City Commissioners Looking Into Ordinance Issue After 30 Animals Were Reported In A GR Home

Posted at 11:01 AM, Nov 13, 2013
and last updated 2013-11-13 11:24:46-05

Grand Rapids, Mich. — Some Grand Rapids commissioners say they will be looking into the ordinance issues surrounding a woman in Grand Rapids who is currently caring for 23 dogs and seven cats in a home on Oakwood NE.

A woman hired to be a pet sitter for the animals, Renee Miles, said 18 dogs were stacked in crates in a small computer room, while five larger dogs were in the basement of the home.

Renee said seven cats were roaming the living room area with giant sandbox-sized litter boxes in each corner of the room.

She said the crates that the dogs were kept in were so small, they couldn’t even turn around.

In some instances, she said there were two dogs to a crate.

The owner of the dogs, Kimberly Savino, said she had just moved here from Boston and had checked with the city before coming here on the number of animals you can have.

She said she discovered that there was no limit to the number of dogs and cats you could have in a home.

She said she didn’t see any problem with having a large number of dogs within city limits as long as they were well cared for.

A spokesperson for Kent County confirmed that animal control is investigating the welfare of the animals.

However, she said that since Grand Rapids had no ordinance limiting the number of animals you could have in a home, there was nothing the county could do to limit those numbers if they were well-cared for.

The Grand Rapids Code Compliance Office confirmed that there is not a city ordinance in place that would prohibit a certain number of dogs and cats in a home.

Some city commissioners told us Tuesday that they didn’t realize that there was no ordinance in Grand Rapids limiting dogs or cats.

“I was surprised to hear that,” said Walt Gutowski, Ward 1,  “In the same token, if pets are being well cared for, some people have a real ability to take care of a lot of them.”

Grandville, East Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and Battle Creek all have an ordinance limiting the number to around three dogs to a single family home.

Commissioner Ruth Kelly says that the commission now has the city attorney looking into the issue and they are planning on contacting the county to discuss the situation as well.

Renee said something needs to change. “These dogs have no life and they’ve been subjected to someone who thinks they love them and they’re being hoarded and they just wanted to be petted and they just wanted to get out. So, it’s not a good thing, that no limit law, not in this space,” she said. “That is not working. There needs to be a limit. There needs to be a limit on how many dogs you can have.”

The dog’s owner, Kimberly Savino talked to us in person, but also posted this message on our Facebook page to defend her care of her animals.

Savino’s statement:

Nov 12, 10:09 PM

I am the owner of these dogs. I have run a nearly 5,000 sq foot private home for rescued and special needs dogs for many years in MA. We have recently relocated to Grand Rapids and are staying with family in a 2600 sq ft home as I work on purchasing new property. Our dogs have attention and cared for around the clock, visit the yard 5-6 times daily, and are happy creatures who have lived happy lives as beloved companions, therapy dogs, and some have done acting and modeling. Our sitter was new to the job, but was well aware that these dogs are well cared for. We spend thousands of dollars MONTHLY on the care of these highly special-need animals, that ensures that all of their needs are met, including food, vaccinations, year-round flea, tick and parasite control, grooming, comfortable bedding, and top-quality healthcare. She was aware that due to limited space and her being new, for this brief but important trip, all dogs would be confined upon her arrival in two rooms (to make things easier for her, rather than spread out throughout the home as they usually are). Despite her having minimal animal care experience, she repeatedly insisted upon trying to alter the care regimens that our dogs need to stay healthy, clean and safe, and this frustrated us. We were shocked (and a bit amused) at her attempts to blow this out of proportion, and to build a case against us. The photo above is a photo I took and gave to her to help with identification of dogs while she was new. There were two other people assisting with their care in my absence, and the dogs were certainly never confined for 23 hrs per day. She recently shared that she is experiencing “Empty Nest Syndrome”, and apparently, has derived pleasure from the media attention while acting as a misguided vigilante, rather than simply doing the job she was paid to do. (Animal control inspected our animals a couple of months ago, and our vets come to our home regularly – No violations have been found.) Here is a link to some more accurate photos of our animals, that all can enjoy. They are clearly not the miserable, neglected creatures that our sitter depicted them to be.