Animal cruelty case in Brookings ends with guilty pleas

(Metro photo)

BROOKINGS — An animal welfare complaint that led to the removal of more than 30 animals from a residence in Brookings has ended with a guilty plea to cruelty to animals.

Debra Jean Schulte, 57, pleaded guilty to one count of cruelty to animals in a negotiated settlement with the state.

Debra Schulte avoided significant jail time but must abide by a myriad of conditions — including turning over the neglected animals and not taking ownership of any more.

According to the judgement from the Third Judicial Court, Debra Schulte must:

  • Serve probation for three years, during which time she must be a law-abiding citizen and pay her fine and costs.
  • She must undergo a mental health evaluation and make restitution to the animal rescue groups which cared for the dogs in the amount of $20,998.83.
  • She must also take an animal care class and not own or care for any animals.

Brookings County State’s Attorney Dan Nelson went to court several times to get ownership of the animals transferred to various area animal rescue groups.

The two others living at the residence where the animals were neglected — Jordan Schulte, 26, and Brandon Schulte, 28 — also each pleaded guilty to one count. Jordan Schulte pleaded guilty to animal cruelty and received the same sentence as Debra Schulte. Brandon Schulte pleaded guilty to misprison of a felony — criminal neglect to prevent a crime from happening.

All three were sentenced to time served — three days in the county jail.

The three Schultes were arrested in September after police executed a search warrant on a home in the 900 block of Tumbleweed Drive and “35 neglected animals were found living in hazardous conditions inside the residence.”

All three were charged with 35 counts each of cruelty to animals and booked into the Brookings County Detention Center.

According to police, an investigation started in early September when animal control officers received a request for a welfare check at the residence — reporting a concern for the number of dogs living there and the odors emanating from the property.

Both animal control and police made several attempts to contact the owners of the residence in the days leading up to serving the search warrant, police said.

When police served the warrant Sept. 15, they found 31 dogs and four cats living in a state of neglect.

The probable cause statement described unlivable conditions inside the home — piles of feces, holes in the floor and an unbearable smell.

The animals were observed to have visible sores, missing hair, severe flea infestation and malnutrition.

All of the rescued animals were eventually turned over to the rescue organizations now due restitution: Happy Dog Kennel, Sioux Falls Area Humane Society, Big Sioux Veterinary and the Brookings Regional Humane Society.

Anyone who wants to donate, volunteer or adopt a pet can contact the humane society at 605-697-7387 or via email at [email protected]. Another contact point is

Linehan is the Register’s managing editor and welcomes comments at [email protected].