Woman Accused Of Hoarding Animals in GR Home Now Has Close To 40 Dogs

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Grand Rapids, Mich. — A woman accused of hoarding more than 20 animals in a residential home in Grand Rapids in mid-November has told authorities she now has close to 40 dogs.

Some of those recently adopted dogs came from Barry County.

We first brought you that story in mid-November and since that time, authorities have taken note.

At that time, the dog’s owner Kimberly Savino said she had moved here from Massachusetts where she had been operating a dog grooming service  as well as a “dog rescue”.

She told us she had moved here to live with her aunt and uncle to be closer to family.

Grand Rapids doesn`t have a dog limit. All the animals are fine,” said Kimberly Savino, the dog’s owner.

She had more than 20 dogs in the home at that time and didn’t feel that was too many to care for. “It really depends on the situation. For most people yes,” said Savino.

“This is something that we specifically built a home to do and we`re buying another one to do.

The animals are taken care of. It`s not an issue of quantity, it`s an issue of quality of care.”

However, a woman who was hired as a pet-sitter by Savino didn’t agree.

She felt the dogs were being neglected and were fighting and hurting one another due to the stress.

Renee Miles called animal control in Kent County on November, 4, to file a report, accusing her of hoarding.

“It really takes two people, when 18 dogs get into this tiny little computer room, they start to fight, I actually saw blood,” said Miles.

Savino said she fired Miles for breach of contract.

And that wasn’t the first report of dogs fighting.

A neighbor called animal control to file a complaint around August, 6, also saying there was concern that there were more than 20 animals in the home and they could be overheard fighting.

That person also reported fear that the animals were injured.

Now a newly released report from animal control is showing just how many dogs may be living in the home in the 2000 block of Oakwood NE in Grand Rapids.

FOX 17 got the report through the Freedom of Information Act.

It states that the number of dogs that she says she is caring for and is looking to purchase licenses for has grown to 37.

In a letter written to officials in Kent county, she stated that she, “relocated 12 more dogs from Massachusetts on November 5th and had adopted 3 dogs from Barry County at the end of September.”

After FOX 17 ran the report in early November, animal control also took note.

The report states Officer Joe Dainellis said, “local news media did a story on the dog owner Kimberly Savino…..Animal Control had an ongoing investigation into conditions…..”

Although they had a different inspection date set up, the officer went to do a surprise inspection the next day.

He states, “She was not prepared and she could not allow me to inspect on this date and time.”…”She told me that she had an appointment.”

That was the same thing she told FOX 17 when we asked to see the dogs just a day earlier. “Because we have a medical appointment,” said Savino.

Then she said, “No, I don`t want to do that actually.”

In response, the animal control officer reported, “I told her that I know the media did a story and when this happens people do not let us in until they have a chance to clean everything up and it almost seems like people that do that are trying to hide what`s really going on.”

The report states that Savino told the officer that she would rather have an inspection done with a lawyer present.

When the animal control officer was let into the home on November, 14, he said most of the dogs were outside of their crates, locked in various rooms of the home together or in an area outside.
However, he stated in the report, “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.”

Savino maintained in our previous interview that she feels it’s in her right to have the animals, as long as she can take care of them.

“Grand Rapids stands by it`s policy of not having a dog limit,” said Savino.

Officers say they warned Savino that she couldn’t keep animals confined in the crates for more than four hours.

They are also still in contact with her regarding late fees that have incurred for having the dogs for more than 30 days in Kent County without licensing them.

Animal control says there is nothing they can do to limit the numbers of dogs in a home because Grand Rapids has no ordinance limiting dogs.

They said in the report that it appeared that Grand Rapids was the only city in Kent County without such restrictions.

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  • Mac Woods

    True, Grand Rapids has "no ordinance" limiting the number of dogs one may keep in a house; because when common sense governed all decisions public and private, the need for such an ordinance did not exist. Now apparently, this needs to be re-evaluated. It is not a failure of existing ordinances. It is the total absence of common sense, and for that matter, common courtesy.

  • Kristi

    Any way we can do a follow up on this story? Live right across from her and still hearing lots of dogs barking daily. I feel so bad.

