UPDATE: A 46-year-old man who lived with Dawn Scheld is being charged in connection with the Dec. 18 raid on their property. Middle Township Police arrested Leroy Thomas last night on animal cruelty charges. NJ SPCA officer Theresa Cooper said Thomas, as co-owner of the property, is equally culpable in the abuse and neglect of scores of animals. "He is just as responsible because they reside together," she said. "Based on my investigation he had knowledge of everything that was going on. He could have put a stop to this."
He was taken to Cape May County jail before being released on $25,000 bail. Scheld remained jailed last night. Both have Jan. 6 arraignment dates.
A Cape May County woman remains in jail more than a week after humane officials raided her property and removed scores of malnourished, sick and injured dogs.
Dawn Scheld, 46, of Goshen, was arrested Dec. 18 after New Jersey SPCA officials found 60 dogs, two cats and one mourning dove living in filthy conditions on her six-acre property.
Scheld, who claims to have been running a shelter called SOS Canine Rescue and Rehabilitation, has been unable to post bail which was reduced from $50,000 to $25,000, NJ SPCA officials said.
When agents arrived last week, most of the animals were living in their own waste, a number of them in outside pens with insufficient shelter, little evidence of food and frozen water bowls. The majority were suffering from some kind of illness - many of them were in serious condition, officials said.
"They have all kinds of medical issues," said Theresa Cooper, an investigator with the NJ SPCA. "Anything possible they had; giardia and coccidia (parasite infestation), heartworm, eye infections and severe skin infections. One had a prolapsed rectum and others are pregnant."
Scheld regularly transported dogs to her property from a high-kill shelter in Robeson, North Carolina's poorest county - ostensibly for adoption - and was on her way back with nine dogs and four puppies when agents showed up at her house.
Scheld's sister turned over the four puppies who were diagnosed with parvo virus - a highly-contagious, often fatal disease. Three have been treated and released to shelters. One puppy - and two other dogs with severe skin infections - remain hospitalized at Columbus Central Veterinary Hospital in Burlington County.
The nine other dogs removed from the Robeson County Animal Shelter on Dec. 17 are still missing. Their exposure to the parvo virus carried by the puppies, makes the fact they are unaccounted for a public health concern, said Cooper.
In addition to the live dogs, agents last week dug up the bodies of six dogs that are undergoing necropsies to determine the cause of death.
Neither Scheld nor another individual, Leroy Thomas, in whose name many of the dogs are registered, agreed to relinquish the animals. Cruelty charges against Thomas are pending, said Cooper.
Officials had been investigating Scheld since July when a tip from a customer who adopted a sick dog last summer led them to the property.
Cooper said she urged Scheld to get medical care for the dogs last summer and tried to get her to surrender them, but she refused. Nor did she get treatment for the dogs, Scheld said.
Instead she kept traveling to North Carolina to get more dogs. Robeson SPCA manager, Lori Baxter, said Scheld had been there two or three times to pick up dogs since she was hired in October, most recently on Dec. 17.
"She told us with the flurry of adoptions at Christmas her place was empty," said Baxter.
With only one part-time staff member and hundreds of dogs to place each month, Baxter said her SPCA was unable to adequately evaluate Scheld's operation, relying on the Internet rescue network and the fact Scheld produced health documents for previous dogs she had removed.
"I was shocked, she seemed very caring," said Baxter. "If we had ever suspected this there's not a chance they would have left the shelter."
Cooper said all of which are highly adoptable but cannot be released until the owners relinquish them or the case is decided. Until then they are being cared for by a number of non-profit shelters including Cape May County Animal Shelter, the Humane Society of Atlantic City and the Animal Orphanage in Camden County. Bills for housing and medical care already total thousands of dollars and climb daily, Cooper said.
Donations for the dogs' care may be directed to those shelters or to the NJ SPCA. Cooper said she will seek restitution for the care of the animals as part of the court case.