Case Snapshot
Case ID: 16795
Classification: Hoarding
Animal: dog (non pit-bull)
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Person(s) in animal care
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Defense(s): John Sohl
Judge(s): Steven Timm

For more information about the Interactive Animal Cruelty Maps, see the map notes.

Tuesday, Nov 2, 2010

County: Gage

Charges: Misdemeanor
Disposition: Acquitted

Person of Interest: Mary Stickney

Case Updates: 3 update(s) available

One hundred and three dogs were taken out of a small house near Cortland Tuesday afternoon and Lincoln's Capital Humane Society is providing shelter for the dogs as Gage County authorities continue to investigate.

The dogs were split up and sent to three separate shelters in Beatrice, Omaha and Lincoln.

Mary Stickney's Toy Breed rescue business was designed to save dogs from puppy mills, but authorities say it was no shelter and the home was filled with filth. There was a strong stench of ammonia inside the house and there was fecal matter on the floor.

Stickney was ticketed for animal neglect, but she believes she was doing what was best for her dogs, "Yes, that's my whole life is to look out for them."

But Bob Downey of the Capital Humane Society took in ten of the 103 dogs and he says the dogs were in poor condition, "They are pretty smelly, dirty, need some nail trims, things of that nature."

Stickney responds, "Of course they were in bad shape, they come that way. I had one with a broken leg I spent $795 on."

Downey says it's too soon to tell what kind of shape the dogs are in mentally, "They're going to have to chill out for a few days so to speak and obviously in the setting that they were in they may have been temperamentally fine. My understanding from some of my staff is that there were some aggressive reactions from some of the dogs down there but that's not to be unexpected because they're being removed from an environment that they have gotten used to and they'll have to adjust to the environment here at the shelter and obviously they are going to receive some socialization, attention, play time, walk, things of that nature from volunteers and staff here at the shelter. So we'll know better about their temperament level maybe 5 to 7 days down the road."

Stickney says, "People complain because they don't understand that puppy dogs that we get come from the puppy mills. They come here, they're in bad shape."

Downey says he is hopeful that Gage County will eventually gain legal custody of the dogs and then turn them over to the shelters so they can put them up for adoption.

Stickney says that she has only just begun to fight, "I'm calling a lawyer and I'm going to court."

A court date has been set for December 14th.

Case Updates

Mary Stickney, a Cortland woman charged with 100 counts of animal neglect, was found not guilty on all counts Monday afternoon.

The six-person jury began its deliberation Monday shortly before 11 a.m.

By 3:45 p.m., it had reached a verdict.

Stickney, who ran an animal rescue facility near Cortland, had 104 dogs seized from her home Nov. 2. Authorities claimed the house to be littered of animal urine and feces.

The jury did find Stickney guilty on a separate charge of failure to maintain a written emergency veterinary case plan. The charge carries a $100 fine.

After the not guilty verdict, Stickney left the courtroom with a visible smile.

Friends at the courthouse hugged her and offered their congratulations.

"I want to thank the jury for doing what is proper for my dogs and getting them out of the Humane Society and back home where they belong," Stickney said after the verdict was read.

On Nov. 2, Gage County Sheriff's deputy Brandon Schley, along with inspectors from the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, seized 104 dogs from Stickney's house after they determined the conditions of the house were unsuitable for animals to live in.

Stickney's home is licensed as a animal rescue facility.

Four of those dogs have been euthanized due to their health condition, but Stickney will be getting the remaining 100 dogs back from the Humane Society. She's unsure, however, of the time frame. Stickney said once she does get them back, she plans to immediately start working on re-socializing the dogs.

In regards to the charge she was found guilty on, Stickney said it was just a misunderstanding.

"I got a form from the Department of Agriculture to fill out and I filled it out and mailed it back," Stickney said. "And you're supposed to keep it with you."

When asked if she had hard feelings towards the county officials, Stickney said yes and no.

"They do what they have to do," Stickney said.

While inspectors found 100 dogs in her home last November, Stickney said she normally tries to keep 50 or less.

"I have been taking extras and they stay about a week before they go out to Colorado or another place," Stickney said. "I've been helping others at moving dogs out to other rescues, so I will have extra dogs for like a week while I wait for them to come pick them up. That may stop because it put me over what they thought I should have."

Gage County Chief Deputy Attorney Rick Schreiner, the prosecutor in the case against Stickney, said he was disappointed in the jury's verdict but accepted it.

"The community was represented by the jury and they made their decision," Schreiner said. "They saw the evidence and decided that was acceptable in Gage County. Now we know."

Schreiner said there was a lot of evidence and he could have kept the trial going for another week, but said he felt like he proved his case.

"I had three experts in that house that said those conditions rose to the level of failing to provide reasonable care for the health of those dogs," Schreiner said. "But I'm an attorney and I respect the jury's opinion."

Schreiner said there's nothing he would have done differently.

"When I make charging decisions, I think of a jury," Schreiner said. "I thought that I had enough evidence. I wouldn't have done it any differently and I think I would have wore the jury out if I had done so."

Stickney could have received a maximum sentence of a $1,000 fine or a year in jail for the charge she was convicted of.

Schreiner, however, is not disappointed in the judge's decision.

"I was never looking for jail for Ms. Stickney," Schreiner said. "I guess I still don't understand why she thinks she needs to have 100 dogs in her house but the question has been answered that that's OK."

Gage County has paid more than $50,000 for care of the dogs since they were seized from Stickney's house, a big factor into the reasoning behind the prosecution, Schreiner said.

That does not include the legal fees of pursuing the case.