  • dawgmother

    Here's a follow-up for you, since the media tends to drop stories once the sensationalism dwindles. I am the owner of these dogs. I find it quite amusing to see how many gullible readers there are who visit this site…Although my hope is that the greater number (who haven't left comments) are aware of when the media may deliberately be misleading them, by intentionally omitting details, twisting facts, and presenting the story in such a manner that contributes to sensationalism, not truth. I did move out here several months ago to help a family member after surgery. I brought my dogs out slowly over several months. I have run a group home for special needs, senior, and rescued dogs for many years in another state. The house is over 5,000 sq ft and has been designed around their needs. I am in the process of seeking a new property for them in this area which will be comparable, and am staying in this home and neighborhood temporarily. Although the sq footage of the home is nearly half the size, it is kept very clean and organized, inside and out, and all of our animals are in good condition. They are current on vaccines and preventative medications, are regularly vetted and groomed, and someone is here with them around the clock. The dogs are well-behaved and happy, and benefit from living in a more natural pack environment. The dogs weren't licensed immediately upon arrival because of incorrect information provided to me by office staff at Kent County Animal shelter, when I had initially contacted them last spring, PRIOR to bringing my dogs out. The first animal control inspection was completed in July by a female officer, who also incorrectly informed me regarding the 30 day licensure requirement and penalties, although she denied this when questioned following the media exposure. The hand-out she provided me with at this time from Kent Cty Animal Control also contained a grammatical error which furthered my confusion re the requirement. I did license the dogs immediately upon learning the correct requirement, and payed the late fee. In regards to welfare concerns, they are all unfounded. We have had MULTIPLE ACO inspections since November, and have passed all without incident. I did not in fact delay the "random" inspection attempts because I was unprepared; I delayed them because we'd all ready agreed upon a set appointment the following day, and I'd set aside time for that, amidst a number of important medical appointments that we had at the time. There have been only two noise complaints that we are aware of in the time we've been here (one in July, causing the follow up ACO visit, and one recently), and both parties who have made the complaints have admitted that they just didn't like the dogs being there, and would do whatever is necessary to eliminate them – We even have a voicemail from one of the complaintants documenting this. Neither complaint was verified or founded. (contd 1)

  • dawgmother

    The ONLY person who has made welfare complaints to Animal Control was the sitter, and I verified this by FOIA requesting any reports made since last spring. The first police complaint in July was noise due to two herding breeds briefly bickering when they were new to each other – not fighting – and there was never any injury. Unlike some of our neighbors on both Oakwood and Comstock, we do not leave our dogs outside barking, and do not tie them outdoors, which contributes to boredom barking, and poses a safety risk to the dog. Our dogs initially bark for 10-15 seconds when being let out. They are accompanied the entire time outdoors, and are brought in immediately if they bark beyond that. We do not allow them to play outdoors anymore, using indoors and local parks as alternatives. Their waste is picked up immediately each time they go, and there have never been any fly, odor, or any health complaints – and the majority of dogs have been here since last July. The property is kept very neat, and as some neighbors have noticed, has actually improved since our arrival, including painting the entire exterior house and the fence, neatening the yard, and rehabbing and painting the garage. Officer Joe stated that while HIS PERSONAL (aka "unofficial") opinion was that this is too great a quantity of dogs to keep in a city residential permanently, we are not in violation of anything – Laws, health codes, etc. The dogs I brought out here in November were my legally owned dogs back in my home state, not new adoptees, as Ms. Dowling attempted to falsely portray via the headline of an earlier article. I did adopt three dogs from Barry county in September. Due to the type of dogs I take in, I confront a number of deaths each year…Many are of advanced age, or have serious health issues. We lost eight dogs last year, and I adopted six. This keeps the "pupulation" stable, not increased, as I only take in new dogs when others have passed. While I have no set number of dogs I care for at a given time, the range has varied from 30-40 for years, and my limit has been determined by the needs and expenses associated with the dogs I have at the time, as I refuse to allow myself to be overwhelmed. Remember also that I PRIVATELY fund the care of these animals – Your tax dollars have never and will never go toward their care (nor toward the expense of euthanasia, of all the dogs who aren't able to be placed each year in municipal shelters and pounds), nor have I requested financial donations from the public for their upkeep, that could instead be used for animals placed for adoption via tax-exempt nonprofit organizations. The only problem here has been our sitter, who had a bone to pick with me (pun intended) simply because she wished to adopt one of my senior/special needs dogs, and I wouldn't permit her to do so. It wasn't until after I politely declined her, and offered to help connect her with a rescue that had similar, adoptable dogs, that her behavior changed, and she filed the report. In fact, I have both emails and voicemail stating how well things were going here, up until the point where she didn't get her way. The only dog with an "injury" was a young puppy mill terrier who has socialization issues, and had a tear from grooming the day before I left. The dog was immediately brought to the local emergency hospital (after midnight) and had the wound properly sutured, and was placed on medication as a preventative. A Maltese also had a very small nick on his leg, and I had covered this in a Coflex bandage to keep him from chewing it as it healed. (cont'd 2)

