WOOD-TV 8 report leads to Allegan Shelter leader’s resignation

This evening, hundreds of people and dogs will gather at the Bissell Blocktail Party to celebrate pets and organizations that contribute to preventing pet overpopulation and promote adoption from shelters and rescues.

Sadly, the animal advocacy world is reeling from today’s resignation of Julie Kowal, administrator for the Allegan County Animal Shelter.

A WOOD-TV 8 investigation uncovered a history of alleged animal neglect by Kowal, including three civil infractions from Kent County Animal Control for allowing dogs to run free, filthy conditions and not providing proper veterinary care. Animal control had found that several pit bulls had escaped from Kowal’s home. Some were injured and three had to euthanized, WOOD-TV 8 reported. Continue reading

Facebook contest fetches name for Allegan Co. puppy mill dog adopted by owner of The Haunt

Many former Grand Rapids Press employees who were not offered positions with the new MLive Media Group when it launched in February have moved on, using their unique talents in a variety of ways.

I started Press Unleashed. Former Press music critic John Sinkevics developed Local Spins and continues writing about music news in West Michigan. Many former colleagues now are working in  public relations, either as freelance writers or for specific companies.

One friend and former co-worker, Terri Finch Hamilton, has multiple positions that utilize her wonderful writing ability. Terri had written hundreds of feature stories, profiles, news stories — you get the picture — for the Press. When she sent me a pet-related press release this morning, I opted to publish it as-is rather than try to re-write it.

It’s a great little bright about one of the dogs rescued from the Allegan County puppy mill. It was adopted by Jim Burns, owner of The Haunt, who decided to raise a little money to benefit other animals while trying to find the perfect name for his new dog.

Here’s the scoop from Terri:

GRAND RAPIDS, MI. — Jim Burns’ new puppy is a cute little guy, but the perfect name just wasn’t coming to him.


This little guy, one of the dogs rescued from the Allegan County puppy mill, was adopted by Jim Burns, owner of The Haunt, and named by fans in a Facebook contest. (Courtesy photo)

So Burns, owner of the popular Walker haunted attraction, The Haunt, turned to Facebook to get a few ideas from The Haunt’s fans.

“Within 15 minutes we had 75 names,” Burns says. And they kept coming.

The 13-week-old puppy, a fluffy Shih Tzu -Pomeranian mix, was one of close to 400 filthy, feces-encrusted dogs rescued earlier this month from a Cheshire Township home, where a couple bred dogs for profit.

The Allegan County Animal Shelter rescued the dogs, then needed massive help to clean them up and get them ready for adoption.

Burns’ family veterinarian, Kelley’s Animal Clinic in Walker, took in some of the dogs, and when Burns saw the pups, he melted.

“I knew I was in trouble,” he says with a smile.

He, wife, Amy and their 13-year-old daughter, MaKayla, picked out a fluffy black and white pup to take home.

“We started rattling off a bunch of names, then I thought, ‘Why don’t we do a contest?” Burns says. Winner gets two tickets to The Haunt.

He posted the “name our puppy” contest on The Haunt’s Facebook page, and netted 150 ideas the first day.

Cute names: Fluffy, Snickers, Boo Boo. Spooky names: Creature, Creeper, Haunter.

In all, 204 people suggested 308 names.

“There was such an overwhelming response,” Burns says. “Everybody was touched by this dog story when they saw it in the media. It was so heartwarming to see how many people stepped up to help. Vets, animal shelters. Groomers came in to bathe them. People showed up with blankets and toys.

“I thought, ‘Why not take it one step further and involve people even after a dog has a home?” he says. “They can stay connected to those dogs that touched their heart when they saw them on TV.”

Burns decided to donate 50 cents in the name of each fan who contributed a puppy name — $102 in all — to Kelley’s Heart-to-Heart Pet Adoption Center.

He’s having a giant presentation check made that will include the printed name of each person who contributed a name.

“You took the time to look at the picture of my dog, to make a connection,” Burns says. “So let’s take it a little further and make a difference.”

And the winning name? Not too scary. It’s Oliver.


Available Allegan County dogs, and several others, find new homes via HSWM ‘Spring Fling’

Although the goal of having 70 animals adopted wasn’t reached, Saturday’s Meijer Spring Fling at the Humane Society of West Michigan certainly was a success.

