Animal hoarding cases revive debate over use of old Alpena jail
ALPENA — A recent welfare check turned into an animal neglect case after police discovered and Alpena County Animal Control confiscated 62 animals from a home in Alpena.
Michelle Reid, Alpena County animal control officer, said there were 12 dogs seized — eight adults and four puppies — as well as four cats. There were also three cockatiels, two turtles, a pair of geckos and 39 fish.
The recent hoarding case revives an ongoing debate about whether the old jail in Alpena should become an animal shelter because the current shelter is tiny and often filled to capacity.
Reid said the environment in the home was unsafe for its occupants and the animals.
Because the small shelter at the Alpena County fairgrounds is nearly full, Reid said the Otsego County Animal Shelter agreed to house the dogs. The cats are at the fairgrounds facility, and the rest of the animals are taking refuge at Karmas a Fish, a local pet store specializing in exotic pets.
“We had a full house before we seized the animals and we just can’t leave them in the home,” she said. “Otsego agreed to house the dogs until we have room here, but I seriously don’t know when that will be.”
The animals can’t be adopted out to new homes yet, Reid said, because they are considered evidence in an animal neglect case. Reid said once the case moves through the court system, she will help find them new, loving and safe homes.
Reid said the number of animal hoarding cases Northeast Michigan has risen, especially in Alpena County. She said the Alpena County Sheriff’s Department knows of several other animal hoarding situations that could lead to the seizure of more animals.
If more hoarding cases are found, Reid said, she has no idea what to do with the animals.
“There are plenty of known cases that we simply can’t take care of right now because we don’t have the room for those animals,” she said. “We simply can’t take care of them because we simply don’t have the room.”
Many of the animals currently at the shelter are strays or are being used as evidence in other animal neglect or abuse cases, Reid said.
Earlier this year, Reid proposed to the Alpena County Board of Commissioners that the old jail be used as a new shelter. Some animals were housed there after a previous animal hoarding case produced about 100 cats.
The board of commissioners rejected the idea of turning the old jail into a shelter and decided to sell it instead. Reid said she was denied permission to house the current batch of animals there in the most recent neglect case.
“The old jail was perfect and right now, currently, it is a licensed animal control shelter, even though we are unable to use it,” she said.
Commissioner Kevin Osbourne said animals housed at animal control that are owner-surrendered and not involved in a crime should be sent to one of the two other shelters in Alpena.
He said too often animals not involved in criminal cases are often housed for long periods of time, which takes up space needed for true animal control matters.
Osbourne said he suspects if the board reconsidered repurposing the old jail, there would be little support for it.
“Even if I voted yes, I don’t think there would be enough support,” he said. “We know it would be a large expense to the county that we can’t afford. I would say the chances of that old jail becoming a shelter is between slim and none.”