ALLEGAN, Mich. — It was an animal hoarding case out of West Michigan that made headlines around the state. Nearly 400 small breed dogs were taken from one rural Allegan County home.
It was an overwhelming task to get them cleaned and adopted into loving homes.
Nearly one year later, there are many happy endings.
“Oh my gosh I can’t even begin to tell you how bad this was,” remembers Lori Kent. Lori Kent is one of the hundreds of volunteers who showed up to the Allegan County Shelter last April to a shocking scene. She and her cousin faced with the enormous task of cleaning a fraction of the 352 small breed dogs that came in.
“They had feces in their hair and their nails were so long they curled under,” said Kent.
The dogs were seized from the home of Cheri and George Burke, in Grand Junction.
The couple each pleaded guilty to two counts of cruelty to animals and were ordered to serve two months in jail.
They were also required to serve two years probation and during that time, are not allowed to have any animals
“I’ve never been part of a natural catastrophe like that,” said Karen Kazyak, founder of Wishbone Pet Rescue. They run the Allegan County Animal Shelter.
For a shelter that can adequately house 100 animals, adding another nearly 400 was overwhelming. That largest, single intake of animals in the shelter’s history has taught Wishbone a thing or two.
“One thing we focused on that we really honed in from that experience is how much of a resource we can be,” said Kazyak. “We are a place of hope.”
As for the Burkes, she said she has not had any contact with them since the incident, but wants others to know that help is available.
“Had this family reached out sooner we might have been able to bypass this whole thing.”
Michigan’s Puppy Protection Act got a lot of attention last year. Nothing has happened with the legislation as of yet. Lawmakers behind the act are working to get more support for it.