LANSING - At least five of the 53 pitbulls seized as part of a local dogfighting investigation will be euthanized, officials said today.
Another five will be evaluated and could eventually be made available for adoption.
County officials had moved to euthanize 11 dogs seized from two Lansing residents who have been charged with numerous counts of animal fighting.
Michigan law currently mandates that animal control officers request a court hearing to determine the fate of a dog seized for animal fighting. If a judge finds that a dog "lacks any useful purpose and poses a threat to public safety" it will be euthanized.
But attorneys for both sides indicated last month they were open to an arrangement that the dogs would be forfeited to the county under an animal cruelty statute rather than the state's dogfighting statute.
In Lansing's 54A District Court, Judge Frank DeLuca Wednesday morning signed a consent order in which both sides agreed to turn 10 of the dogs over to Ingham County Animal Control. The fate of an 11th dog remains undetermined pending the outcome of the criminal cases.
"We did this to avoid euthanasia," said Lisa McCormick, Ingham County's chief assistant prosecutor. "The goal will be to hopefully re-home the dogs, but they’re going to assess that, let an expert make an assessment to determine where the dogs should go."
At least five of the dogs must be euthanized regardless, because state law prohibits re-homing fighting dogs or the offspring of fighting dogs, said Ingham County Animal Control Director John Dinon.
Another five dogs do not have "clearly established fighting histories or pedigrees," he said.
Those dogs will be assessed by an animal behaviorist with the possible goal of sending the dogs to a rescue shelter with experience in rehabilitating fighting dogs, he said.
Even if ownership of the dogs is transferred under the animal cruelty statute, Dinon said, officials are still bound by the laws that prohibit re-homing fighting dogs or their offspring.
"It’s a piece of the animal fighting statute and we are obligated to adhere to that," he said. "If we re-home those dogs we’re committing a felony."
County officials agreed to waive boarding fees and veterinary expenses for the 10 dogs as part of the forfeiture agreement.
Three people have so far been arrested in connection with the investigation.
Corey Henry, 47, and his daughter, Synquiss Antes, 26, face numerous felony counts, including animal fighting and possession of fighting animals or equipment. A preliminary hearing to determine whether they should stand trial on those charges is set for Sept. 22.
Demarius Hoyle, 22, also been charged with one count of dogfighting, according to court records. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for Sept. 15.
It's unclear whether any dogs were seized from Hoyle, or whether anyone else will be charged in connection with what officials have described as a "professional" dogfighting ring.
Officials have said the fate of the remaining dogs will be determined after any future criminal charges are filed.
More than 120,000 people have signed an online petition asking that the dogs not be euthanized.
© 2017, Lansing State Journal