ALLEGAN, Mich. (WZZM) -- Allegan County dog breeders George and Cheri Burke are due in court Wednesday to face animal cruelty charges.
Two weeks ago deputies removed more than 350 dogs living in filth from their Cheshire Township home.If convicted the 64 year old breeders could be sentenced to prison.
West Michigan animal shelters have groomed washed and vaccinated the Shih Tzus and other breeds removed from the Burke's home and are offering them for adoption.
Staff at the Allegan Animal Shelter says they have had over 1,300 applications. They are carefully screening potential adopters because they say the animals are "special needs" dogs.
"They are not used to being treated like a dog," explains shelter program director Jeff Stiegman. "They are not used to being picked up, not used to being stroked, certainly not used to having a bath. They are going to have to learn all of that and potential adopters need to know that what they are going to get is not a normal dog."
At least 30 shelters in west Michigan are helping groom, wash, vaccinate and offer the dogs for adoption.
Many of the pets are already with new owners.
"When I get home she is right there at the door wondering where I've been," explains Ed O'Dell. He and his girlfriend were providing foster care for one of the dogs, and now want to keep her permanently.
O'Dell says he has seen a big change in the dog.
"She was scared, not having had much contact with humans," he says. "She sat in her cage and when I opened it up she shied back away. Just timid and scared."
The time it takes to socialize the dogs depends on each individual animal.
"It could take a long time," says Stiegman. "It could take 4 to 8 weeks, it could take months and some will never be normal."
"Just picked her up, held her and talked to her," says O'Dell. "She started responding."
The Allegan Animal Shelter is holding a free seminar in Saugatuck next week to teach new owners ways to help their dogs overcome emotional and behavioral issues caused by years of neglect.