COLUMBIA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A total of 45 animals from cats and dogs to livestock were rescued from a property near Grand Junction Monday night, while several others were found dead.

Deputies say the animals that were alive didn’t have access to food or water, but little details are known about why.

The property is on 50th Street between 8th and 12th avenues, just east of Saddle Lake. According to the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office, the dead and malnourished animals were not the initial focus of a search warrant carried out by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“Our office was pretty much doing perimeter security for the agency doing the search warrant,” sheriff’s Sgt. Richard Rennhack said. “While they were doing that, we noticed several animals that appeared emaciated and pretty much struggling to live.”

There were 20 hens, six roosters, five ducks, four standard goats, four baby goats, three dogs, two cats and a billy goat. Deputies also found 13 dead animals. three goats and 10 chickens. They said the carcasses were decomposing inside pens with other animals.

“It appeared that nobody had been there for quite some time and wasn’t taking care of them,” Rennhack added.

A total of 45 animals were rescued from a property near Grand Junction on Feb. 13, 2023.
A total of 45 animals were rescued from a property near Grand Junction on Feb. 13, 2023.

No one was at the property when federal agents and sheriff’s deputies searched it. Rennhack only confirmed that an unnamed man was arrested in connection, but investigators have had no luck yet finding anyone who lives or frequents there.

“The one suspect is in custody. He was here for a short stint and then he’s been transferred to another agency facing other issues,” Rennhack said. “But the family, I don’t know where they went.”

Leading the investigation is the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which did not return requests for comment Thursday, including about why the property was searched in the first place.

For now, the rescued animals are rehabilitating at Van Buren County Animal Control.

“The chickens seem to be very happy to have chicken feed,” Director Kimberly Thames said. “The ducks keep knocking over the water, of course, because they want to get in the bowl. We’re currently looking for a kiddie pool for them to play in.”

Thames added they also need blankets, towels, dog food (including wet dog food) and chicken feed.

She estimates the rescues from the property were without food or water for a few days, causing one dog, a German shepherd, to be on the skinnier side.

“Usually, starving dogs gobble their food. These guys don’t, they nibble,” Thames said. “But of course, it does take three, four days for a dog to adjust, eat and drink normally and show their true colors once they’re somewhere new.”

Thames said information about the animals will be posted to Facebook once they’re healthy and ready for adoption. Those interested can also call Van Buren County Animal Control at 269.621.4624 or stop by their facility at 58040 County Road 681 in Hartford.

Investigators are asking anyone who knows those who lived or frequented the property is asked to call the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office at 269.657.3101, Crime Stoppers at 1.800.342.7867 or Silent Observer at 269.343.2100. You can also text a tip to the sheriff’s office by sending the keyword VBCTIPS and your message to CRIMES (274637).