From Something Really Bad ---Came Something Really Good
The shocking announcement on the west coast of Michigan sent reverberations throughout the whole state. Over 355 small dogs had been rescued from a 500 square foot house and garage. What a nightmare for any shelter.
George and Cheri Burke of Cheshire Township in Allegan County were arraigned with the Allegan County Sheriff's Office on felony animal cruelty charges following the seizure of 352 small dogs from the couple's Cheshire Township home by Animal Control Officers.
The Allegan shelter is small and not equipped for such a disaster. Yes, 350 incoming animals would be a major disaster at any shelter. Questions were asked: how will we care for them? Where will we put them? How will we get their medical needs taken care of? Who is going to pay for all this? Those are just a few of the long list of questions any shelter worker would be asking.
However--those questions were quickly answered and the ending to this story is nothing short of a miracle. The staff members and volunteers of Wishbone Pet Rescue who run the Allegan Shelter stepped up to that enormous plate and went to work. They reached out to shelters, rescues and humane societies statewide. Ingham County Animal Control immediately put calls out to Voiceless-MI and Capital Area Humane Society to ask for help on behalf of the Allegan shelter. Between the three agencies we were able to bring over 50 dogs to the Lansing area where they were treated by veterinarians and groomed by volunteer groomers. Nearly all the dogs have been re-homed--a few still require treatments and more veterinary care due to heartworm, pregnancy or other illnesses. Their new homes will come soon.
But the real story here is the spirit of collaboration that took place: shelters helping shelters by communicating, sharing resources, and networking. How did it happen that over 350 dogs were relocated safely to shelters and rescues all over the state in less than 72 hours? Unimaginable. Yes, 72 hours folks. In animal welfare that's a miracle. Do you know how hard it is to get animal welfare groups to work together? Is this the start of something big? Gee, I hope so. Here at ICAC we're already working to keep that momentum going. We're meeting with other shelters to talk about mutual aid agreements that allow shelters to assist each other when disasters like this occur. Shelters are discussing further collaborative efforts that would result in resource sharing--thinking regionally, and not just about our tiny speck on the map--sharing best practices to help all of us be better than what we are now.This tragedy proved to all of us that we are so much more powerful united. We can move mountains even if it’s one puppy mill at a time. This horrible story has many happy endings--every animal will have a home and best of all, the collaborations that took place will be ongoing and will have a lasting impact on all animals for years to come in Michigan. We now know that when we ask for a helping hand we'll probably find hundreds on our doorstep. For more information on the Allegan Shelter story go to www.wishbonepetrescue.com or www.alleganshelter.com.
Thank you to all of the adopters that opened their hearts and homes to these amazing pets.