Family can’t afford licensing and fees to get dogs home from shelter

UPDATE: The dogs' owner's family started this GoFundMe which raised at least $600. The family tell FOX 17 they're working out possible details Monday with Kent County Animal Shelter.

KENT COUNTY, Mich. -- A family in Wyoming is heartbroken after they say their two dogs escaped for the first time from their backyard. Now housed in the Kent County Animal Shelter where they are up for adoption, they say they can't afford the fees to bring them home.

The dogs' owner Todd Spaans says he's devastated: a family member was watching his dogs at his home while he was on vacation in South Carolina. June 1 he says he returned from fishing when he received voicemails from his neighbor who put the dogs in her yard, then called animal control. When Spaans called that day from South Carolina, county records show the fees were $298 but no one was available to pick the dogs up.

County officials say the $75 failure to license fee, and additional $17 boarding per day fees could have been avoided if the dogs' licenses were valid and they were picked up immediately.

"I felt good about it, this is a lifelong decision, and I didn’t just do it on a whim, I looked up the breed of dog and I thought this is the type of dog I’d like to have, I’d like to rescue the dog," said Spaans of his dogs' adoption.

Spaans has had both dogs about three years: he raised Bella, a blue-nosed pit bull since she was six-weeks-old, then rescued Jessi the coonhound at eight-months-old from the Kent County Animal Shelter. He still hopes to get them back.

"I got home and I was just devastated by the amount of money: I had a house payment due, I mean I’m just a common working man, I don’t have that kind of money," explained Spaans. "I shouldn’t have to take a loan out to get my dogs back."

When he returned home June 3, Spaans says he knew he couldn't pay the bill but wanted to plead his case in person. June 7 he went to the Kent County Animal Shelter and county records show the fees had risen to $536. He said he was "flabbergasted," especially since it costs $130 to adopt a dog from this shelter.

"I don’t have a house payment in return just to retain my dogs back," said Spaans. "I would give them a donation, but $600? I can’t do it."

Kent County Spokesperson Steve Kelso says "there are a lot of costs associated with that animal shelter, and housing those dogs for that length of time costs that amount of money; actually we’re operating that at a loss."

Kelso says the main issue here is ensuring your dogs' county license is valid. Spaans says his dogs' licenses just expired in May.

"If your dog is licensed, we will bring it right to your house, and actually we extended that courtesy in this instance unfortunately the family wasn’t home," said Kelso.

According to the Kent County Animal Shelter website, Spaans' dog Bella is up for adoption there, along with a trail of comments debating the matter on the shelter's Facebook post.

Spaans says he’s heartbroken, reiterating this is the first time his dogs ever ran out of his yard, and he fixed the two slats in his fence they broke.

"If it was multiple times I get it, but if the very first time they’re picked up why don’t I get a chance to correct the issue, make sure they’re retained the way they’re supposed to be?" Spaans said. "I would’ve done that."

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16 comments

  • Old Bob

    Who fault was it that the dogs were not licensed. If they had been and it was the first time they got out there would not have been any additional fines

  • Diane Novak

    I will help. Can not afford paying it all..senior citizen…fixed income. I have 5 rescued dogs…love them…they are licensed. Maybe more people will help. If we all help a little. You can get them back.

  • Dj

    Why can a stranger adopt those dogs for 130 each but he must pay 600 to get the same dogs back. If I had the money I would help him out. This stinks

    • Michael

      His price includes fines and fees for the violations he is responsible for (Everything is doubled since there’s two dogs) I’m sorry but the dogs he was responsible for were unlicensed, running at large, and then housed at county expense. He shouldn’t get out of it for the $260 adoption fee.

      It sounds like there’s a relationship issue between this family and their neighbor. I know my neighbors would never turn my dogs over to animal control ESPECIALLY if this was their first time getting out as claimed.

      • catwomn220

        Um, no! I’m the neighbor! I don’t even know the people and didn’t know who the dog’s even belonged to when they showed up! I don’t live right next door, just nearby. And the dog’s showed up separately. First the pitbull showed up and she pushed her way into my gate and yard! I didn’t mind because I love animals and we live on a busy road and I didn’t want her to get hit but I had no idea who she belonged to! I had her for over 4 hours before calling Animal Control and I called the number on her old and outdated tags from 2015, several times leaving messages each time, trying to return her to them with no answer or call back until after she was gone. The hound showed up just before they both got picked up. I kept them for as long as I could but I have pets too. I could not safely keep them longer than I did. And once the hound showed up, I thought I might know where they belonged because she howled all the time, day and night and I went there and knocked too but nobody was there. Animal Control went there too before leaving with them. He called me back after they were gone and I could have sworn he told me he was in Alabama fishing, not South Carolina! Or North? Whatever…I did my best for those two babies and living on a busy road, am the only reason they’re not dead or injured! I tried my best to help them and keep them for as long as possible before calling Animal Control! :-(

  • JERRY

    if he go fishing he better budget him money better who goes on vaction and not have money saved he needs dave ramseys money school

  • Jan

    I understand both sides of the issue. But if animal rights groups want animals treated like human children,then you would be in jail for neglect. I do believe in some animal rights. But there are issues that have gotten out of control. Are we animal or are we human.? As humans we are above animals in intellect. We should act like it. Are we charging that neglectful parent so much a day to feed and house their children. Choices! Choices!

  • ok

    wish i could afford a ocean fishing trip . maybe i start a go fund me for that . since my dogs are legal maybe i get some help for what i want .

  • Common cents

    Perhaps this guy could save a little money for an emergency fund instead of spending every penny he makes? What about retirement? How about a savings account? Why not sell that precious fishing equipment to raise some money? This will be the guy who complains about not being able to live on what he receives fro Social Security when he never saved a penny in his life for retirement.

  • wisepati

    He didn’t license the dogs when he knew it was expired. Where the dogs out all the time and sought to escape? He could have saved all this but just being more responsible. And now he has others paying his bills, no wonder our society lacks responsibility!

  • catwomn220

    Those old outdated tags were from 2015, not this year. Unless he just hadn’t put the newer one’s on since 2015, that information is wrong. Also, I could have sworn he said he was in Alabama, not North Carolina, when he finally called me back? I had tried calling several times for over 4 hours before I finally called Animal Control. I tried hard to keep them for as long as possible before calling Animal Control but I have pets too. I couldn’t safely keep them long term and wasn’t sure I’d get a call back from the number I kept calling. 🙁 I left a lot of messages and when he called me back, I told him where they were. Animal Control even tried going to the house before leaving our area. I didn’t know for sure if it was the right house at first but it was. I don’t think they were checked on much because the hound had been howling for days all hours of the day and night and it looked like they broke out of the screened in porch AND the privacy fencing! The hound was very skittish and scared and flinched a lot when I tried to pet her to make her feel safe here. I thinkshe was traumatizedat some pointin her life? 🙁