Mental health petition sought for woman with dogs
A petition to commit Carol Schmidt, who had more than 100 dogs removed from her property near Bemidji last week, said the 63-year-old woman should be committed for mental illness, in part because of animal neglect nine years ago.
The petition filed Tuesday states Schmidt "exhibits the recognized and chronic behavior disorder of 'animal hoarding'... (which) places Schmidt's, the affected animals' and the public health at serious risk."
The paperwork includes a 2003 ruling against Schmidt and her then 90-year-old father, Joe Metzner, in which District Judge Paul Benshoof gave authorities permission to seize 56 animals - including dogs, rats, birds, a horse, pony, ferret and chipmunk - after finding them in horrid living conditions.
Diane Boben, supervisor of adult services with Beltrami County Human Services, filed Tuesday's mental illness petition with Beltrami County Attorney's Office asking for the commitment of Schmidt.
Schmidt remains hospitalized at Bemidji Community Behavioral Health Hospital.
George L. Duranske, Schmidt's attorney, declined to comment on the case.
Petition papers revealed "dog excrement (was found) everywhere (in Schmidt's residence), even covering her pill bottles" when deputies went to her home for a welfare check Jan. 23.
A behavioral report included in Boben's paperwork said Schmidt believed one of her dogs would let her know when her blood sugar was low and therefore did not check it herself, was not eating or sleeping, had lost 60 pounds in two years and had rapid pressured speech.
She told the Pioneer her father died in January 2010, triggering the weight loss and difficulty caring for the dogs.
According to petition papers, Schmidt may be required to take neuroleptic, or antipsychotic medication.
Schmidt is not being charged with a criminal offense. However, an investigation is ongoing for possible misdemeanor violations of Beltrami County's public health ordinance.
A preliminary hearing, to determine whether Schmidt should continue being held pending a commitment hearing, is set for Friday. The commitment hearing is set for Feb. 10.
Wade Hanson, an investigator with the Animal Humane Society, said Tuesday the 107 dogs and two cats taken last week from Schmidt's property remain at an animal shelter in Golden Valley, Minn.
Veterinarians have not reported any serious issues with the dogs so far, he said, but have found skin problems on some dogs. Hanson said the cause of the skin problems have not yet been determined.
"So far they haven't found anything critical," Hanson said. "The big thing right now is socializing the dogs because some are not as used to people."
Hanson said while the shelter has had plenty of room to take in the dogs, shelter staff have been working extra time to care for the animals.
"Volunteers have been working around the clock to socialize them and do the cleaning and upkeep," he said.
According to Hanson, Schmidt surrendered all but two dogs to the Animal Humane Society.
In 2003, local authorities seized 56 animals from the property where Schmidt and her father were living in separate residences.
After receiving notice from a Beltrami Humane Society official about possible animal neglect, a sheriff's deputy conducted a welfare check on Schmidt on Aug. 12, 2003.
According to Judge Benshoof's ruling:
A Beltrami Humane Society official who visited Schmidt's home noted the animals' water had not been changed and the pens were still filthy, court papers revealed.
About two weeks later, a sheriff's deputy witnessed eight dogs in a kennel with no water, green sludge in their water bowls, along with large amounts of feces and a very strong ammonia smell at Schmidt's residence.
At Metzner's residence, a pony and a horse were tied to posts in the sun and unable to reach water, and dogs were viewed in a small pen living in their own feces and urine.
On Aug. 14, authorities took 38 dogs and puppies, one horse, pony, ferret, chipmunk, two rats, cat, cockatiel, two finches and eight chickens from the property.
While there, officials found a mare and pony tethered to posts outside in the sun with no shelter available.
"Their ropes had wrapped around the posts, preventing the horses from being able to reach their water troughs. When the mare was untied, she bolted for the water and immediately drank 8 to 10 gallons," court papers state.
Court papers also state:
Authorities discovered eight chickens in an old fish house, with no food available to them, at the property.
Officials reported Schmidt's home "was heaped with garbage, feces, urine and stuff everywhere, covering every available space and reaching the ceiling in places. There were feces on the floor of the trailer."
Four weaned puppies were found hiding in the bathroom under a broken toilet. Officials also found cages with two rats, dead rodent, a chipmunk and a ferret.
"The rat cage had maggots and hatching flies," the paperwork stated.
Schmidt reportedly admitted she neutered her own dogs by attaching a rubber band to their scrotum. A veterinarian testified this constituted the unauthorized practice of veterinary medicine and that "banding neutering" constitutes cruelty to animals.
Despite Schmidt's testimony in 2003 that she cleaned every day, "she clearly had not cleaned the trailer or the dog pens for a very long time," court papers state.
After the animals were taken to the humane society, the veterinarian obtained fecal samples from two dogs. Both samples were normal. The humane society official, however, wormed about 20 of the dogs and puppies and found 17 or 18 of them had roundworm infestation.
The humane society official noted one of the dogs had matted hair and could not see.
"Another had hair matted to his scrotum causing the dog pain when it walked. The same dog had urine burns on his feet under the matted hair," court documents revealed.
Schmidt and her father were breeding their dogs and selling puppies, according to court findings.
In his ruling, Benshoof ordered the daughter and father from petitioning to get the animals back.