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Nearly 350 animals rescued from Calhoun Co. ‘hobby farm gone wild’

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BURLINGTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. - Nearly 350 animals, most ornamental from Muscovy ducks to ponies, have been rescued from a living hell, a hobby farm in Burlington Township.

Calhoun County Animal Control Deputy Justin Reniger said a concerned citizen called Sept. 9 stating she saw sheep from the road that looked like they had not been sheared for at least a year. On Sept. 10, Reniger said deputies showed up to the home on 9 Mile Road near M Drive South with a search warrant, and seized about 340 animals.

“I found several hundred animals to be in extremely unsanitary conditions, overcrowded cages, some were in cages that were not fit for that type of animal," said Reniger. "Numerous animals appeared to be underweight or neglected, several did not have food and water present when I was there.”

Reniger enlisted the help of the non-profit rescue organization All Species Kinship. Executive Director Sophia DiPietro said they rescued about 175 birds, and told FOX 17, "the smell was atrocious," even with barn doors open, and “the back of our transport van stunk for at least a week after.”

“Looking for birds many of them were hidden in pens that were overgrown so bad in foliage that you couldn’t even see them," said DiPietro. “This was just a small would appear to be a hobby farm, or a collector, that had kind of gone wild.”

Many of the animals were so thin, DiPietro and Reniger said, they had protruding rib cages and were stuffed into small cages or filthy aquariums, and left without food and water.

Many of the animals that were also underweight, including potbelly pigs, goats, sheep, ponies, ducks, chickens, and roosters.  The birds' nails were very long and infected DiPietro said.  Many of the animals are now rehabbing at numerous foster homes and agencies around the state, including SASHA Farm Animal Sanctuary.

Tanya Shoffner welcomed several ducks, chickens and a rooster into her home where she keeps free-range chickens. Shoffner showed FOX 17 that she can still easily feel the animals' breast bones, something not normal for healthy fowl.

“The first time I brought them here, and I brought them in a pet carrier, and I turned them out, it was like they had never seen grass before," said Shoffner. "So they wouldn’t even move very far they were just picking at the grass and eating everything in sight.”

Calhoun County Animal Control deputies say that this is the largest animal cruelty case they've dealt with in years.

Although rescuers said the animals are making healthy strides, they want the people involved in this case held responsible. Reniger said the Calhoun County Prosecutor's office has issued charges against three people involved in this case: pending arrest they are facing an animal neglect charge involving 10 or more animals, which is a four-year felony.


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