Justin Holland pets Ross, a cat looking for a home.

Justin Holland pets Ross, a cat looking for a home.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Shelter seeks ‘forever homes’ for animals in need

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published May 7, 2021

 Madison Heights Animal Control Officer Justin Holland shows off Riley, a 3-year-old pit mix who has been at the shelter for six months and is in need of a home.

Madison Heights Animal Control Officer Justin Holland shows off Riley, a 3-year-old pit mix who has been at the shelter for six months and is in need of a home.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 Another cat at the shelter is  James, described as relaxed and playful.

Another cat at the shelter is James, described as relaxed and playful.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


MADISON HEIGHTS — When the Madison Heights Animal Shelter first found Riley, she was running loose on the streets with a large tumor on her right front elbow. The blue-and-white pit bull was timid but sweet, and in need of immediate care.

With the help of the shelter’s online auctions, funds were secured for surgery, and the tumor was safely removed. Now fully recovered, Riley is warming up to people and in need of a home.

“Riley is shy at first, but once she gets to know you, she really warms up to you,” the city’s animal control officer, Justin Holland, said via email. “She is a loving dog that loves to snuggle. Riley will adapt easily to either a high- or low-energy home. She is happy just lying on the couch or going for long walks. As long as she is with her people, she is happy and content.”

At press time, the shelter was still looking for those people — the right home to take in Riley and cherish her forever. She is one of about a half-dozen animals at the shelter who are still waiting for the right person to come by and welcome them into their life.

Others include Korra, a female pit mix puppy with black fur and a white chest, and a number of adult cats, including Peanut, a female calico; Charlie, an orange and white male; James, a male tuxedo cat; and the so-called “Friends” group, named after the characters on the TV show. This trio includes Chandler, a male gray and white tabby, and Ross and Joey, both male black cats.

Holland said that the shelter has not seen an increase or decrease in shelter intake recently — animals continue to arrive at rates consistent with pre-pandemic years. The winter months tend to see fewer animals come in, but that’s expected to pick up now with spring underway and summer right around the corner. Warmer weather means breeding season, so Holland anticipates an influx of homeless kittens in the near future.

The city shelter, located in the yard of the Department of Public Services at 801 Ajax Drive, recently assisted the city of Sterling Heights with a hoarding situation, taking three cats from there. The Madison Heights shelter itself was locked down at the start of the pandemic, with volunteers staying home and Holland assuming full responsibility for the place.

It was during the pandemic that he observed what could be described as a silver lining: an uptick in adoptions at the start.

“The people adopting the animals mentioned that they were in need of companionship being home all the time, and what better companionship than having a furry friend to spend time with?” Holland said.

The pandemic did impact the shelter financially, however, interfering with its ability to hold its annual in-person fundraising events. The shelter was able to offset this with several online auctions that proved to be a tremendous success.

Madison Heights Police Chief Corey Haines said in an email that Holland also got creative finding other funding solutions.

“Animal Control Officer Holland was able to obtain a spay/neuter grant from the state of Michigan that was essential in helping with those medical costs,” Haines said. “We also recently set up a PayPal account to make donating to the shelter more convenient, especially during lockdowns.”

The link to that donation site can be found at the shelter’s Facebook page. The shelter also accepts cash and check donations, with checks made payable to “City of Madison Heights” and mailed to Madison Heights Animal Control, 280 W. 13 Mile Road, Madison Heights, MI 48071.

Donations of supplies are also appreciated, including bleach, scent-free laundry detergent, and both clumping and non-clumping cat litter. Holland said that the litter is their biggest need. There is a wish list for needed supplies pinned to the top of the shelter’s Facebook page.

At present, the shelter has the volunteers it needs to keep the place clean, socialize the animals and more. The shelter is still limiting the number of volunteers working there at any given time due to the ongoing pandemic.

But every resident can help the shelter by doing several simple things, he noted. One is being mindful of pets left outside, which happens more often during warmer weather. It’s during this time of the year when pets tend to get loose and escape. Another is making sure that pets are properly licensed and current on vaccines. This includes heartworm preventative, which protects against heartworms that are transmitted through mosquito bites.

Residents are also cautioned to monitor their pets when outside, especially smaller pets that could fall prey to local wildlife.

“Residents may see an increase of coyotes and fox,” Haines said. “We want to remind our residents that this is normal, but please keep your cats indoors and supervise your dogs while they are outside.

“Also, most wildlife are currently having offspring,” he said. “Please, never remove a baby from its mother. Even if you don’t see an adult animal present, they are generally watching from a distance. If you are unsure if a baby animal is abandoned, please call our animal control officer, who will advise you on the situation.”

The Madison Heights Animal Shelter can be reached by calling (248) 837-2784.