Calls for Ingham Co. Animal Control & Shelter criminal charges

Posted at 9:03 AM, Aug 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-02 10:11:55-04

They've lost their jobs, should the former leaders of the Ingham County Animal Control & Shelter (ICACS) and shelter face criminal charges next?

The Ingham County Board of Commissioners fired ICACS Director John Dinon Tuesday night, shortly after deputy director Anne Burns retired.

The two of them and shelter veterinarian Dr. Karen Worthington are named in reports that will be sent to police.

FOX 47's Alani Letang has been on top of this story since she broke it last month.

The commissioners can't make that decision in terms of criminal charges. But they've seen enough in reports from the Michigan Humane Society (MHS) and the county controller to get the police involved.

That decision came with some controversy at a couple of meetings.

"If a normal citizen would've done this to these dogs they would be facing felony animal cruelty charges," said Jamie Hillman, Founder, Save the Lansing Michigan Pitbulls.

At an Ingham County Advisory Board meeting on July 23, 2018, board member Beth Contreras said to Dinon, "And even if it is only four dogs it's still four dogs you would arrest someone for if they were doing it on the streets." She is referring to the four dogs seized in a dog fighting ring summer 2017 in Lansing that was part of the MHS investigation. MHS investigation focused on five dogs, the fifth dog was being held in a separate criminal case.

Dinon responded "that is not true. Part of the Michigan Humane's task was 'would you recommend criminal charges?' and they did not...we would not arrest people for this."

At a special board of commissioners meeting on July 31, 2018, commissioner Robin Naeyaert said "if it were a commissioner or a member of the general public, that had these accusations and the proof that has been provided, in the things that have been provided in the FOIA... I don't know how if this had come from the general public I would think it would be a criminal investigation."

After a heated argument over whether or not criminal charges should be brought against top leadership at the Ingham County Animal Control & Shelter the board of commissioners voted, 7-6, to pass the investigation on to law enforcement. Commissioner Ryan Sebolt was the first one to express interest in the motion.

"Me personally, it's been brought up and we can't say that I just want to make sure that is being investigated because I cannot make that determination myself," said Ryan Sebolt, Ingham County Commissioner.

The question now is which agency will get it.

The Ingham County Sheriff's office told Letang they are staying out of it. The Mason Police Department is one option, and state police told Letang they could take the case as well. A commissioner told Letang the reports are expected to be passed off soon.

"If someone requested that the agency should be investigated, that's something that our command would determine if it's something they want us to investigate or it could be the attorney general's office could also look into it.," said Sergeant Rene Gonzalez.

No matter who investigates, a situation like the one that happened at ICACS could lead to criminal charges if there's evidence of neglect or abuse.

"There is going to be felonies and misdemeanors for that depending on the type of on the type of neglect or how many involved, generally a lot of them are misdemeanor offenses," said Gonzalez.

A separate motion was passed to hand over the reports from the controller and the Michigan Humane Society to the Michigan Board of Veterinary Medicine. That agency would decide if Dr.Worthington would face any professional sanctions.

we'll keep you updated.

A sergeant with the Ingham County Sheriff's Office will run animal control starting Monday, August 6.

That will last until the board of commissioners appoints an interim director.

You can catch up on all our coverage of this story on the FOX 47 app and right here on our website.