From the Humane Officer Files

Often times Lakeland Animal Shelter supporters are surprised to hear that among the many other animal related services that we provide to the community, we also provide investigative services on reported animal neglect and abuse. We do so by employing a Wisconsin State certified and Walworth County designated Humane Officer.

Our Humane Officer, Cindy Wrobel, has been a part of our shelter staff for more than 17 years and has been in her position as Humane Officer with our shelter since 2000. The Shelter and animals of this community are very fortunate to have Cindy as their Humane Officer.

We might more accurately call her our Humane Advocate. Cindy’s job responsibilities include investigating reports of cruelty and neglect, which at times can be a sad and frustrating endeavor. Cindy is passionate about protecting the animals in spite of the fact that Wisconsin state laws concerning animal welfare and neglect are not terribly progressive and in many cases seem to protect the animal’s owner far more than the animal itself. These, however, are the laws that Cindy and other Humane Officers in Wisconsin have to work within. Because of this, a large part of Cindy’s job is spent working with animal owners in an attempt to help educate them as to proper animal care and to provide them support to provide such care.

Unfortunately, at times Cindy investigates a case where the abuse or neglect is so clear cut, or the condition of the animal is so poor, that the animal must be removed from the owner and taken into the protective custody of the Lakeland Animal Shelter. Sometimes this is done by voluntary surrender, such as in this case we share today, but occasionally it is done without the owners consent for protection of the animal. It must then be decided in the municipal courts if the owner will be allowed to get the animal back or should be compelled by law to surrender the animal.

Either way, once the animal is placed in the care of the shelter, it becomes our prime directive to care for the physical and emotional needs of that compromised animal. Although these cases are difficult, it is very gratifying to see the animal's condition improve and to see them begin to thrive. We would like to share some of these sad, but redeeming, stories with you in these, the Humane Officer Files…..

This past December I was asked to assist in a canine neglect investigation. It was later on a Saturday evening and darkness had set in, which made the situation a lot more difficult for everyone involved. I had been informed that the woman we were seeing was a “back yard breeder” and that the conditions where the animals were living were less than adequate.

I arrived at the farm residence and met with two Deputies, the woman in question, her adult daughter, and a nine year old daughter. I had expected to hear lots of barking, but to my surprise, there was silence. I assumed that the dogs were being kept in the barn and that was the reason for silence, but I was wrong, so very wrong.

I followed the Deputies and the woman’s daughter to the garage, and she opened the door. The explosion of barking dogs broke the silence of the night. Inside the garage were free standing kennels, each connected to the next. There were three kennels on one side and three on the other. Some of the kennels were held together by nothing more than a couple of leashes wrapped around the gates. 

Although fresh shavings were on the floor, it was obvious that in the time between the responding Deputy arriving and leaving and our arrival, the area had been cleared of the soiled bedding and new shavings placed. And while the appearance was clean, the foul stench of urine and feces permeated the air as soon as the garage door was lifted. 

I walked around to the side of the garage and saw something completely wrapped with a tarp. I asked what it was, and the daughter said a crate. I asked if anything was in it, and she said yes, a Rottweiler. I asked her to remove the tarp and bring out the dog so I could see it. With hesitation she removed the tarp and out popped a very emaciated dog (his name was Waylon). 

Inside of the house were more animals. We walked in through the back door, and the linoleum under our shoes was slimy and sticky with urine. Off in a room to the right was a little female Old English Bulldog (her name was Lola), and it was more than obvious that she had been bred multiple times, and her reward for this was to be banished to isolation in a rarely used area of the home. 

To the left of the back door was a bathroom, and from behind the door we could hear kittens screaming. They were jumping and clawing against the door trying to get out. I opened the door, and there was an explosion of kittens running around frantically trying to find food. The kittens were running in every direction, into and over each other, and they were climbing up our legs in the hopes that we would have food.

The daughter left the room briefly and came back with food. The kittens inhaled everything in sight and were looking for more. All of the kittens were emaciated and on a desperate search for food. 
The litter box was chocked full of feces and urine that was cemented into a solid mass. 

As we headed down the hallway, the carpet was stained with feces and urine as well. As we entered the kitchen, the floor was as slimy and sticky as it was in the back room. There was an empty dog food bag filled with garbage and not one drop of dog food anywhere. When asked to see what the dogs were being fed, the answer was “we just ran out today.”

As we approached the living room, there was a younger Old English Bulldog, a young Chihuahua, a young Lhasa mix, a 5 week old Shih Tzu puppy and one adult cat. The Shih Tzu puppy was kept in a larger round bucket lined with soiled newspaper. He had pooped in his food and water dishes, and it was obvious that it had been that way for more than a day. The young Lhasa female was emaciated and matted to the skin in most places on her body, and where she had tried to hurriedly cut them out, she cut too close and cut into her leg leaving a large gash.

After all was said and done, she made the decision to relinquish ownership of 11 dogs and six kittens. Tragically, just a few short weeks later, I was notified that the owner had died suddenly. It was a few days later that the daughter contacted me to ask if the Shelter could take one more dog and another cat, as she was unable to care for them. We took these additional animals in as well.

Once the neglected animals were in our custody, we quickly went about treating their issues and caring for their needs. After a good deal of medical care and quality care, all of the animals were ready to go into new homes. We are happy to report that at the time of this writing, all but one dog has been placed, which leaves only Waylon who is patiently waiting for his “happily ever after.”


Although it is a sad reality that these animals were allowed to be kept in these conditions, we hope that you see the redeeming aspects in Lakeland Animal Shelter's involvement. The animals are now all in good condition with a promising life ahead of them with new families that are committed to providing love and care to them for the rest of their lives. We appreciate your assistance and support in accomplishing this positive outcome.

You can continue to help animals such as these by reporting suspected animal cruelty or neglect to the Lakeland Animal Shelter for Cindy to investigate and by supporting the shelter with donations of time, money, and supplies so that we can continue to provide the care the animals need when they are brought to us for protection and care. Thank you for you support!