Anthony Daniels, 6, of Kalamazoo had his face painted while he and his family waited to adopt a dog from HSWM on Saturday. (Photos/Mary Ullmer)

A crowd lined up as early as 7 a.m. for the 10 a.m. event, and hundreds had gathered by the time HSWM opened its doors. In all, 32 animals, including a couple of cats and a bunny,  were adopted on Saturday.

All 14 of the Shih Tzu-mix dogs transferred from the Allegan County Animal Shelter, rescued a couple of weeks ago from a puppy mill, that were available for adoption at HSWM found homes.

“People love to get dogs with a story, so there was an overwhelming response to the Allegan County dogs,” said Nicole Cook, marketing and events coordinator at HSWM. “People were lined up at 7 a.m. We tried to tell people that if they’re here for an Allegan  County dog, they should look at all the others here, too.

“All dogs have a story, some just didn’t make the news. We had dogs that were starved that came in, so that’s a form of cruelty. We had a family that had a devastating loss that couldn’t keep their dog. Every dog is unique and has a story, it just might not be a newsworthy story.”

It appeared that Credence, a black-and-tan coonhound, had found a home on Saturday. But the “meet-and-greet” session with the family’s other dogs that is required for adopting an animal from HSWM didn’t go well, Cook said.

Charlene Lovewell of Wyoming adopted one of the small-breed dogs transferred to HSWM from the Allegan County puppy mill. Lovewell said the dog's name will be Molly.

“We do have three families coming in on Tuesday to see him,” Cook said. “That’s why we love to have the education process to explain our mission. Yes, it’s to adopt out animals, but we want to get them in the right home. That’s why it’s important to have the behavior staff on our team to inform people. We had several people bring their dogs for meet and greet, and we made that clear ahead of time. We probably had 20 dog meetings happen on Saturday.

“The great thing is, a couple of our senior dogs found homes. They often get overlooked.”

Because the application process can be time-consuming, HSWM offered demonstrations and seminars at the event, which ran until 4 p.m. A hot dog stand parked out front surely did brisk business as people waited hours for their application to be processed before meeting their potential pet along with adoption counselors.

Milani (left) and Arabia Taylor meet with their new dog, Austin, who came from the Allegan County puppy mill raid.

“We were really diligent before we opened our doors that we have a process for adoption and we want to make sure the dogs, cats or bunnies find the perfect home,” Cook said. “We don’t want to see these animals come back to us.

“If you’re not willing to wait 45 minutes to an hour to get a consult, which is part of the process, then maybe you’re not ready for a pet. We encourage people that the animal is worth the wait because we have to make sure it’s a good fit.”

Charlene Lovewell of Wyoming was able to adopt one of the dogs from Allegan County. She had applied the previous week for the adoption and had been pre-approved to adopt Allison, whom she renamed, Molly.

“She’s doing great, you wouldn’t she know came from anywhere else,.” Lovewell said Monday. “We did a little training already. She goes to the door to go out, goes to the bathroom and comes back in. She hasn’t had any accidents in the house. She even has found an old blanket that she likes to cuddle up in to sleep.”

Lovewell has a 3-year-old Shih Tzu-Maltese mix, Maggie, to keep Molly company.

“Maggie tries to play with Molly but she doesn’t really understand it,” Lovewell said. “They do wander around together in our fenced in yard, though. Molly’s doing very well and seems happy and we’re just tickled that it worked out so well.”



Allegan Co. dogs among those available for adoption at Humane Society WM’s ‘Spring Fling’

The Humane Society of West Michigan is hosting a “Meijer Spring Fling” adoption and family fun event Saturday, and some of the small-breed dogs rescued from a recent Allegan County puppy mill raid will be among several animals up for adoption.

Layla is a 1-year-old retriever mix available for adoption at the Humane Society of West Michigan. She is a sweet dog who loves to be around people and who enjoys going on long walks. She would do best in a home with elementary-school age kids (or older). She had puppies but they have all been adopted -- now it is her turn to find a loving, forever home! (HSWM photo)

The open house is free to the public and runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at HSWM (3077 Wilson NW). In addition to the pet adoption drive, the event will feature seminars on dog bite prevention and obedience as well as demonstrations with Frisbee dogs and an appearance by Toula, an adopted dog from Plainwell who has appeared in movies and commercials.  Kids’ activities, like a balloon animal artist, face painting and crafts, also will be available.

Nicole Cook, marketing and events coordinator at HSWM, said at least five of the dogs rescued from Allegan County, and possibly more, will be eligible for adoption at Saturday’s event. The number of Shih Tzu mixes available on Saturday will depend on their progress in the evaluation process, Cook said.

