would be able to care for the dogs. My dog was smelly and scared, but has turned out to be a great little guy. (He is still shy of many people) The owner seemed well informed about dogs, but evidently overwhelmed. She said my dog came from a pregnant mom that they got from Kentucky. It seems there are lots of kill shelters down south.
    I told people that I rescued him from a rescue.

  • Terry

    I adopted a boston terrier from her three weeks ago. I see from the pictures that there are still two left. I would take another one! Please contact me.

    • Lisa

      Terry, We adopted a Boston Terrier from her on Mother’s Day! Would love to hear from you…they might be siblings. We also adopted another Boston months before hand as well. We are very pleased with everything.

      • danica guidi

        Hi, we adopted our Boston Terrier from Orphan Kanines in November of 2012. Debra Gray was so shady, and unprofessional, not to mention our puppy was so sick, she needed immediate medical attention, and Debra didn’t seem to care. I wrote a yelp review back in early 2013, and it is literally spot on! Although we had a HORRIBLE experience with her and the shelter, not to mention she tried to sue me and my husband, our dog is our world, and is a healthy, happy dog who is more spoiled than most kids! Would love to chat with anyone who has adopted from her, this lady needs to get what she deserves!

  • Ron

    I love how people who abuse animals always say the same thing. “We love animals”. NO YOU DON’T” you are all criminals who abuse animals and you should never again be allowed to own dogs or cats.

    • Don Peppers

      Obviously this woman was overwhelmed, To say she abused these animals may be a bit to extreme, the fact that there are many people who have commented on here that they adopted animals from this shelter and love them dearly, shows she is trying to find homes for them. She clearly has a good heart and loves animals or she would be devoting her time taking them in. For those of you who feel sad when you watch the commercials on TV from the Human Society of the United States (HSUS) and decide to open your wallets and send the money DON’T, instead find a local no kill shelter such as this one who is over populated and under staffed and volunteer or make a donation to them, because the HSUS contributes about 1% of the Hundreds of Millions of dollars they collect to pet shelters and about 56% of those millions on their operating cost like salaries, pensions and advertising, what’s worse is the HSUS doesn’t own or operate a single animal shelter. So as dirty and filthy as this shelter is, this woman saved animals, I only wish she could have had help running her shelter in a more responsible way. . http://www.humanewatch.org/new-report-card-same-old-hsus-bad-grades/

      • Lucca Lenci

        Another FYI…I WILL JUDGE HER BECAUSE also donated thousands of dollars through fundraising events, throughout a rough pregnancy, while running a business, making them a priority hours of late nights getting christmas packages together and offering any other help along wih hundreds of pounds of free food every month. All while they walked in with their hands out and noses high in the air every month. Without a thankyou since it was for the dogs. YOU DONT EVER LET CONDITIONS GET THAT BAD IF YOU CARE TURNING AWAY FREE HELP FROM VOLUNTEERS WITH KENNEL EXPERIENCE THAT SURPASSED HER OWN. SHE WANTED TO SAY LOOK AT ME LOOK WHAT A MARTYR I AM. She did nothing but give the awful HSUS more ammo and give others who devote their lives to doing it right a bad name.

  • Valerie Rigert

    I’d love to know where they are going to go, so I could check them out. Had to put mine down in January after 12 years, miss her dearly. Please let me know, they look like they will need a loving home. Thank you.

  • Kelli Kauers Smythe

    First of all, my mother’s dog’s name is Bella, not Ella. A news station should verify they have the correct information before printing a story for goodness sakes, shame on you. It is easy for people to judge a situation based upon what the media chooses to show you, not based on facts. We are all so quick to judge the owner of this facility after she obviously became overwhelmed by trying to save every animal that came her way.

    The media chose to show you horrific images, not the ones of cages recently cleaned. Sensationalism sells news. I just read a long message from the Vet that cared for the animals at Orphaned Kanines and she knows the story first hand and it was nothing like this news showed you.

    Do the Racine Police not have enough to do? It looked like someone set a bomb off with all the fan fare they had going on. Now, I am from Racine and I know for a fact there are more things going on in that armpit of a town to keep the police busy.

    With everyone being so judgemental, would you be willing to volunteer your time to help the shelter? Would you be willing to open your wallet and donate? If the answer is no, then I suggest you keep your comments silent.

