EMMETT TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Investigators said they are trying to determine if some of the 17 dogs left outside in the bitter cold Thursday were bred for dogfighting.
The dogs, most of them pit bull terriers, were evaluated by a veterinarian after deputies seized them from a home on I Drive North near 10 Mile Road in Emmett Township, east of Battle Creek.
They were being held at the Calhoun County Animal Shelter. Officials there would only say they all survived.
The morning low temperature on Thursday hit -14 in the Battle Creek area, with a wind chill of -40.
“With the information we had and the terrible weather, subzero weather, that we had, it wasn’t safe for those dogs to be kept outside with the shelter they had outside,” Calhoun County Sheriff Matt Saxton said on Friday.
The signs in front of the home warn against trespassing, including by government agents. The gate that blocks the driveway is locked.
“We’ve dealt with the subject in the past,” Saxton said. “He refused to cooperate with us and talk with us or come to his door, or answer his phone, so we had to get a search warrant.”
The sheriff says his team found the dogs without enough shelter to stay warm, and with frozen food and ice for water.
“We did find information that led us to believe he may be breeding animals for dogfighting,” the sheriff said. “There was no evidence of dogfighting at that location.”
Records show the home is owned by a 65-year-old man who is linked to Iron Line Kennels, which according to its website breeds and sells pit bulls.
24 Hour News 8 couldn’t reach the owner Friday, but the kennel responded to the investigation on its Facebook page.
“It’s over. Thanks to the rat bastards,” a post read.
The Facebook page also said the dog houses were insulated, had automatic feeders and that the dogs were given fresh water and broth at least twice a day.
Neighbors said they never saw anything to suggest dogfighting on the man’s property.
“A lot of barking back there, that’s about it,” one neighbor said.
“I knew he had dogs, but I thought he just breeded them and that’s how he made money,” said another neighbor, Joe Schero.
The sheriff said his office is pursuing animal cruelty charges, but said any possible charges related to dogfighting could take months.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office at 269.781.0880 or Silent Observer at 269.781.9700.