One of two dogs returned to owner who couldn’t afford shelter, licensing fees

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- After an outpouring of support and fundraising, one of two dogs' fees were paid and she was returned home from the Kent County Animal Shelter Monday afternoon.

"[Bella's] up to date, she’s home, she’s happy," said Todd Spaans, dog owner.

After FOX 17's story about Spaans' predicament, local animal rescues and community members wanted to help. The story began back on June 1 when Spaans was in South Carolina fishing while a family member watched his dogs, Jesse and Bella. The pair escaped into the neighbor's yard, and the neighbor called animal control.

Spaans told FOX 17 he called the shelter June 1 but couldn't afford the fees. He got home June 3 and went to the shelter June 7, but the fees added up to $536, including $75 per dog because their county licenses had expired.

While Bella is a home, Spaans and his family are looking for his 3-and-half-year-old coon hound named Jesse. Shelter records show Jesse was adopted by a local family June 14.

"I adopted [Jesse] out at eight months old, and it would be a great pleasure to get her back and continue our friendship and raising her up," said Spaans.

Julie Steffen, who runs Mosh Pit Rescue,stepped up to cover the nearly $400 she said it cost to bring Bella home Monday. Spaans says he will donate his GoFundMe funds to Mosh Pit.

"A lot of this is just because I care about the dogs and I want a better life for the dogs, and obviously for this dog, for Bella, that’s with Todd," said Steffen.

"So many people I haven’t even gotten to respond to, it’s overwhelming, and it pleases my heart to know that there’s good people out there still want good," said Spaans of all who helped.

Now Sasha’s Angel Rescue Network is offering a $250 reward to return Jesse to Spaans, plus covering all adoption fees from a shelter of the family’s choice to rescue another dog.

Steffen says it took investigative work to get Bella released on Monday.

"We saw your story online posting about a man whose dogs were missing, and we called the shelter [Monday] morning as the rescue, offering to pay the fees for the dog so that he could be reunited with his animals," said Steffen. "And we were told that the dogs had been adopted. We kind of knew that wasn’t true somehow."

After calling, Steffen shared pictures she received that showed Bella was still up for adoption at the shelter.

"I don’t know if that was a miscommunication or what exactly that was, rest assured we’re looking into it," said Steve Kelso, Kent County spokesperson. "That is not us. We really want to communicate firmly and honestly with anybody who wants to call here."

Kelso reminds dog owners if the dogs’ licenses had been valid, $150 in penalty fees would have been avoided. Each day, fees increased by $17 in boarding costs per dog.

"Not having your dog licensed, and in this case the inaction of not doing anything, really ran those fees up to where it really became an unfortunate situation," said Kelso.

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4 comments

  • RG

    A dog license is only $20. If he couldn’t afford that before the dogs were picked up, he’s an irresponsible owner and shouldn’t get the dogs back.

    • NEW Bob

      You struggle with reading it seems. License expired in May, like as in the LAST DAY OF MAY! The dogs escaped on June 1st while the owner was on vacation.

      Was there an oversight of not renewing the tags before the vacation, yes, but to call them irresponsible dog owners is irresponsible of you.

      Next time try reading.

      • Michael

        If it expired in May it would be May 1st- not the last day. It wouldn’t expire in May if it was valid for the entire month.

        This seems like the worst case scenario with two dogs doubling the fees and the owner being out of town for awhile but this is exactly why people should be responsible and don’t wait until the last minute to renew anything. You can renew most things early (12 months early on a drivers license, 6 months on a license plate) yet I hear “I haven’t had time” quite often.

        Hopefully he learned his lesson. Hopefully he also gets a better dog sitter that will catch the escaped dogs next time. The neighbor didn’t seem to have a problem catching them then calling animal control.

  • catwomn220

    I am the neighbor and no, I didn’t have any problems catching the pitbull because as soon as she heard my voice, she came running right to me and even pushed past me through my gate and into my yard! The hound was very scared and skittish though and we had to catch her. My youngest son had to help. She showed up not long before Animal Control showed up…I didn’t even know she belonged to the same people at first and didn’t know where they belonged for sure…once the hound showed up, I suspected I knew which house because the neighbors had a dog that howled all the time like a Beagle or Hound type dog so we did try knocking but nobody answered. Later, I noticed the back screen door looked stuck open as if they had broken out of the screened in porch and there was a big hole in their privacy fence too. I called the number several times without any answer and left messages every time. The pitbull was here for over 4 hours. The hound showed up just before they got picked up. I tried to keep them as long as possible but I have my own pets. The owner finally called after they were gone and I told him where his dog’s were. Animal Control even went to their house too before leaving. Nobody was around. We did our best though. :-( We live on a busy road so it’s kind of a miracle neither dog got hit and I happened to go out and see them both in time to keep them safe. That hound…she seemed so scared and skittish, I worry she had been abused or traumatized in her past? The pitbull though, she was very sweet and friendly. But, she was right on the corner almost ready to go into the road when I saw her and she heard my voice. Anyway, I’m sorry for them all. I really did my best to help but ultimately, I hope the dog’s end up in the best place for them no matter what. The owner knew the day of, right after they were picked up and I thought he said they were in Alabama, not South Carolina? But, he was home the next day or two…I guess I thought his daughter, who was supposed to be babysitting, would be responsible for getting them back fast? That was my impression…or maybe I just assumed because he said she was watching them for him? I did notice the tags were outdated…from 2015, not last year or this year. So, yeah, unless they just never put newer tags on, those tags were from 2015. Maybe that’s why it was so expensive? Again though, I wish the best! Those dog’s were both very sweet and they deserve the absolute best care and love possible! Prayers for them!