Owner of dog killed in fire wants compensation

Muskegon County

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Some owners want financial compensation for the loss of their pets after a kennel fire southeast of Muskegon that killed more than 30 dogs.

“We’re just so heartbroken. We’re heartbroken. I just don’t understand,” said Jennifer Nunez, who’s family’s dog Harley was killed in the March 30 fire at Storm’s Ahead Kennels in Fruitport Township.

Nunez spent more than $1,200 on Harley, a Newfoundland, who was with them for eight months before she died in the fire.

“My daughter picked her out, my son got to bring her home and we just loved her,” she said. 

They took off for spring break last month and left Harley at Storm’s Ahead.

“They had been in business for a while and thought they had a good reputation, but less than 10 hours later I get a phone call that my dog is dead,” Nunez recalled.

The Fruitport Township Public Safety Director says the fire engulfed the building and there was no chance to rescue the dogs. The cause appears to be electrical. Arson was ruled out. The kennel was licensed and had been inspected by the county every year since 2012.

“We go home every day and my kids cry. My daughter goes to sleep with … our dog’s bandana,” said Nunez. “She walks around with her picture and they don’t understand why.”

The family was on a wait list for months before getting Harley and can’t afford another Newfoundland.

A GoFundMe account has been set up to help the families whose dogs were killed. As of Tuesday afternoon, it had raised close to $900.

“That’s not going to cover everybody’s loss. I know more than one family had more than one dog,” Nunez said. “It’s hard. You can’t replace a family member, but I think they should have at least offered.”

Kennel owner Janet Rehfus says the kennel is offering to help.

“We are working with the insurance company and our attorney. They’re all working together to ensure all of the families are compensated in anyway,” Rehfus said. “Anything that we can do to help them is our No. 1 priority.”

Because insurance is involved, there is no timeline for when families could be paid. There also hasn’t been any word on how much owners may get.

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