HOUGHTON — Representatives from local animal groups came to Tuesday’s Houghton County Board meeting to ask for a dedicated animal control officer to help combat animal cruelty cases in the area, and also for officers to undergo training.
The founder of Paw Patrol of Houghton County spoke Tuesday on behalf of a number of other groups, including Keweenaw Wildlife Rehab, Copper Country Humane Society and K-SNAG. The organization formed a year ago to stop animal abuse in the county. When potential animal abuse is reported to the group, it gathers evidence and submits it to law enforcement.
During public comments, the group’s founder said they have averaged 67 reported cases of animal cruelty per month, two arrests and one prosecution.
“These reports ranged from hamsters to horses,” said Paw Patrol’s founder, who wished to remain anonymous. “We never know what each report will involve, which is why we need an animal control officer dedicated to these situations, as none of us are law enforcement officers and cannot always safely resolve the situation.”
She said the group is also working with Michigan Humane Society and other non-profits to cover the cost of offering additional cruelty, neglect, and abuse training to any officers who are interested.
A petition provided to the board in support of the request had more than 1,400 signatures in seven months.
“We just had them in places that people went to that loved animals,” the group’s founder said after the meeting.
Paw Patrol provided informational packets to members of the board including statistics and photographs of some of the animals they’ve helped.
After the meeting, Natalie Este, owner of Natalie’s Blind Saves Sanctuary and Rescue, pointed to a photo of an emaciated horse, one of two horses from a recent call that came in severely emaciated.
“I’d never met the people before in my life,” she said. “I assessed the situation, I got the horses into my case, and I paid for all of its expenses myself because it was the right thing to do … unfortunately, I did all I could do and that horse needed to be euthanized.”
Sheriff Josh Saaranen said the department once had an animal control officer, but the position had gone away for unknown reasons some time before he joined the department.
“Now on a day to day basis each one of our deputies, local officers, Michigan State Police troopers handle these complaints on an individual basis,” he said. “I have met with this group in the past. We’ve worked together and had several good discussions.”