DORR, Mich. — A court battle involving the business partners of a Dorr pet store had some members of the community concerned about the welfare of the animals inside.
The Giggle Pets store on 142nd Avenue was closed while the Allegan County Courts sorted out the details of an ongoing civil dispute.
During that time, court-appointed caretakers were assigned to look out for the animals which were still inside the store.
Some former caretakers accused one of the co-owners and managers at the store of neglect.
Images of dirty cages, dead birds and birds that had their feathers missing inside of the store were released on social media following a clean-up project that happened after the courts first took over.
Allegan County Court documents show that the civil dispute involves one partner taking the other to court over accusations of embezzlement, mismanagement of money and a number of other alleged violations of their partnership agreement.
David Balder is listed as the plaintiff in the case while Alden Loew is listed as the defendant.
The complaint was filed in July of 2013.
Now that the business has recently been allowed to re-open by the courts, the legal dispute continues and could still be wearing on the animals.
While the store looked clean Wednesday, November, 27, it’s still not out of the woods according to employees and volunteers who are concerned that the power could be shut off.
Carol Levandoski works with birds at Giggle Pets on a regular basis and knows them by name.
She said said she’s concerned that the power will be turned off because the store had been closed for so long, it wasn’t generating revenue.
“We did get a shut off notice scheduled for the 29th,” said Levandoski.
She said co-owner and manager Alden Loew was trying his best to keep it up and running while the dispute dragged on.
“Alden used up all of his money to buy food for the animals,” said Levandoski.
His attorney Susan Knoll said, “It’s a problem we are aware of and we are working through it.”
Loew said he couldn’t talk about the case because it’s still going through the courts, but did ask us to speak to Knoll.
She stated that Loew was trying to pay out of his own pocket to feed the animals and keep the power on.
In fact, Levandoski posted an ad for finches on Craig’s List in Grand Rapids around November 13, 2013 in order to try to sell some of the store’s Zebra Finches.
It read, “Our power is going to be shut off and we are reducing the number of mouths to feed.”
There were also posts online having to do with kittens and other animals in need of homes.
“We were able to place all of our kittens and some Guinna pigs and some rabbits. But, we still need to place a lot more,” said Levandoski.
She also posted a message on Facebook:
“Giggle pets update: For the month that the court appointed receiver and the other business partner had control of the store, NO bills were paid. We weren’t able to sell anything to create funds for more food or utilities. We are gladly accepting donations to buy food for the animals. If anyone knows of charities that will help with bird food please let me know. We will be offering discounts on product and services to those that can help us pay the bills. Thank you to everyone who can help us out.”
“I was managing the Giggle Pets Facebook page and I made a personal request for help,” Levandoski said. “It got construed as the store asking for donations which wasn’t the case.”
The conditions of the pet store also looked much improved compared to the images that started emerging on social media after the partners were locked out by the courts and a court-appointed receiver and care-takers were instructed to care for the animals.
Two women who helped to clean the facility had a lot to say about the conditions, but they wanted to remain anonymous.
“Disgusting…the flies in there. Oh my God,” they said.
The volunteers said they had to wear rubber gloves and masks to clean the cages.
They said there were maggots located in some of the feces which were making the animals sick.
They partially blamed Loew for the declining conditions because he was in control of the store before they were allowed to go in to clean.
“There was a love bird dead. There was a macaw, parakeet,” said the former volunteer.
As for the timing of those photos, Loew’s attorney Susan Knoll said they were taken when the store was in receivership, not in Loew’s care.
Knoll said Loew was not permitted inside at the time to care for the animals.
“They were quite quiet when we got the store back and standoff-ish because we handle them a lot during the day, talk to them and keep them friendly,” said Levandoski. “There`s no birds that are being abused or neglected.”
Levandoski said Loew is a good caretaker and the pictures do not reflect his care of a pet store.
If the store goes dark due to a power shut-off later in the week, Levandoski says they will find a way to manage that too.
“It worries me all the time, because what`s going on on the Internet is hurting business,” said Levandoski. “Being closed isn`t being able to bring in the income to pay for utilities and food for the animals.”
Knoll said the parties could be close to settling.
Balder was unavailable for comment Wednesday due to the ongoing legal situation surrounding the case although he told us in a previous interview he was concerned for the welfare of the animals as well under Loew’s care.
He referred us to his attorney for further comment.