Family can’t afford licensing and fees to get dogs home from shelter

Posted at 5:38 PM, Jun 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-16 20:59:00-04

UPDATE: The dogs' owner's family started this GoFundMe which raised at least $600. The family tell FOX 17 they're working out possible details Monday with Kent County Animal Shelter.

KENT COUNTY, Mich. -- A family in Wyoming is heartbroken after they say their two dogs escaped for the first time from their backyard. Now housed in the Kent County Animal Shelter where they are up for adoption, they say they can't afford the fees to bring them home.

The dogs' owner Todd Spaans says he's devastated: a family member was watching his dogs at his home while he was on vacation in South Carolina. June 1 he says he returned from fishing when he received voicemails from his neighbor who put the dogs in her yard, then called animal control. When Spaans called that day from South Carolina, county records show the fees were $298 but no one was available to pick the dogs up.

County officials say the $75 failure to license fee, and additional $17 boarding per day fees could have been avoided if the dogs' licenses were valid and they were picked up immediately.

"I felt good about it, this is a lifelong decision, and I didn’t just do it on a whim, I looked up the breed of dog and I thought this is the type of dog I’d like to have, I’d like to rescue the dog," said Spaans of his dogs' adoption.

Spaans has had both dogs about three years: he raised Bella, a blue-nosed pit bull since she was six-weeks-old, then rescued Jessi the coonhound at eight-months-old from the Kent County Animal Shelter. He still hopes to get them back.

"I got home and I was just devastated by the amount of money: I had a house payment due, I mean I’m just a common working man, I don’t have that kind of money," explained Spaans. "I shouldn’t have to take a loan out to get my dogs back."

When he returned home June 3, Spaans says he knew he couldn't pay the bill but wanted to plead his case in person. June 7 he went to the Kent County Animal Shelter and county records show the fees had risen to $536. He said he was "flabbergasted," especially since it costs $130 to adopt a dog from this shelter.

"I don’t have a house payment in return just to retain my dogs back," said Spaans. "I would give them a donation, but $600? I can’t do it."

Kent County Spokesperson Steve Kelso says "there are a lot of costs associated with that animal shelter, and housing those dogs for that length of time costs that amount of money; actually we’re operating that at a loss."

Kelso says the main issue here is ensuring your dogs' county license is valid. Spaans says his dogs' licenses just expired in May.

"If your dog is licensed, we will bring it right to your house, and actually we extended that courtesy in this instance unfortunately the family wasn’t home," said Kelso.

According to the Kent County Animal Shelter website, Spaans' dog Bella is up for adoption there, along with a trail of comments debating the matter on the shelter's Facebook post.

Spaans says he’s heartbroken, reiterating this is the first time his dogs ever ran out of his yard, and he fixed the two slats in his fence they broke.

"If it was multiple times I get it, but if the very first time they’re picked up why don’t I get a chance to correct the issue, make sure they’re retained the way they’re supposed to be?" Spaans said. "I would’ve done that."