HSWM took in 20 of the 350-plus dogs rescued by the Allegan County Animal Shelter. Many of the dogs required medical attention, vaccination and socialization, a process for which there is no set timetable.

“We’re figuring at least five will be ready, and we have the potential for a few more, but it will depend on how things go the next couple of days,” Cook said. “We’re excited because there will be a lot going on here Saturday and we hope a lot of people will be here not only to adopt the Shih Tzus, but the other dogs and cats we have who are waiting for new homes.”

Cook said the goal is to have 75 animals adopted at the event. She added that HSWM has held similar events in the past.

“But we really want a family focused festival,” she said. “We want to get more animals in homes, but we also want to educate. If people aren’t looking for a dog or cat, they can still come and enjoy the activities and learn from the different seminars we’re offering.”

Steve Mozer, owner of Ears and Tail K9 Solutions for Working Dogs, and his standard poodles, Suki and Syler, will be giving a Frisbee dog demonstration.

Also on hand for a demonstration will be Toula, a border collie adopted by Christine Mahaney who won PETCO’s “America’s Most Talented Pet”national contest in 2007 and appeared in the movie “Public Enemies,” starring Johnny Depp. Toula also appeared on “Live! with Regis and Kelly” during Top Dog Week in 2009 and currently has a spot alongside another of Mahaney’s dogs, Cole, in a Chevy Volt commercial, “Morning in Hamtramck.”

There will be two bite prevention seminars given by HSWM  education assistant Carlita Gonzalez.

“She’ll show examples of what you should and shouldn’t do it a dog approaches and other basic tips,” Cook said. “People are out and about with the warmer weather, and that means there are more dogs out and about, too.”

The schedule of events for Saturday:

  • 11 a.m.: Dog Bite Prevention Seminar by Carlita Gonzalez (HSWM Education Assistant)
  • 11:30 a.m.: Demonstration by Toula (celebrity dog from movies and TV)
  • 1 p.m.: Frisbee demonstration with Steve Mozer and his dogs Suki and Syler
  • 2 p.m.: Dog Bite Prevention Seminar by Carlita Gonzalez (HSWM Education Assistant)
  • 3 p.m.: Dog Obedience Seminar by Namiko Ota-Noveskey (HSWM Behavior Specialist)

For more information on the Spring Fling, including important details on how the adoption process works, click here. 

Details on adoption process released for seized puppy mill dogs in Allegan County

The Allegan Shelter Facebook page posted a message Friday afternoon with a link to a list  of additional shelters that have taken in dogs from a puppy mill/hoarding situation this week.

One of the small mixed breed dogs from the Allegan County seizure this week who soon will be available for adoption. (Allegan Shelter photo)

The link takes readers to an Allegan County Animal Shelter home page, which now is different from the shelter’s Petfinder page. Those seeking information on adopting one of the small breed dogs, or any other dog, from the Allegan shelter can fill out an online application and learn more about the process from the home page.

Allegan County’s page also refers potential adopters to the many shelters and rescue groups that took in dogs because of the limited capacity at Allegan. It also provides links to those groups. Nearly 320 dogs of mixed breeds, Shih Tzus mixed with Pomeranian, Papillon, Maltese and Yorkies, were transported to other temporary facilities.

The folks at Allegan County also cautioned people to be patient with the process:

Due to the limited capacity of the Allegan Animal Shelter, we have moved approximately 320 Shih Tzus to other shelters and private rescue groups both locally and through out Michigan. The following is a partial list of those organizations. At this time, you must contact them directly for information about adopting a Shih Tzu that was taken from our shelter. Please be patient. It is very likely that the majority of these organizations will impose a 10-day quarantine before adopting out these dogs to insure their health.

I’d love to hear from any Press Unleashed readers who happen to bring one of these dogs into a loving forever home. Feel free to check out my contact information and e-mail me.

Humane Society of West Michigan takes in 20 dogs from Allegan County puppy mill seizure

Hundreds of volunteers and organizations are coming to the aid of the Allegan County Animal Shelter in an effort to help the 350-plus small breed dogs seized from a puppy mill this week.

Among those is the Humane Society of West Michigan, which took in 20 dogs from Allegan on Wednesday. The dogs currently are receiving medical attention and being evaluated for behavior and should be available for adoption soon.

