80 dogs seized in Kenockee Twp. hoarding situation finding new homes
Eighty dogs seized in Kenockee Township in early September are getting a new lease on life as pets and working dogs.
The German shepherds were seized from the 7600 block of Avoca Road after a complaint launched an investigation into the property, said St. Clair County Animal Control Director Melissa Miller.
Miller said the dogs were transported to approximately 22 rescues and shelters across the state.
Several dogs were adopted through St. Clair County Animal Control, as well as through animal controls in Macomb and Ingham counties.
Miller said most were under socialized, and had to learn how to socialize with humans and other dogs, as well as basic skills needed to live in a home as a pet before being adopted.
“For a dog that is going to live in a house, simple things like going through doorways and stepping on to different types of floors is a big change for them,” Miller said.
Jill Kane, administrative coordinator with Macomb County Animal Control, said the dogs taken by their agency were socialized, treated for intestinal parasites and have all been adopted as pets to private homes. Their county took in about 20 dogs, she said.
Miller said the dogs taken in by St. Clair County Animal Control have either been adopted or are pending adoption.
“That’s always a good feeling, just knowing that they got out of that situation and they all have their homes where they get the one-on-one attention that they need and deserve,” Miller said.
One of the dogs taken to Ingham County Animal Control, Tamarack, has the possibility of being Mason Police Department’s first police dog. Mason Police Chief Don Hanson said the department was notified in early September that one of the eight taken by Ingham County Animal Control had the potential to be a working dog.
Multiple animal behaviorists and dog handlers said Tamarack has the drive and disposition to work and would be an exceptional candidate. After Mason’s city council rejected the funds to start the program, the Mason Rotary Club launched a fundraising campaign to raise the $20,000 necessary for her first year.
Hanson said if all goes to plan, the department will have Tamarack’s handler start their training in the spring. Tamarack will be trained for search and rescue and explosive detection.
“It’s an amazing story for an animal to go from a hoarding situation to now looking at a lifetime of service,” Hanson said.
Another dog from Ingham County Animal Control, Ellie, is being trained as an emotional support animal for a retired police officer, Ingham County Animal Control Director Heidi Williams said. The Lansing police officer was injured in the line of duty, rendering him unable to work.
More details on the dogs
The Kenockee Township property owners have a case history of allowing more dogs than are allowed by local zoning laws, but Miller said those previous cases had not been anywhere near the magnitude of this incident.
Miller said about half of the dogs were kept in outside pens where they were constantly exposed to the elements. The other half were kept inside horse stalls in a barn without proper air circulation and sunlight. None were given adequate access to food or water, she said.
The dogs — including 10 puppies, 25 adolescents between the ages of six and 18 months, and 45 adults — were thin and dehydrated and had dirty and matted coats. Many had excessive fly bites that cause painful sores. Some had open wounds and infections consistent with the dogs fighting over food, Miller said.
While the dogs were allegedly neglected and lived in inadequate conditions, it doesn’t appear they were abused, as their wounds were not consistent with those caused by intentional harm, Miller said.
She said the property owners quickly terminated their rights to the animals and St. Clair County Animal Control staff worked over five days to remove the dogs from the property.
“Those were very, very long days,” Miller said.
Miller said the incident and property owners are still under investigation by St. Clair County Animal Control and the property owners could be charged for running an unlicensed kennel facility.
“I don’t want to give the impression that they’re getting away scot-free, that there is no consequences for this behavior because there absolutely is,” she said.
Miller urged anyone who finds animals in abusive or neglectful situations to contact St. Clair County Animal Control at (810) 984-3155. Animal control will either connect the animal owner with resources to help them care for their animals or find them new homes.
Contact Laura Fitzgerald at (810) 941-7072 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.