MASON, MI- In the spring and summer of 2017, Ingham County Animal Control and Shelter (ICACS) conducted a large scale dog fighting investigation and seized 47 dogs as evidence in the fighting cases. The dogs were very challenging to care for due to their backgrounds and athletic nature and - because they were evidence in complex criminal cases - had to be held much longer than most animals that come to ICACS.
Two of the dogs had to be euthanized for medical reasons – one because of an intestinal blockage from a toy he had swallowed and the other due to internal bleeding of unknown origin. The dog that had the intestinal blockage was not a candidate for surgery due to his fractious nature, so ICACS opted for conservative care hoping that he would pass the obstruction. The obstruction did not pass and his condition declined and he was euthanized. The dog with internal bleeding had a full necropsy at Michigan State University, but no cause of the bleeding was determined.
Later, two of the fighting dogs contracted whipworms which, combined with their high activity levels, caused them to become very thin. Although the dogs were being treated for the whipworm infestation and were on high calorie food, a staff member felt they were in imminent danger and sent them to an outside veterinarian for evaluation; the ICACS Staff veterinarian was not on duty when this happened. The outside vet, who did not know that the dogs had been in the care of ICACS and that they were being treated for whipworms, stated that she felt the dogs were victims of neglect. A third dog from a different cruelty case also contracted whipworms and, despite treatment, also became very thin and was seen by a second outside vet. This was another high energy dog that did not adjust well to being in the shelter.
Because a licensed veterinarian had stated that dogs under ICACS care were victims of neglect, ICACS invited Michigan Humane Society (MHS) to investigate the neglect allegation. Deborah MacDonald, MHS’s Chief Investigator and Director of Statewide Response, conducted a thorough investigation of the care of the thin and euthanized dogs - examining records and interviewing ICACS staff and the outside veterinarians. Officer MacDonald’s report details the care of these dogs and suggests procedures for managing animals held as evidence. ICACS is implementing several new procedures to address the concerns raised by the MHS report.
The two thin fighting dogs made full recoveries and were rehomed. In total, 30 of the 47 fighting dogs were transferred to rescues and are now living as pets in loving homes. The third dog that became thin due to whipworms has also recovered and has also been transferred to a rescue for rehoming.
As a result of the ICACS investigation, six individuals were charged by the Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office for dog fighting and other crimes. Two of those defendants have been found guilty of dog fighting and animal cruelty crimes, and another has felony charges pending before the Ingham County Circuit Court. The cases involving the three remaining defendants are currently pending trial in the US District Court for the Western District of Michigan on multiple felony counts. Federal prosecutions for animal fighting are rare, but these cases are extraordinary in their complexity and the depths of animal fighting and cruelty that our investigators uncovered. ICACS continues to work with the Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office, the US Attorney’s Office, and federal and local law enforcement agencies to bring these individuals to justice.
For more information about Ingham County Animal Control, contact the shelter at 517-676-8370, visit the ICAC website at www.ac.ingham.org, or visit the shelter at 600 Curtis St. in Mason. Ingham County Animal Control is open Tuesday 12-6pm, Wednesday 12-7pm, and Thursday - Monday 11 AM to 4 PM. Animal Control Officers are on duty Monday – Saturday.