ROGERS CITY - The Presque Isle County Prosecutor's Office has dropped an animal cruelty or abandonment charge against the owner of a Hawks kennel.
Vickie Lamb no longer faces a felony charge of animal cruelty or abandonment to 10 animals or more, Prosecutor Richard Steiger said. His office dropped the charge after she provided numerous text messages she'd sent to a caretaker who was supposed to be taking care of her 38 dogs while she was out of state.
Steiger also spoke with people who had cared for her animals in the past, and two veterinarians familiar with Lamb's kennel. They said the operation was run in a professional way and the animals were well cared for.
"It became clear that it was the care provider she hired, not Mrs. Lamb, who allowed the neglect to go on," he said. "It was clear that she took every possible action while she was out of state to make sure those animals were cared for."
Lamb still faces a misdemeanour charge for operating a kennel without a current license, Steiger said. He said she did have a license in the past, and when Presque Isle County Sheriff's Department's animal control officer had visited the kennel in the past, the officer said the kennel was "very well-maintained."
In an email, Lamb said she had a current inspection approved and on file, but overlooked paying the licensing fee.
Lamb's dogs have been returned, and in a release she said she expressed gratitude to everyone who cared for her animals after deputies seized them on Jan. 30. She initiated the check on her dogs and was devastated to learn of the condition they were in, having believed until then that everything was fine.
"Everything set in motion since that day has been extremely difficult, with the important exception being the comfort of knowing that my dogs were receiving care and in safe places," she said.
Lamb has agreed to sign a civil restitution order to reimburse Presque Isle County for the cost of caring for the dogs, Steiger said.
Mary Talaske, Cheboygan County Humane Society director, said she's disappointed Steiger dropped the felony charge and had the dogs returned. She was involved in the seizure, and the humane society worked to recuperate some of the dogs. A post on the humane society's Facebook page stated it's "just devastated" about the decision to drop the charges and return the dogs.
Steiger disputed that post, and said he stands by the decision.
"I can understand their concern and their love for the animals, but based on all the evidence this woman did not neglect the animals, her caretaker did," he said.
Brandon Michael Thyrion, who Lamb had hired to care for her dogs, still faces a felony charge for animal cruelty or abandonment to 10 or more animals, Steiger said. He'll be arraigned in 53rd Circuit Court today, according to court files.
A message left with Terri Tringali, Thyrion's attorney, was not returned as of press time.
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