Five more fighting dogs may be euthanized Friday, Ingham County Controller Tim Dolehanty told the County Commission’s Democratic caucus on Tuesday. Unless the dogs, which were involved in the recent dogfighting investigation, can be placed into rehabilitation, Ingham County Animal Control will be forced to euthanize them, he said.
Michigan law says animal control officers must request a hearing to learn the fate of an dog seized for animal fighting.
Ingham and Eaton counties have seized more than 50 dogs since early spring. About 42 were held in Ingham and five have already been euthanized. State law prohibits re-homing of fighting dogs or their litters dogs.
At the meeting, Dolehanty expressed concern for the dogs. “Animal control has reached out to all of the groups that have credentials, but unfortunately, none of them have any openings,” he said. “We simply cannot hold them any longer, so we’re looking at a deadline of this Friday.”
On Wednesday, Ingham County animal control director John Dinon said he and Ingham County Animal Control are doing everything they can to find a program for the dogs. Dinon said, “I believe I have found a qualified group that can evaluate the remaining 37 fighting dogs and find appropriate recipients for dogs that are good candidates for rehabilitation. We are working through the details, but I am hopeful that we will be able to move forward with assessment and possible placement of dogs as we get ownership.”
During the county’s Law and Courts Committee meeting on Sept. 12, many county residents addressed the handling of the dogfighting investigation.
County resident Jamie Hillman founded the coalition, “Save the Lansing Michigan Pit Bulls” after seeing the news of the probe and after she felt Dinon had not expressed adequate outreach to help the dogs. Support for the coalition soared and Hillman’s petition to help save the dogs amassed more than 122,000 signatures.
Hillman read a statement to the committee.
“I reached out to one of the top animal attorneys in Michigan, Richard Angelo. He was able to secure help from people and organizations that worked on the Mike Vick case,” she said. “These experts have offered to come to Lansing for free to provide assistance in this case, and have been waiting for weeks for their offer to be accepted.”
Vick, a former NFL quarterback, pleaded guilty in 2007 to involvement in a dog fighting ring. He spent 21 months in federal prison.
The organizations and fosters needed to take in fighting dogs require special credentials. Hillman did not specify whether those who reached out met the needs of this case. She concluded, “You all serve on this committee because you care about animals and want to save them. That’s why we are here this evening, because we want to save them, too.”
The remaining dogs would be as evidence in the criminal investigation. Two defendants, Corey Henry, 47, and Synquiss Antes, 25, face multiple felonies including counts of animal fighting, animal cruelty and owning unlicensed dogs.
Ingham County Commissioner Kara Hope, who is appointed to the Animal Control Shelter Advisory Committee, said, “An additional 32 dogs are in animal control’s custody, but they are not owned by the county. Instead, they are being held as evidence in the dogfighting cases,” she said.
Dinon said that none of the remaining 32 dogs have even been assigned to a judge.
“A judge can order us to euthanize them, or a judge can give them to us and say, ‘do with them what you see fit,’” Dinon said.
Dinon advised supporters of the dogs to advocate for Michigan Senate Bill 416, He said the bill, recently introduced, would essentially help animal control shelters in Michigan gain quicker ownership of animals held as evidence. The bill would make the rehabilitation process for abused fighting dogs much quicker and give the shelters more options and time to seek resources.
At this point, Dinon said his hands are tied and animal control cannot do anything until ordered by a judge.
“It’s not fair to the dogs to hold them long term. We’ve had these dogs for almost six months,” Dinon said. “We are working through the legal system as hard as we can to try and get ownership of those dogs as soon as we can.”