Utica dog owner faces 16 misdemeanors after county seizes animals

By: Sarah Wojcik | Shelby - Utica News | Published May 11, 2016

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UTICA — At press time, 16 misdemeanors had been filed against one of the residents of a home on Nancy Avenue from which Macomb County Animal Control removed a large number of dogs March 31.

Macomb County Animal Control Chief Jeff Randazzo said his agency removed 40 dogs, including puppies, and nine cats and issued a number of license violations to the homeowners. He said the homeowners appeared to be breeding the dogs to sell, and operating a kennel out of a home would violate Utica’s city ordinance.

Randazzo said Macomb County Animal Control removed the animals after receiving complaints from neighbors.

“(The dogs) were posted online and they were selling them,” Randazzo said. “We want to promote animal welfare, and we don’t want animals to be living and housed in those situations.”

Because Macomb County Animal Control did not have the resources to house all the animals, Randazzo said many of the animals were placed in the care of foster homes and rescue groups.

He said he could not discuss the physical condition of the animals because the case was still under investigation and the city of Utica was working toward a resolution.

Randazzo said Macomb County Animal Control did not intend to return all of the dogs to the homeowners, but that it would not be opposed to returning three of the dogs taken that were fixed and could not be bred.

“We want to do what’s best to prevent it from happening again,” he said. “We don’t want animals in these situations being used to make a profit.”

Randazzo said Macomb County Animal Control also issued violations to the homeowners in 2014.

Jeffrey McCarty, defense counsel retained by Kim Klee, said his client’s position is that she and her husband, Rick, are dog lovers.

“The ordinance reads that you cannot have more than one dog for the purpose of sale, breeding or otherwise,” McCarty said. “I don’t believe that was their purpose. Their purpose was to have pets and companionship.”

If there were pregnancies or litters, as happens on occasion, he said he does not believe that selling the puppies constituted a kennel.

From what his client told him, McCarty said Kim Klee was made to sign over the animals under duress.

“I find that rather involuntary, to say the least, and arguably coercive and unlawful in those circumstances to get somebody to sign away the rights to their animals,” he said.

According to the search warrant, McCarty said, there were 35 dogs, but his client signed over only 32 of them. He said he was in negotiations to try to return the three dogs that his client did not sign over, but he had so far been unsuccessful.

Rick Klee said he intends to file criminal charges against City Attorney Jim McGrail, Macomb County Animal Control and Utica police for the way the search warrant was executed and for violating his and his wife’s rights.

“They’re cruel and what they’re doing is inhumane,” he said. “My wife needs those dogs. These dogs ate great, had fresh water and never seen a cage in their life. There was a lot of them, but they were very well taken care of.”

Utica Police Chief David Faber said the police were present March 31 to assist in the three-hour seizure of animals from the home on Nancy Avenue, but that the investigation belonged to Macomb County Animal Control.

Faber said Utica does not currently have a limit on the number of dogs that residents are allowed to own, but the city is in the process of drafting language to update its animal ordinance.

McGrail declined to comment on the incident because the case is still open.

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