    I wish the best for all of these animals and everyone willing to help them.

      • Lucca Lenci

        Another FYI…I WILL JUDGE HER BECAUSE
        I also donated thousands of dollars through fundraising events, throughout a rough pregnancy, while running a business, making them a priority hours of late nights getting christmas packages together and offering any other help along wih hundreds of pounds of free food every month. All while they walked in with their hands out and noses high in the air every month. Without a thankyou since it was for the dogs. YOU DONT EVER LET CONDITIONS GET THAT BAD IF YOU CARE TURNING AWAY FREE HELP FROM VOLUNTEERS WITH KENNEL EXPERIENCE THAT SURPASSED HER OWN. SHE WANTED TO SAY LOOK AT ME LOOK WHAT A MARTYR I AM. She did nothing but give the awful HSUS more ammo and give others who devote their lives to doing it right a bad name.

  • William Generotzky

    After our dog passed away, we were wanting to help other dogs. In the winter of 2011 we went to Orphan Kanines shelter to offer our help walking dogs and possible foster care. The person we talked with would not let us go back to see the dogs and said it was too cold to walk them in the winter. And he said that foster care made it harder for the animals, better if they stayed at the shelter and waited to be adopted. When we were talking about coming back in the spring and mentioned taking them walking for about 1 hour or so and bringing them back, we remember him saying “longer than a 30 minute walk would be for your benefit and not the dogs, 30 minutes is all they need for muscle tone”. We left them with our phone number and e-mail address and asked them to call us if they wanted our help. We never heard from them.

  • brady street

    Some animals were seized from this woman’s husband’s home. They have seperate homes. They kicked his door down. He called the Health Dept. and they observed the home to be clean and the animals in good condition. These were HIS animals. Wisconsin Humane better think twice about harming his animals but I don’t put anything past them. I think they needed a few more fire trucks. I’m amazed they didn’t land in a helicopter! If the odor was so bad, why weren’t the people with the “staff” t-shirts wearing any masks? Comon, this was a big hazmat event. This woman was in over her head. Too bad nobody was willing to help her. I don’t believe for one minute she intentionally meant to abuse or harm an animal.

    • Lucca Lenci

      Another FYI she had plenty of help VOLUNTEERS…I WILL JUDGE HER BECAUSE also donated thousands of dollars through fundraising events, throughout a rough pregnancy, while running a business, making them a priority hours of late nights getting christmas packages together and offering any other help along wih hundreds of pounds of free food every month. All while they walked in with their hands out and noses high in the air every month. Without a thankyou since it was for the dogs. YOU DONT EVER LET CONDITIONS GET THAT BAD IF YOU CARE TURNING AWAY FREE HELP FROM VOLUNTEERS WITH KENNEL EXPERIENCE THAT SURPASSED HER OWN. SHE WANTED TO SAY LOOK AT ME LOOK WHAT A MARTYR I AM. She did nothing but give the awful HSUS more ammo and give others who devote their lives to doing it right a bad name.

  • bob george

    I agree with brady street. You would think these guys had “silver wings upon their chest” , when actually all they have is sore feet from kicking in doors when all they had to do was ring the bell.

  • jim bazzalon

    I asume the reference to silver wings would be to the Green Berets who have many brave men and fallen heroes. They only thing those door kickers have are fallen arches. That was an absurd move if those animals belonged to another person.

  • Lucca Lenci

    Another FYI…I WILL JUDGE HER BECAUSEI also donated thousands of dollars through fundraising events, throughout a rough pregnancy, while running a business, making them a priority hours of late nights getting christmas packages together and offering any other help along wih hundreds of pounds of free food every month. All while they walked in with their hands out and noses high in the air every month. Without a thankyou since it was for the dogs. YOU DONT EVER LET CONDITIONS GET THAT BAD IF YOU CARE TURNING AWAY FREE HELP FROM VOLUNTEERS WITH KENNEL EXPERIENCE THAT SURPASSED HER OWN. SHE WANTED TO SAY LOOK AT ME LOOK WHAT A MARTYR I AM. She did nothing but give the awful HSUS more ammo and give others who devote their lives to doing it right a bad name.

Comments are closed.