RUST TOWNSHIP - Montmorency County sheriff's deputies seized 43 animals from a Rust Township home after receiving an animal welfare complaint on Thursday.
Thirty-seven dogs are in the care of Elk Country Animal Shelter after deputies removed them from a 36-year-old woman's property, according to a news release. While investigating a complaint they received Thursday, deputies found 39 dogs at the home, 22 outside with no shelter, food or drinkable water.
Deputies also took six miniature horses, as their basic needs were not being met. They returned Friday and confiscated 15 of the 17 remaining dogs.
The investigation is ongoing, and there could be criminal charges for the animals' owner once it's completed.
Deputies asked Elk Country Animal Shelter to help seize the dogs, Director Pauline Hancock said. Those in the house were stashed throughout, some in storage tubs in a closet, others in a basement, and so on. While those inside the home weren't exposed to the weather, they were still in poor living conditions.
"They were just all over the place," she said.
When the first set of dogs came in, some were covered in droppings, while others had blood on their paws from digging at roadkill deer they'd been given for food, Hancock said. Others had medical problems, including a number of English bulldogs with a condition called cherry eye.
The horses currently are staying at a farm near Atlanta, Hancock said. When found, they had no food and their water troughs were frozen over and covered with several inches of snow.
"They hadn't had water in days," she said.
One puppy was suffering from severe hypothermia and was unresponsive when found, Hancock said. Luckily, after spending the night at a veterinarian's house, it recovered.
"We got him back today," she said. "He's still a little wobbly, but he's eating and wagging his tail."
Hancock said she's hoping a judge will order the owner to give up the animals, or that she'll surrender them. The shelter could then put them up for adoption. In the meantime, shelter volunteers are working to clean them and keep them healthy.
"We have been asking for monetary donations, and dog food, puppy food, paper toweling, things like that," she said.
Elk Country Animal Shelter got help from two other shelters, Otsego County Animal Control and Little Traverse Bay Humane Society, Hancock said. Both agreed to keep dogs already staying at Elk Country to make room for the new arrivals.
"We're very pleased that they assisted us in this way," she said.
Jordan Travis can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5688.