  • dawgmother

    She knows very well that the dogs aren't "hoarded" nor are they "locked in crates for 23 hours a day." This individual did not understand the concept of group and special needs animal care, meaning that special techniques and procedures have to be used to ensure that they get what they need in an orderly format. Since she was a new worker with very minimal animal care experience of her own, her duties were kept minimal for this trip. The infamous photo of the crates stacked up was taken by me for her, for identification purposes of the dogs, as many look similar. Her claim that the animals were "hungry and thirsty" when interviewed on tv was laughable – The reason we hired a petsitter in the first place was to come and feed and hydrate them! She was aware that another resident in the home, as well as a close friend, would be taking care of their other needs, including exercise and socialization – All she was being paid to do was some routine care tasks to start, once or twice daily. I also had informed her I was looking for help during the week, and invited her back after my return, so that she could have more time to learn about the animals and their routines, and see how things are done on a daily basis. If she had a true concern for the wellbeing of my animals, she could have a) asked me directly for explanations, rather than assuring me of how great everything was; b) accepted the invitation to come back and work here following my return, so that she could "help" the animals she was allegedly so concerned about, and "keep an eye" on our situation; and c) made a report to animal control, and stopped it right there. Someone who has concern for animals might contact the proper authority to help assure their wellbeing, but then they let it go when no violations are found. This person did not. Someone with an alternate agenda takes it a step further, as she did – by creating a media circus, going to city council, going to the zoning board, circulating letters among our neighbors publicly defaming us, driving by and parking outside our home, etc. What this individual does not realize is that she has achieved nothing by creating all this trouble for us, and makes her own position worse legally, each time she makes another inappropriate attempt at revenge. ACO has made multiple inspections, and they've all been violation-free. Contrary to what she stated in the letter she circulated, animal control isn't failing to "take action" here because there's no dog limit in GR…That's irrelevant. People can have 2-3 dogs who aren't cared for properly – It's not about quantity, it's quality of care provided. They aren't taking action because there have been no violations, as stated in the FOIA documents she included with the letter (but conveniently failed to include that one section.) In fact, the ACO supervisor, Officer Joe, requested that on our next inspection, he be permitted to bring along one of his trainees, so that he could show him the difference between hoarded, neglected animals, vs our situation, where people are maintaining a large quantity of animals properly in a home setting. So that's the facts..You as the readers may interpret them in any ways you choose. As for the alleged neighbor who reports hearing "lots of dogs barking daily", you might want to check to ensure the barking is actually coming from our home, and not from one of the many houses in this immediate area who do leave their dogs outdoors unattended at all hours, even at this time of year. We continue to make the initial release of the dogs into the yard as quick and quiet as possible, but the barking does not exceed 10-15 seconds at a time, always before 9pm – and we do time it, and have also installed a day/night audiovisual security camera, to help document this if needed in the future. If you still feel this is a problem, or have suggestions as to how we can more considerately maintain our animals, the best way to achieve positive change would be to simply stop by the house and let me know, or email me at thedogmother at ymail.com (change "at" to @), rather than leaving responses on internet message boards.