Convicted abuser pays no restitution in two-year-long hoarding case

Just over two years after she was jailed for being unable to post bail on animal cruelty charges, the operator of a South Jersey "rescue" was sentenced in a case that involved dozens of sick, injured and starving dogs.

A Cape May County judge late last month sentenced Dawn Scheld of Goshen to time served in jail (50 days) and forbid her from owning animals for five years.

Her companion, Leroy Thomas, who was also convicted of cruelty, was forbidden from owning animals for five years.

Despite efforts by Cape May County prosecutor Christine Smith to seek restitution for the 10 shelters that cared for Scheld's 62 dogs, two cats and one mourning dove, the judge ordered Scheld to pay only a $150 court penalty.

The total bill for two years of housing for 40 of the dogs, food and vet care? $238,000.

The New Jersey SPCA expressed deep disappointment over the outcome of the case.

"It's a complete mess," said Matt Stanton, the group's spokesman. "Animals got screwed, shelters got screwed, we got screwed."

And it's not over yet. Scheld last month filed an appeal in the case.

The only positive news, Stanton said, is that the remaining dogs were finally released for adoption.

The NJ SPCA raided Scheld's SOS Canine Rescue on Dec. 18, 2010 after discovering scores of animals living in filth on her property. 

When agents arrived they found most of the animals living in their own waste, puppies crammed in filthy crates inside the house and others in outside pens with only plastic barrels for shelter. There was little evidence of food, and water was frozen.

Most were suffering from some kind of illness, and many were in serious condition needing immediate and extensive veterinary care, officials said.

Agents also dug up the bodies of six dogs.

Scheld was buying dogs for $25 from a high kill shelter in Robeson, North Carolina, transporting them to New Jersey and selling them for seven times that amount without providing any veterinary care, NJ SPCA officials said. 

SPCA Officer Theresa Cooper issued her multiple warnings after reports of dogs purchased from Scheld were dying of contagious diseases such as parvo virus.

Scheld surrendered 22 dogs in 2011 and they were able to be placed with families. The dove and the cats were returned to her. The rest of the dogs spent two full years in shelter confinement and were only released on Jan. 10.