LANSING, Mich. (WSYM) - Lack of oversight, training, and monitoring by upper management at the Ingham Co. Animal Shelter contributed to the suffering and neglect of five dogs that were seized in a dog fighting ring in 2017.
That information was found in a report by Deborah MacDonald, Senior Investigator for the Michigan Humane Society. Earlier this year Ingham Co. Animal Control requested that the Michigan Humane Society conduct an investigation relating to five dogs that were being held for pending court cases.
Last Summer, dozens of dogs were seized in a dog fighting ring. In March of 2018 the Michigan Humane Society began their investigation. Four of the dogs were seized from the previously mentioned dogfighting ring.
The details in the report are disturbing.
Some of the findings (from report):
Dog was symptomatic for 14 days with minimal treatment
X-ray was recommended, but not performed
A delay to treat or euthanize caused unnecessary suffering
Dogs declined in weight
Regular weighing and monitoring could have alerted medical staff to weight loss
A maintenance program needed to be put in place to stop dogs from being reinfected with whipworm
Factors that contributed to suffering / neglect of animals (from report):
No written procedure for monitoring long term court cases
No written procedure for documenting weight gain
Medical records that are incomplete, or kept in multiple places for the same animal
No maintenance plan to control internal parasites
Lack of open communication between departments
Lack of training for medical staff on shelter medicine, processing cruelty cases, and supervisory responsibilities
Supervising veterinarians require staff to floor supervise and attend to daily animal care
Inconsistent diet of donated food provided to long term holds and cruelty weight gains
Lack of oversight
Lack of awareness
The Director of the Ingham County Animal Control told Letang he was taken back by the findings but explains what he believes happened. "These came in at our busiest time of the year right after we had done a large hoarding seizure where we took 99 cats and two dogs. So basically last summer was a very busy summer handling a lot of difficult animals," explained John Dinon, Ingham County Animal Control Director.
The Michigan Humane Society's investigation focused on those 5 dogs. "You guys are an animal control shelter you guys get dogs all the time, a big influx might be a strain on the staff and the resources that you guys offer, but is that really an excuse we could be using here for why these dogs slipped through the cracks, at the end of the findings it says no written procedure...lack of communication?" Letang asked.
"I don't think we did anything wrong we had a lot of dogs, and you're right this is our profession this is what we do, and I think we did a great job. We investigated this case, we got a lot of dogs out of the hands of dog fighters... were we perfect no, can we do better? Yes, I think we can," said Dinon.
Three of the dogs contracted whipworm, and lost a significant amount of weight, according to the report. Animal control officers noticed they were very thin, and told the deputy director who sent them to an outside vet.
The Humane Society's investigation found that in all the cases a maintenance program or medical and monitoring records were lacking.
"If Southside requested them, we would've sent them," Dinon explained, referring to the two dogs that were taken Southside Animal Hospital to be assessed. "Is that not something you do immediately when you send them to an outside veterinarian?" Letang asked.
"No," Dinon responded.
"Why not?" Letang asked.
"We sent them for an assessment of the dogs and treatment recommendations," said Dinon.
Dinon said the facility they are currently in is partially to blame.
"This is an old facility and it really has a lot of problems it's inadequate, right now we don't have as many outdoor kennels as indoor kennels. So when we move the dogs outside to clean their indoor kennels and bring them in and put another group out there, we don't have the manpower to disinfect between every time. So there is a lot of opportunity for the spread of disease."
The investigation showed all five dogs, although aggressive, were in good physical health when they arrived last summer and fall. That health continued to decline with seizing, vomiting, emaciated, internal hemorrhaging. And in one case, a dog had swallowed a foreign object which was preventing him to eat.
No x-ray was done, it was a step that the investigation concluded may have helped decide treatment.
"These dogs are super athletes, and to bring them in and hold them long term in kennels here is not what they are used to and so it did make them very difficult to handle. We did what we could, we provided them enrichment, with things to do as much as we could. Some of them we couldn't because if we gave them toys they ate them," Dinon explained.
The investigation stated medical records were scarce and communication between staff was lacking.
"And then the medical records, minimal and appear incomplete?" Letang asked about the part of the investigation.
Dinon responded "we are tightening up on our record keeping. "
These allegations are not something Dinon or his staff have taken lightly.
"When we are accused of something we want to be transparent. And if there are problems in here we want to address them," Dinon said.
Of those five dogs in the investigation, two were put to death, two have been adopted, and one is still at animal control.
Dinon said he is taking the investigation seriously and will hold anyone on his staff accountable if necessary. In the meantime, he tells me they are computerizing medical records so everyone has access to them. And the veterinarian, director, and deputy director will be doing weekly walkthroughs. Those are just a couple of the changes that are going to be made amid the state investigation.
A new Ingham County Animal Control Shelter is being built right now, is expected to open next year, 2019.
The animal control is always looking for help if you are interested in volunteering.