"We tried to resolve it early on and tried to get Ms. Stickney to relinquish the majority of those dogs so we didn't incur the costs," Schreiner said. "She refused to do that. She stated that it was her goal to get these dogs cleaned up, healthy and adopted out and for six months she refused to allow us to do that. So the community will have to judge her motives based on those actions."

Schreiner said if he ever received a case like this again, he might be hesitant to pursue it.

"The community has spoken and determined this is acceptable behavior," Schreiner said. "I don't think I would do it again under this set of facts. It wouldn't be prudent."

Stickney's defense attorney John Sohl wasn't surprised at the jury's verdict.

"We're happy with the verdict," Sohl said. "We think it's a just outcome. I think it went in accordance with the evidence and I'm glad that the jury took the time to consider it all. It was well considered and we're happy."

Stickney said the publicity this case has generated may result in more adoptions and volunteers.

"There's more and more dogs coming out from the mills," Stickney said. "So the more help we can get, the more we can do."
Source: Beatrice Daily Sun - April 26, 2011
Update posted on Apr 26, 2011 - 1:10PM 
Judge Steven Timm ruled Tuesday that the animal neglect case against 49-year-old Mary Stickney, which resulted in law enforcement officials seizing more than 100 dogs from her rural Cortland home, be continued on Jan. 20.

During the three minute hearing, John Sohl, Stickney's attorney, indicated that he would file a motion to suppress evidence " the dogs " in the case.

"At this time, I have advised the county attorney that we've looked at the pre-offer that we received this morning," Sohl said. "I think we need to proceed on the view that it's going to be no and maybe set a motion to suppress."

Chief Deputy County Attorney Rick Schreiner said following the hearing that such motions are common in cases such as Stickney's and declined to speculate what the result would be.

"(Sohl) said he would file a motion to suppress and to prevent some evidence from being used, which is the dogs," Schreiner said. "It's based on allegations that the entry was made unconstitutionally or something along those lines. These come up from time to time. We'll go present the evidence and let the court rule."

For now, the dogs seized will remain the responsibility of Gage County, which faces a bill of approximately $500 per day for care of the dogs that were seized from Stickney's home Nov. 2.

Of the dogs seized, 75 were taken to the Omaha Humane Society, where they were held for free for the first 10 days. After the 10 days, the Omaha Humane Society has offered Gage County a discounted daily cost of $5 per dog, compared to the usual daily cost of $21 per dog.

The remaining dogs were split between humane societies in Lincoln, which took 10 dogs, and Beatrice, which took 19.

There's a possibility that if Stickney is convicted of animal neglect, she could be ordered to pay restitution to the county.

"We're hoping to have all the dogs made available for adoption as soon as possible," Schreiner said previously. "We're hoping to resolve this as quickly and as cheaply as possible."

Stickney faces multiple animal neglect charges, each of which is a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by a year in jail, $1,000 fine or both.
Source: - Dec 8, 2010
Update posted on Dec 20, 2010 - 11:48PM 
Judge Steven Timm ruled Thursday that the dogs obtained in a recent house raid near Cortland be kept in the care of the Beatrice Humane Society at the cost of the Gage County, not the owner of the house, 49-year-old Mary Stickney.

On Nov. 2, Gage County Sheriff's deputies, acting on a tip from a citizen, entered Stickney's house and found more than 100 dogs at the residence.

Deputies on the scene reported that the living conditions were unacceptable due to the overall conditions of the residence. Stickney was cited for animal neglect and 103 dogs were seized from her home and placed in canine care facilities in Gage, Lancaster and Douglas counties.

At that time, Stickney indicated that the appearance of the animals was not due to neglect on her part, but because she had recently rescued the animals from a puppy mill.

Deputy Brandon Schley, who was the first deputy on the scene, testified on Thursday about his recollection of what he saw at the house.

Schley said when Stickney opened the front door, he could detect a strong odor of ammonia. He also observed Stickney's feet to be "filthy."

When he entered the house, he said he observed what he estimated to be 60 to 70 dogs just in the kitchen area. He said he saw puddles of urine and pieces of feces throughout the house as well as flies, both dead and alive.

Chief Deputy County Attorney Rick Schreiner argued that the conditions of the house was unfit for animals.

John Sohl, Stickney's attorney, challenged that notion, saying the conditions might be objectionable for human standards, but not necessarily an animal.

"When we're talking about the ultimate charge, which is cruelly confined or neglect," Sohl said, "you don't look necessarily at the condition of the home. We're talking about animals here. It is yet to be proved as to what effect, if any, that the condition of the home has had upon any of the animals."

Sohl argued that a lack of knowledge of the medical condition of the animals makes it difficult to determine if the animals were indeed neglected. He also said based on the evidence presented, it's impossible to determine if the animals were neglected by Stickney, or if they came to her in that condition.

"We don't have evidence of the immunizations records," Sohl said. "We don't have any opinion by an expert as to what the physical conditions of the animals are."

Schreiner said evidence exists that shows the medical condition of the animals, but said the process of getting all that information takes time and by statute, he only has 10 days to gather and provide enough information to show that the dogs should be kept as evidence.

Sohl also claimed that the county didn't have substantial probable cause to enter Stickney's house.

Schreiner cited the statute that deals with seizure or property, noting such action is reasonable if there's probable cause of criminal activity.

"The deputy stated that he saw criminal activity," Schreiner said. "Those dogs were in a situation that are unfit for animal or beast."

Timm ruled that the dogs be kept as evidence, but the burden of cost for the 103 dogs be on the county and not Stickney. Stickney's next hearing for animal neglect is scheduled for Dec. 7.
Source: - Nov 19, 2010
Update posted on Nov 19, 2010 - 10:14AM 


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