Extreme animal hoarding in Newaygo County

By Courtney Perna

WXMI-TV, Grand Rapids, Mich.


Aug. 03–NEWAYGO COUNTY, Mich.– A gruesome discovery in Newaygo County; dozens of animals, living in filthy conditions. Rescuers say it’s one of the most extreme cases of animal hoarding they’ve ever seen.

Animal Control officials believe Candace Shepard-Younce, 69, kept nearly 85 animals (81 dogs, and 4 cats) locked in her home near the corner of 104th Street and Elm Avenue in Howard City.

“We’ve been working with (Shepard-Younce) for a year now,” says Animal Control Officer, Arlene Sterling. “We tried to work with her, and had no option but to get a warrant but to seize the animals.”

Newaygo County Sheriff’s Department recently arrested Shepard-Younce and charged her with 10 or more counts of felony animal abandonment or cruelty. She’s since posted bail and is awaiting trial.

“Neglect is abuse,” explains Cheryl McCloud, who founded Lake Haven Rescue. “It was pretty nasty. The animals were sick and dying the conditions were filthy, to put it mildly.”

She says it was a horrendous environment for the animals. Officer Sterling agrees.

“Thankfully, we got the dogs out of there and hopefully there’ll be happy ending and they’ll end up in good homes.”

Some of the pets were surrendered willingly and were handed over to Lake Haven Rescue, where six shepherd-lab puppies left for foster homes today. Officials recovered about 35 Chihuahuas — some were surrendered, others were seized. Of the seven surrendered, six are in foster homes. McCloud is keeping a close eye on one timid little guy who hides all day under his bed.

“When he came in he was scared to death and he’s still scared to death,” says McCloud, but adds that they’re making progress. “He still wants to run from me, but he always stops and looks at me first before he leaves, because he really wants to come to me, but he doesn’t dare yet,” she smiles.

Over the next few weeks, he’ll get plenty of love, and positive re-enforcement. Just like shepherd mix “Spirit” who, after litter upon litter of puppies, can finally rest. She and “Chance” another Shepherd, arrived at their new home today.

Dave Snyder, Lake Haven’s handler, greets them at the car and assures the scared K-9s that everything’s going to be ok. “We’ll take care of you,” he says.

“Spirit” and “Chance” will spend the next few weeks in rehabilitation with Snyder and other dogs, before they’re ready for adoption.

“Change (and Spirit are) may be the only adult shepherds … that are gonna make it out alive,” McCloud says.

Officer Sterling says the rest of the adult Shepherds that were seized had such a pack mentality, were so aggressive and beyond rehabilitation, that after exhausting her options and doing everything she could, eight of them had to be euthanized. The remaining adult dogs are still with their owner — too aggressive to be captured.

Although it seems like a happy ending for the dogs willingly surrendered, the remaining animals were seized. Now, they are considered evidence and will remain in the Newaygo County Shelter until the jury gives a verdict.

McCloud says sometimes this can take years, and it’s a law she’d like to change.

“We took in three coon hounds from Montcalm County Shelter and (they) had been in a cage … for 2 years.”

McCloud says the hounds are wonderful dogs that are currently up for adoption, but it’s a shame they had to go through years of isolation.

“If it is live evidence it should be treated differently than if it were a gun laying in a drawer somewhere for 2 years,” she says. “It is different than holding a live, feeling being.”

Unfortunately, dozens of dogs in this case are facing the same fate.

Click here to foster or adopt an animal from Lake Haven Rescue.


Posted by Tribune News Services

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