Saturday, February 6, 2016

Oakland County Animal Control Is Failing to Protect Animals and Families

February 5, 2016

Dear Oakland County Commissioners,

Thank you for reviewing our concerns list (attached) regarding Oakland County Animal Control’s lack of response to animal neglect complaints, enforcement of various Michigan laws and gross mishandling of hoarding cases.

Of most importance in this matter, we have pet stores importing hundreds of ill animals, putting them on display sick and selling them to unsuspecting families sick. This should be something the department takes the lead on. We have hoarding cases with repeat failed inspections and the department is choosing to monitor, rather than enforce. In fact, the department has not even acknowledged the Farmington Hills Golden Retriever case as a hoarding situation. Experts have determined prosecution is essential in these types of cases.

Without policies and procedures there is no accountability.

On February 4, Mark Newman provided you with a three-page narrative in an attempt to respond to our concerns list, leaving even more concerns and no grievance process for resolving these issues.

Regarding the Farmington Hills kennel, which is our example of how bad it really is, Mr. Newman completely contradicts testimony provided by Senior Animal Control Officers. I have outlined my responses to his summary of the case:

  1. The Farmington Hills Golden Retriever breeding dogs were not found in ‘good condition’, are still not in ‘good condition’ and have not been seen by an independent veterinarian. The Michigan Penal Code (MCL 750.50) addresses adequate care - such as providing veterinary care, sanitary conditions, exercise, shelter, food, water, etc. We believe the following items are in violation of our cruelty laws:

     “There was no water source available. As we entered the basement, there was a numbing foul odor of ammonia that is consistent with a large amount of urine. The cages were too small and of inadequate size for the dogs. The water buckets for each individual dog had water, but also included dirt, hair and grime. The dog also had hair loss on its tail end and what appeared to be open sores. The floor and walls were covered in what appeared to be feces, mud, hair and wood shavings. Upon entering the main level, the conditions were abhorrent. The bird cages appeared to have not been cleaned in quite some times as it was filled with bird feces and did not contain an acceptable water source.  Upon entering the main kennel, there was a cloud of flies and disgusting odor. Dirt and hair was caked on the wire fencing that was used to contain the dogs. The dog runs had feces caked onto the floors. There was no spot on the floors for the animals to lie down or sit without being in filth. Several of the dogs were itching and biting themselves nonstop which is consistent with a flea infestation”. – Senior Animal Control Officer.

    “Kennel is in such abominable condition that the animals cannot be kept clean or in general good health. Flea/insect infestation. This kennel is not structurally sound and poses a health concern for the animals being kept in the facility. Some dogs were found to be in cages that were not of proper size for the dog, making it difficult for the animal to stand and turn around.” – Senior Animal Control

    The “handful” with fleas Mr. Newman cited was actually a “flea infestation”. The kennel worker reported and photographed evidence of dental disease, ear infections, eye infections, missing hair, open wounds, long toenails, and matting.

    Fast forward to 2015, there have been five more complaints. One puppy sold had fleas, a tick and ear infections. Oakland County Animal Control did not respond by checking any of the other dogs in the kennel. It does not appear the house or basement are being inspected, leaving many dogs and birds without oversight.

    There are no photos on file at Animal Control showing compliance and there is a DVD walk-thru missing, yet the Farmington Hills Police Department has it cataloged as evidence.

  1. There is no law stating that repeat offenders are allowed 10 days to address non-compliances. During an animal welfare check on 9/10/15, the Farmington Hills kennel failed the inspection. Photos taken during this inspection clearly show the kennel has declined to the same condition as the 2013 complaint. (Photos attached). The kennel was provided an opportunity to “clean-up” and then failed the 9/17/15 follow-up inspection. The photos taken during these inspections show an accumulation of feces, dirt, mud, debris and hair which clearly indicates this kennel is unsanitary and is not being cleaned on a regular basis.

  1. In the last eight years there have been 18 formal complaints with the Oakland County Animal Control, 35 kennel inspections or welfare checks by the Oakland County Animal Control and 13 failed inspections.

Petland Novi displaying and selling sick puppies is another example of the department’s failure to protect animals and the public:

  1. Animals on display at Petland Novi are sick and sold sick. My organization has collected 25 complaints related to sick animals sold in 2015 -- and we are not a reporting agency! Mr. Newman stated their officers found no evidence of animal cruelty or abuse at Petland Novi, yet one shopper observed sickly and lethargic puppies. Some were urine stained, others had bloated bellies, rashes, and hernias (Photos attached). In December 2015, one black Poodle puppy was observed pooping blood. This and three other puppies specifically mentioned in the 12/1 and 12/10 complaints were not mentioned in the case report (attached). The case report did not even mention that the puppies were sold or in quarantine. Where were these puppies? Pet stores are required to keep disposition records. Was the poodle pooping blood sold that way?

  1. Not providing adequate veterinary care to keep an animal in good health does violate our cruelty laws.Adequate care" means the provision of sufficient food, water, shelter, sanitary conditions, exercise, and veterinary medical attention in order to maintain an animal in a state of good health. Mr. Newman clears all concerns simply by saying that a veterinarian is overseeing the puppies at the pet store. This is a veterinarian that has a contract with the store and receives new clients as part of the 3-free exams offered. It is the department’s responsibility for finding out why so many puppies are on display sick and sold sick even though a veterinarian is overseeing them. This is not “adequate” veterinary care.

  2. A prior FOIA request shows the department did not respond to any complaints over a three year period (August 2009 – July 2011). Mr. Newman claims that “the department has always and will always respond to citizen complaints of animal abuse or cruelty.” On January 21, 2016, I filed a complaint related to the Family Puppy store regularly shipping sick puppies to Toledo, per a whistle blower employee. It was being covered by several media outlets. The department supervisor stated they will only respond to food, water and shelter complaints and it is not their duty to inspect pet stores. I even asked Mr. Shankin if a puppy was pooping blood on display at a pet store, would they respond? He stated, no. They will only respond to food, water and shelter.

  3. Families who purchased sick puppies from pet stores are still referred to the Michigan Department of Agriculture. Mr. Newman stated it is unfortunate the MDARD dropped the Pet Shop Program, but did not agree to pick up the duties for enforce the Pet Shop Laws while other cities are. Some cities like Dearborn and Warren have even prosecuted irresponsible pet store owners. I agree, these cases could also be considered civil matters, but if there is a pattern of complaints and contagious diseases reported, the department should take the lead. If one sick dog is sold, there are likely many more that go unreported. Petland was exposed in the news repeatedly for selling sick animals back in 2009/10.

    To learn more about the problems at Petland Novi, please read my report prepared for the
    Novi City Council.

Regarding “bite complaints”, there is no evidence that bite forms are processed with the Health Department. I am attaching a FOIA response from the Health Department stating there are no bite forms on file for the Oakland County pet stores listed, yet we have at least one bite form filled out by the Novi Police (attached). I also have testimony from the Health Department stating they never received bite forms from OCAC. In 2013, Joanie Toole claimed the department responded to 600 bite complaints in one year. Can these be found in the Michigan Disease Surveillance System?

Mr. Newman did not address all of our concerns. We are still looking for the following:

  1. All polices and procedures governing how the director, supervisor and officers respond to complaints and enforce the laws.

  2. How many cruelty cases have been submitted for prosecution in the last three years?

  3. What services are offered to villages, cities and townships? Specifically, what has been provided to each municipality? Are all provided the same services?

Thank you,

Pam Sordyl
Founder Puppy Mill Awareness of
SE Michigan
t 734.828.1400   c 734.718.7100

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