A Hampden woman whose 25 Great Danes and a cat were seized by the state nearly two years ago has given up ownership of the animals and will no longer face criminal charges, according to the Penobscot County District Attorney’s office.
Jill Schnedler agreed to surrender the animals last month, and the case alleging that she failed to provide necessary shelter, food and water, medical treatment and clean conditions for her animals was dismissed, Deputy District Attorney Mark Rucci said Tuesday.
Maine’s animal welfare program seized the animals on Jan. 21, 2020, from a property on Coldbrook Road in Hampden after they were allegedly kept in an unheated barn during weather that dropped well below freezing.
Schnedler bred and sold Great Danes from her home there. At least one of the dogs was pregnant when seized.
Restrictions the court system put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic kept the case from being resolved sooner, Rucci said.
The animals could not be made available for adoption before Schnedler no longer owned them because they were considered to be evidence in her case. They were placed in foster care through animal shelters around the state, according to Liam Hughes, the state’s animal welfare director.
Information on how many have been adopted was not immediately available Tuesday.
Schnedler was not ordered to pay a fine or reimburse the state’s animal welfare program the $125,000 Hughes estimated it cost to care for the animals for nearly two years.
In addition, she is allowed to have dogs and breed them in the future, according to her attorney, Richard Hartley of Bangor.
“Jill maintained from start to finish of the case that she cared for all of her animals appropriately,” he said Tuesday. “By the time it was scheduled for a hearing, Jill’s personal circumstances had changed so that she was not in a position to be able to resume breeding. Therefore, we arrived at an agreement with the state where she did not contest forfeiture of the animals and the state dismissed all criminal charges.”
If she had been convicted of cruelty to animals, a Class D crime, Schnedler would have faced up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.