SHERRARD, ILL. — The woman who kept nearly 200 dogs at her home in Sherrard is pleading not guilty to the animal cruelty charges against her.

On Tuesday, 59-year-old Karen Plambeck demanded a jury trial when she appeared in Mercer County Court. Plambeck faces three counts of aggravated animal cruelty for keeping 198 dogs, most of them collies, in unsafe conditions. The Mercer County Sheriff’s Office and Animal Control discovered the dog hoarding situation in mid-August.

Plambeck’s plea now has animal rescuers across the Midwest all asking the same question: How can she make that plea?

“How can you sit there and say you’re not guilty when those animals were skinny, they were covered in poop, they were matted?” asked Amber Stephenson, a volunteer with New Beginnings Pet Rescue of the Quad Cities who helped take the dogs off Plambeck’s property in August.

“I’m just flabbergasted, is the best I can say,” Stephenson continued. “She (Plambeck) doesn’t have a conscience. There’s no moral standards if you can sit there and go into a courtroom and say, ‘Nope, I didn’t do anything wrong.'”

Because of Plambeck’s plea, custody of the dogs is up in the air, meaning animal control can’t give the collies new homes yet. Stephenson says that puts an even greater emphasis on donations, as the dogs will continue to be animal control’s responsibility for at least another month-and-a-half. She says their greatest needs right now are monetary donations rather than food.

“I believe they were so overwhelmed with the dog food donations, they were greatly appreciative,” Stephenson said. “But I think now it’s more monetary donations to help with vet care, grooming.”

Stephenson also wants to remind everyone that Plambeck has a history of animal cruelty. She was charged with abusing horses in 2019.

“I just want people to keep their minds open that this is the second time that she has done this to our community,” Stephenson said.

Plambeck’s next court appearance will be a preliminary hearing on Oct. 18 at 9 a.m.