GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The Humane Society of West Michigan says they’d like to be involved in the discussion about how many dogs should be allowed inside residential dwellings in the city of Grand Rapids.
The issue has been of concern in the Preston neighborhood area after a woman moved into her aunt and uncle’s home from Massachusetts a few months ago.
She has now stated to Kent County that she has 37 dogs listed at the home with a former caretaker of the animals also reporting there were seven cats.
A neighbor who said that she hears dogs fighting constantly at the home on Oakwood NE made an appeal to FOX 17, asking someone to do something about what she says is a big problem.
“(I) have seen and heard them fighting. It was bad enough with 20, but now almost 40? Something has to be done and soon. They are bringing in more dogs because they can get away with it,” said Allison Preston.
We talked to another neighbor who said that he didn’t mind that Grand Rapids didn’t have a limit on animals.
While yet another neighbor felt it was too many for an urban home.
“I love dogs and animals, but there`s a proper place for them,” he said.
Another neighbor reported to FOX 17 noise issues with the home when 20 or more dogs were let out in the middle of the night.
Some neighbors and critics who contacted FOX 17 have complained that this is a possible hoarding situation.
We had spoken to Kimberly Savino, the dog’s owner, previously as she battled with those complaining about the care of the animals.
A former caretaker called animal control to file a complaint about her with the county in early Novmber, saying the dogs were kept in tiny crates all day.
Savino said she was fired for breach of contract and defended her right to own the animals.
“The animals are taken care of. It`s not an issue of quantity, it`s an issue of quality of care,” said Savino.
The Animal Behavioral Specialist with the Humane Society of West Michigan says she’s not surprised that neighbors might hear the dogs barking and fighting.
“I think it`s kind of an expected thing to see a lot of conflict within dogs or among dogs when they are forced to live in such a close environment with so many dogs,” said Namiko Ota-Noveskey.
She said that dogs are very similar to people in their social and stress patterns and behavior.
“If we put 40 strangers in one home, and we can see how well they live together, some may live well, some may not,” said Ota-Noveskey. “If you`re talking small even to medium sized dog in a regular residential Grand Rapids City, then I think it`s too many.”
City commissioners have said that concerns over animals are typically an issue for Kent County to handle, not the city.
“The traditional approach to issues around dogs and in particular abuse is the county addresses that,” said Ruth Kelly, city commissioner.
“It is a partnership with the county. The major responsibility lies with the county,” said Elias Lumpkins, city commissioner.
Although a Kent County Animal Control officer did investigate, he said he couldn’t charge Savino at that time.
However, he felt that more than 40 animals in the home was too many.
His report stated, “I told Kimberly that there did not appear to be animal cruelty violations that I could charge at this point’….’I advised that it was in my opinion too many animals to keep in a residential dwelling.”
The county has explained, even if their officials feel the numbers are too high, there is nothing they can do because the city of Grand Rapids has no ordinance limiting dogs.
We took his opinion on the matter to some city commissioners.
“I hadn`t heard that,” said Ruth Kelly, “Yet again, we`ll meet with the county that`s the plan.”
Dave Shaffer, City Commission, First Ward said, “I would think it would take a little bit more time to look at how we`re currently operating it, what other cities have done. I think we`re looking at that now.”
“I don`t know but it should be reviewed,” said Elias Lumpkins, city commissioner.
The Humane Society of West Michigan said they would like to talk about the issue as well, saying it’s their opinion that guidelines might be needed.
“I think many people`s hearts are tugged, when you hear about 40 animals in a very small enclosure,”" said Trudy Ender, Executive Director of The Humane Society Of West Michigan. “It went from 20 to 40 rather quick and so my thought is that 40 may lead to more and this case blows the lid off of the fact that there aren`t any limitations that need to be made.”
Savino wanted to respond to the complaints about noise and fighting from neighbors and other critics. Her thoughts are below.