NDA charges dog rescue on three counts in license suspension

CORTLAND, Neb. -- For the first time ever the Nebraska Department of Agriculture is suspending a local animal shelter’s license.

This isn’t the first time authorities have questioned Mary Stickney’s rescue. In 2010, officials took more than 100 dogs from her facility. A jury later found her not guilty on the 100 counts of animal neglect. However she was fined $149 for failure to have a written on site emergency vet plan.

Now, a few dozen dogs have the run of Mary Stickney’s living room, dining room and backyard. She and a few volunteers have spent nearly 20 years at this rescue in Cortland.

In the last 11 months, five people filed complaints and NDA inspectors wrote five official warning letters to her.

On April 25th, the department held a hearing for repeated violations of the Nebraska Commercial Dog and Cat Operator Inspection Act. During the hearing an inspector told the department that during many of his inspections over the years he had seen numerous dead dogs in burn piles.

His inspection reports also noted repeat sanitation issues including a strong odor of ammonia and two to three weeks’ worth of feces sitting out in the backyard. Mary Stickney says that is not true. “I could have missed a turd, but I do it every day,” said Stickney.

Because of these repeat violations the NDA has also written her up several times for not having enough help. Stickney says the NDA cites her for this anytime she has an infraction.

According to the NDA’s court order, some of the dogs adopted out of Stickney’s rescue had health issues like internal and external parasites, mange, and ringworm. The department also charged her with impaired safety of dogs for grouping aggressive dogs with smaller dogs.

The third and final count was for failure to keep records, including two instances where the NDA accused her of falsifying adoption records. Stickney shared those records with 1011. One of the records had a name and address listed, but no phone number. The second listed Suzette Rudnick’s number for adopting a dog named Buster. 1011 called Rudnick, who told 1011 that she has never heard of Mary Stickney.

Stickney says Rudnick, the people who filed complaints and the inspectors are not telling the truth. With a suspended license, she says she no longer plans on operating as a rescue. Instead, she’s keeping the dogs as her personal pets.

Stickney did not show up for the NDA’s hearing and did not send anyone to defend her. However she has started an online petition against the NDA’s $2,250 fine. She says she is also raising money to get a lawyer so she can fight that fine. Because the case is still pending the NDA would not comment specifically on Stickney’s case.