SILVER LAKE – An active criminal investigation is taking place after 56 dogs were removed from a home in Silver Lake Tuesday night, April 7.
The dogs, reportedly all Chihuahuas, have been taken in by the Animal Welfare League of Kosciusko County where they were scheduled to be assessed Wednesday afternoon by Dr. Carla Carlton of Lake City Animal Health & Wellness Center.
Silver Lake Town Marshal Jason McGlennen and Silver Lake Fire Chief John Conley answered questions at an informal press conference Wednesday.
McGlennen said it’s possible that misdemeanor charges could be filed at some point but did not specify what those charges would be.
Authorities have not released the names of the people being investigated.
Conley said the fire department’s involvement began March 23 when the homeowner at 505 W. Hilltop Lane called to report a stove fire.
The fire was out by the time firefighters arrived, As they were ventilating the house and checking things out, they noticed the condition of the home.
Conley was at work and did not arrive until they were nearly done. He said the firefighters who responded to the call asked him to contact the board of health.
“This is the first time my guys have ever asked me to contact the board of health,” Conley said.
“The guys noticed about 10 dogs when they first went in and then as they were looking around they saw 15-20 more dogs,” Conley said. “We were estimating there were about 30 dogs in the house.”
Conley said that, according to information on the Beacon site, the size of the home where the animal were kept is 840 square feet.
Upon contacting the board of health, Conley said he was asked to send pictures of the home in order to begin the investigation.
Conley said shortly after the board of health was contacted, the Governor’s order went into effect “and it kind of stopped there.”
Monday, April 6, another call was received for a stove fire at the same location. The homeowner was taken to a local hospital at that time.
“We had no idea there were that many dogs in the house,” McGlennen said. “Neighbors had made complaints in the past that there were a lot of dogs in there; however, nobody, I believe, thought there were this many.”
McGlennen said they did not have enough assistance to remove the dogs from the home Monday night. They obtained a search warrant, returned Tuesday evening and took the dogs to AWL. Silver Lake Volunteer Fire Department provided lighting during the rescue.
“There were eight people helping,” Conley said. “Four of them were deputy marshals from Silver Lake, three of them were volunteers and another person was taking pictures of the dogs and doing paperwork.”
McGlennen said he has been in law enforcement for 20 years and has never seen this type of situation.
McGlennen said there is no ordinance in Silver Lake limiting the number of dogs a person can own.
“So our dog ordinance in Silver Lake is that they can’t run loose, they have to be on a leash,” McGlennen said. “The ordinance we looked at a few years ago, we talked about having a cap on the number of dogs. It was debated, but the council at that time did not pass it because of breed of dogs they had listed on there as well.”
The AWL is asking for donations to help with the care of the dogs.
“They are not healthy,” said Sally Scott, executive director at AWL. “They’re in pretty bad shape.”
Scott said the dogs do not appear to have been well-fed. She described them as “quite thin.”
Beth Harrison, AWL Board of Directors president, provided information via a Facebook post in which she said some of the dogs are pregnant and one is currently in labor.
According to Harrison’s post, the dogs were kept inside with no human contact other than their owner.
“They have not received veterinary care, that we can see, of any type. Some have nails grown into the pads of their feet and don’t walk. One dog actually has nails growing thru the top of their feet, from the underside,” an excerpt from Harrison’s post reads.
Scott said the outpouring of support from the community has been incredible.
“The community has just really come together. It’s like a drive-thru of people dropping off donations — blankets, towels, pet food. Money donations have been coming in,” Scott said. “We’re so grateful and it’s just so great to see everybody step up to want to help these dogs.”
“The community has been amazing,” said Ben Bingham, vice president of the AWL Board of Directors.
Scott said they will be keeping the public updated through their Facebook page as time allows.
“A lot of people have been asking about fostering the dogs,” Scott said. “While we’re very grateful for that, right now they need to stay in our care. When we assess their health and we’re ready to have people take these dogs into their home, we’ll let everybody know.”
Scott said the shelter is closed at this time and they are allowing people in by appointment only.
Jean Weller, Silver Lake Lions Club secretary, has lived in Silver Lake her entire life. Weller, whose son and daughter-in-law assisted with the removal of the dogs from the home, took items to the AWL this morning.
“I am happy those little babies have been rescued,” Weller said. “It just breaks my heart to know this was going on in Silver Lake. Kudos to the judge for signing the warrant, to the Silver Lake Police Department, my kids — Amy and Tracy Marshall and the AWL team. God bless them all.”