By Diane Madigan
Independent Special Writer
At the April 15 work-study session of the Van Buren Township Board of Trustees, township resident Marcella Henderson had an animal complaint.
She told the board that the township needs the Public Safety Committee back, where residents could take their complaints.
She said, since last fall, she and her neighbors have been complaining about two loose pit bulls that have been neglected at a vacant house next door. At times the dogs are tied up outside without fresh water and adequate housing. The dogs break their tie-outs and roam the neighborhood.
VBT Animal Control has been called several times, she said.
Henderson said one time the Animal Control Officer tracked down one of the dogs that had been roaming the neighborhood, sedated it, and dumped in the owner’s driveway. All winter Henderson said she has provided fresh water by placing long handled pans of water in the perimeter of the area where the dogs are tied. Several times the dogs have gotten loose and growled at family members, she said.
The problems with neighbor’s dogs started last fall after the house was raided by the VBT SWAT team, she said. After that, the residents moved out, dropping by every day or two to let the dogs out of the house. They eventually tied up the dogs outside.
Henderson said she complained to Supervisor Linda Combs a couple of months ago. Combs promised to get back with her, but never did, she said.
“This is a lawsuit waiting to happen,” Henderson told the board.
Last week one of the dogs got out and growled at her son just two steps out from the door. She said she called dispatch and an hour later called back because the dog was still loose in the backyard. After the second call, the police showed up followed by animal control. Two and a half hours later the owners showed up and let the dog in the house, she said.
“How many times can a dog run loose before they are confiscated?” Henderson asked. “How long is this supposed to go on?”
Combs answered, “I can’t answer that but I will find out.”
Henderson said, “This is why we need the Public Safety Committee and I brought all these things up so they can work on it”.
Treasurer Sharry Budd said, “The Public Safety Department did look at a dog ordinance but nobody could agree on the number of dogs.”
“It isn’t the amount of dogs it’s how they’re being taken care of,” Henderson said. “When they eat snow because they don’t have any water….”
Diane Madigan, animal activist and chairperson of the former Public Safety Committee gave some comments on Henderson’s situation.
“This has been going on for months. We have a Mission Statement for the Animal Control Department. It says that we will responsibly and humanely enforce animal-related State and local laws and investigate cases where animal care is inadequate.
“I have real concerns for the welfare of these dogs where they have no water, no shelter,” Madigan said.
“This is a vacant home, an abandoned home. It is right next door to Belle Tire. We need to have concerns for the customers when that opens.”
Henderson said again. “I’m not one to come to the township to bitch but this is a lawsuit waiting to happen.”
“I agree, there are major concerns here and this is something that I will address with Interim Director Laurain,” Combs said. “If there is no one there, the animals are being neglected and something needs to be done.”
Madigan said, “I have concerns about the neighbor’s quality of life when they can’t go out in their yards because these dogs are there. There is a State Leash Law and our Animal Control officer is not enforcing it.”
Interim Public Safety Director Greg Laurain said, “We have been out there several times and we’ve had animal control. I think a lot of this has to do with the dogs. We don’t have the teeth in the ordinance to do what you want us to do, personally.
“Secondly when one of our officers goes out there, yes sometimes the dogs get out. Both the police officers and animal control say there is water out there and at times, they are fed. I told the animal control officer that if he sees any violations, then pick the dogs up take them to the humane society. We’ll fine the owners of the dogs and take whatever legal action is necessary.
“Our hands are tied with an ordinance that we do not have in place. We’re doing whatever we can,” Laurain said.
Madigan said, “There is a State Leash Law, dogs at large we should be writing violations and hitting these people in the pocketbook. If they have to take off a half a day, go to court, pay the $60. You do that a couple of times and you’d get a stronger leash or some kind of enclosure for your dog.”
Trustee Jeff Jahr asked, You see all the time on TV neglected dogs or animals. Is there a State Law?”
Madigan replied, “Yes it is a State Law.”
Trustee Jahr said the problem is not just teeth in the ordinance.
“If there are laws on the book, then it ought to be enforced. If there is a law and an animal is being neglected it needs to be enforced,” Jahr said.
Editor’s Note: In Michigan Penal Code Act 328 of 1931, 750.50 it is a clear violation to neglect and abandon animals. MCL 287.262 clearly states that it is unlawful for an owner to allow a dog to roam off leash.
By Diane Madigan