Some of the 20 dogs transferred from Allegan County taken in by the Humane Society of West Michigan. The dogs will continue to receive medical treatment and soon will be ready for adoption. (HSWM photo)

The HSWM staff veterinarian, Dr. Chris Buckley, drove to Allegan to offer his services and ended up taking the 20 dogs, mainly Shih Tzu mixes, back to HSWM.

“We gave them all baths again yesterday, so they’ve all been groomed and microchipped,” said Nicole Cook, marketing and events coordinator at HSWM. “Now we can spay and neuter them and medically treat them. Many of them have dental and eye issues, not uncommon for dogs in a puppy mill situation.”
Cook said many of the dogs are not socialized and will need to be evaluated before they’re available for adoption.
“We’ll continue to watch and see which dogs need further (medical) attention and we’re watching to make sure they’re socialized,” Cook said. “A couple of them are very social, so we can tell they’ve been worked with, but the majority are typically hesitant with their surroundings. They don’t know what’s going on, and they shake when you pick them up. It breaks our hearts to see them in this situation, but we’re lucky that we can help them.”
One way to help in socializing the dogs, Cook said, is to have them in foster homes before they are permanently adopted.
“We’re hoping to have them available for adoption soon, but we can’t say either way,” she said. “We’ve only had them 24 hours, so we should know a lot more in the next few days. We’re asking people to stay tuned and check our website and Facebook page for updates.
“A lot of these dogs will go to foster homes before they’re adopted. They may go to foster-to-adopt families, where we’ll help out a foster family and if they want to adopt the dog after that, it will be an easier transition. They need the extra socialization of a foster home, and our situation (in kennels in the humane society) is stressful at is it, so a foster home will make it that much easier.”
Cook said once people found out HSWM was taking in some of the dogs, the phones started ringing. While the puppy mill dogs aren’t yet ready for adoption, HSWM is seeking in-kind donations such as blankets and toys as well as monetary donations to help cover the medical expenses.
Cook said it’s not likely HSWM will get more of the dogs, but will accept them if asked.
“Last we heard yesterday, (Allegan) had transferred out more than 200 of the dogs,” Cook said. “It’s impressive the way everyone is stepping up to help.
“It’s unfortunate we have these situations, but the nice thing is that people care enough to do something about it. And people who come here to ask about the dogs might not end up with one of these dogs, but there is always another dog waiting for them to come in that might end up with a forever home.”

BISSELL Pet Foundation responds to Allegan dogs’ needs with $10,000 donation

The response to the dog hoarding/puppy mill case this week in Allegan County has been overwhelming, bringing hundreds of volunteers, supplies and monetary donations.

Count the BISSELL Pet Foundation among the emergency responders to come to the aid of the 352 seized dogs currently being cared for by the Allegan County Animal Shelter.

The foundation, created by animal advocate and BISSELL Inc. director of corporate affairs Cathy Bissell, on Wednesday afternoon delivered a $10,000 donation check to help pay for the medical treatment of the Shih Tzus, Pomeranians and other small breed dogs. A BISSELL representative presented the donation to Susan Smith, president of the Wishbone Pet Rescue Alliance, which runs the Allegan Shelter.

“We obviously saw it unfolding in the media, and our Amanda Parrish (a BISSELL Inc. employee) volunteered down there, so we made some connections with them,” said Veronica Dainelis, administrative assistant in the executive office at BISSELL Inc. “Cathy wanted to immediately respond.

“Three hundred and fifty dogs is a huge financial responsibility, and we felt the best way we could help was through a monetary donation. They need food and other in-kind donations that are easier for the public to purchase, but most people can’t fund heartworm tests, vaccines, dental work and the routine care these dogs are going to need. We thought it best to send monetary support so they could get the medical care they need.”

Dainelis was told it’s doubtful many of the dogs rescued have ever seen a veterinarian.

“They have a lot of issues typical of small breed dogs who don’t get veterinary care, including poor dental health, abscess teeth and skin conditions because of a lack of grooming,” Dainelis said. “Those all cost a significant amount of money, so we wanted to do what we could to help provide them care.”

The BISSELL Pet Foundation, which was founded in late 2011, had come to the aid of an animal cruelty case in Kentucky, where 96 dogs were saved by Animal Rescue Corps. In that case, BPF gave a $7,500 grant to help pay for medical expenses from the “Operation Sweethearts” placement partners.

When it came time to help out a shelter in the Grand Rapids-based company’s own back yard, there was no hesitation.

“Cathy immediately wanted to get money to them,” Dainelis said. “She recognized the urgency and need of these animals and wanted to support this effort in a big. way.”


