An Isabella County sheriff’s deputy investigating a reported attempted rape at a property in Wise Township on Wednesday afternoon instead discovered a puppy mill from which 31 animals were rescued.
The 48-year-old owner was due to be formally charged on Thursday afternoon, including in connection with the allegation that he restrained a 28-year-old woman and assaulted her as he tried to remove her pants.
Dogs on the property in the 7000 block of East Grass Lake Road were used to raise puppies sold either as hunting dogs or to protect and/or herd livestock, according to rescue operation manager Isabella who received the dogs. Another dog was found dead and not buried.
Isabella County animal welfare advocates have known about the property for years, said Amanda Tillotson, director of the Humane Animal Treatment Society. For years, the owner posted ads on his Facebook page advertising the sale of dogs bred and trained for hunting.
The 31 animals were taken to the Isabella County Animal Shelter throughout Wednesday afternoon and evening, she said. He’s been told some dogs are staying on the property and are loose so they expect more dogs to arrive.
Deputies from the Isabella County Sheriff’s Office were assisted by animal control officers from Isabella and Gratiot counties.
The 30 dogs – including 22 females – were reportedly kept on the property with no access to shade. Many animals were terrified of being indoors, Tillotson said, indicating they had never spent time under a roof.
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None of the animals showed aggressive behavior, but they are not used to being around people. Many of them came to the shelter with matted fur. Animal shelter staff also monitor them for their behavior.
The animals still technically belong to the owner, which limits efforts to find places for each of them, she said. Two adoptable dogs have been transferred from the Isabella County Animal Shelter to the County Clare Animal Shelter to help ease the additional load created by the influx of dogs.
Tillotson said she hopes the courts will secure the animals’ release on Thursday so they can find new places for them to receive medical care with the ultimate goal of adopting them.
HATS is asking for help from the wider community. The organization, which is contracted by the county to operate the shelter, needs collars, harnesses and leashes for large animals; canned dog food (all kinds); treats for dogs; Purina One Puppy and Adult Dry Food; big nyla/benabones chews and big Kong toys; dog treats and peanut butter; non-perishable chicken or beef broth; garbage bag; medium size examination gloves; Clorox paper towels and wipes; carabiners and zip ties; and Gatorade for staff, according to a social media post. Cash donations are also welcome.
The shelter has already received 40 cases from Michigan Doodle Rescue Connect.
In addition to animals, firearms and ammunition were discovered on the property. The man had previous felony convictions and was arrested – in part – for possession of firearms.
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