Official: 34 dogs, cats died in house fire near Eaton Rapids

ONONDAGA TOWNSHIP, MICH. - A woman who ran an in-home animal rescue lost her Kinneville Road home and 34 dogs and cats in a fire Tuesday, Jan. 2.

Thursday afternoon Ingham County Animal Control Director John Dinon said three of his office’s staff members were on the scene Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. after receiving a call for assistance from the Ingham County Sheriff’s Office.

Dinon said the bodies of 16 dogs and 18 cats were recovered from the home.

“By the time we got there most, if not all of the live animals had been dispersed,” he said.

Homeowner Tammy Venzke operated "TJ's Rescued Angels" from the home. Vicky Marines, an employee who worked at the in-home rescue, said 12 dogs and four cats survived, and have been placed with people Venzke knows.

Marines, who lives in Lansing, said she’s worked part-time with Venzke at her animal rescue for seven years.

Venzke has run the rescue out of her home in the 5600 block of Kinneville Road for 13 years, Marines said, taking in animals in danger of being euthanized at area shelters or whose owners couldn’t care for them.

Over the years Marines said Venzke has found homes for thousands of animals.

Firefighters from the Onondaga Township and Leslie and Eaton Rapids fire departments all responded to the fire. Fire officials could not be reached for comment.

Laura DeLong, a friend of Venzke who established an online fundraising account to help her Wednesday, said Venzke discovered the house on fire Tuesday when she came home at 7 p.m.

Venzke left the property at around 1:30 p.m. that day, DeLong said.

DeLong said a plumber had been at Venzke’s home attempting to thaw frozen pipes in the home's crawl space on Tuesday.

Venzke declined requests made through DeLong to speak with the State Journal Thursday.

DeLong said Venzke, who works as an auditor and rents space in a building she owns in downtown Eaton Rapids, dedicated her life to rescuing animals and caring for them at her house.

“She’s just made her life about caring for and protecting these animals,” DeLong said. She said Venzke also watched her dogs during family vacations.

As of Thursday afternoon, DeLong’s fundraising efforts had raised over $1,300, with contributions from almost 20 people.

Laurie Griffith, a friend of Venzke, said she’s caring for five of the dogs who survived the fire. All of them are in good condition, she said.

Griffith said she’s never witnessed a rescue dog at Venzke’s property who wasn’t well cared for.

“All of the dogs are well-fed, social and happy,” she said. “They’re clean. If they had been raised in filth there would be a hint of that on them.”

Marines said she didn’t know how many animals were being cared for in Venzke’s home at the time of the fire, but that all the animals at the rescue were cared for, happy and healthy.

“There were a lot of animals but everybody was healthy, happy and working on their own issues,” she said. “Animal control has been at the house before. We have nothing to hide. That’s why the rescue was still going.”

Dinon said his office has attempted to contact Venzke regarding her wishes for the remains of the animals who died in the fire.

He said his office has no plans to pursue animal abuse or neglect charges against Venzke “but we’re still looking into the situation.”

His department responded to her home in “2013 or 2014” after a complaint was made regarding the number of animals being housed there, he said.

Dinon said that visit didn’t result in any charges against Venzke, but his office issued “unlicensed dog” citations to Venzke, although he could not recall how many were issued.

Contact Reporter Rachel Greco at (517) 528-2075 or rgreco@lsj.com. Follow her on Twitter @GrecoatLSJ.

© 2018 Lansing State Journal


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