A plea to those who want to help in Allegan County Animal Shelter ‘Shih-Tzu-ation’

Editor’s note: Following is a guest blog from animal advocate and good friend Karen Terpstra, former Executive Director of the Humane Society of Kent County (now Humane Society of West Michigan). She also was the Assistant Executive Director of the Pasadena (Calif.) Humane Society and Vice President of Operations at both the SPCA of Cincinnati and the Humane Society of Charlotte (N.C.).  She is a certified animal welfare administrator who helped in the rescue of animals after Hurricane Katrina and has experience with animal cruelty cases, hoarders and puppy mill busts. 

We hear and see stories in the news about animals in peril: A cat or dog who has been abused, hundreds of cats and dogs left homeless by a hurricane or tornado, pets from a hoarder’s house or, most recently, 352 small breed dogs from a puppy mill operation in Allegan County.


Guest blogger Karen Terpstra, shown at the Reindog Parade, an SPCA of Cincinnati function. Rudy, the adoptable dog in the photo, found his forever home in 2009.

Our hearts ache for these animals and we want to help. And they need our help. Due to the sheer volume of animals and how they were housed, they will need extensive veterinary and grooming care. Most have filthy, matted fur, skin issues, bad teeth and communicable diseases from cramped living quarters and an unsanitary environment.

In addition to their immediate medical needs, they probably have extensive social needs from having limited contact with people. Most likely have never been inside a house or had an opportunity to run around. They have not walked on grass or carpet or a sidewalk. They have never been on leashes. They have not been around children, cats or other dogs (outside of their cramped cages) and often are very shy or scared. They are not house trained. Shih Tzus have the reputation of being one of the most difficult breeds to house train. They are a very smart and sweet breed, but are also known for their stubbornness.

If you have always wanted a Shih Tzu or a Pomeranian or other small dog breed, if you understand the breed, if you have the time, patience, home environment and budget to help one of these animals and provide it with a life-long, loving home, then, by all means, apply to adopt one.

If that doesn’t sound like you, you can still help. Donate money or items from the wish list to the Allegan Shelter. Educate yourself about puppy mills and share this information with your friends. Puppy mill dogs are not only found in pet stores, they are often sold through Craigslist and classified ads. (A responsible breeder will let you meet the mother dog and the entire litter where they are being housed.)

Take comfort in the fact that these puppy mill dogs are safe now. They have been rescued and they are getting the care and attention they need. Thousands of people are applying to adopt them and they will get homes.

However, our shelters and rescues are filled with animals who need homes. They don’t have a story leading the 11 o’clock news about how they ended up in the shelter, but often their need is more urgent. If no one adopts them, they may be euthanized. Many of these cats and dogs are ready to fit in to your home: house trained, litter trained, know basic obedience, good with other animals or children.

Adopt a pet from a shelter or rescue. Be a quiet hero and know that you have saved a life.

It’s only the beginning for Allegan County dogs rescued from deplorable conditions

The first thing that came to my mind when I heard a blurb on television saying that more than 350 dogs had been seized from a property in Allegan County was, “They’re going to need a lot of help.”

Many of the small dogs seized and brought to the Allegan County Animal Shelter were covered in feces and filth, and cleanup began immediately. (WOOD TV8 photo)

Judging from the photos and video on WOOD-TV’s website, I was right. Fortunately, many West Michigan area veterinarians and volunteers lined up to aid in the initial intake of the dogs, most of which were Pomeranians and Shih Tzus. The dogs, some of which were pregnant, were covered in filth and feces. The task to clean them up began immediately, and they were given the proper medication. Understandably, they weren’t in the best of health upon arrival.

Now comes the hard part. The shelter has a capacity of 36 dogs and will need these rescued dogs to find homes, whether it be a temporary foster home or a “forever” home.

If you’re interested in fostering or adopting, check out the Allegan County Animal Shelter Facebook page or see the available animals at its Petfinder site.

The shelter also is seeking donations to help care for the dogs, from monetary donations to items such as blankets, bleach and canned dog food.

Anyone who can help is urged to call the shelter at 269.686.5112 and leave a voicemail. Keep in mind they’re overwhelmed with calls and might take a day or two to return the call.

If you wish to send a check to help out, the address is: Allegan County Animal Shelter, 2283 33rd Street, Allegan, MI, 49010. You also may donate online via Wishbone Pet Rescue, or through this PayItSquare link organized by the Allegan County Animal Shelter.