Officials from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources removed six red foxes, three coyotes and other animals from an animal rehabilitation facility in Muskegon on Friday where the two-year-old granddaughter of the owner lost her arm after reaching into the cage of two wolf dog hybrids. The animals have been relocated to other facilities. More non-native wildlife remain on the property.
According to the Detroit News, authorities found 47 dogs believed to have been crossbred with wolves at the Howling Timbers Animal Sanctuary facility. The agency stated the child had been bitten in July and caution that no person should have been allowed near the dogs at anytime.
The owner of the facility, Brenda Pearson, 59, has been accused of operating the facility without obtaining the required permits. Her wildlife rehabilitation permit had been revoked in 2010, however Pearson claims the allegations are skewed.
On her Facebook page, Pearson describes the accident involving the child:
“My granddaughter, Sophia, was involved in an incident at Howling Timbers in July. Although, she had never shown interest in the animals behind the cages, instead preferring to be carried or attached at the hip, we believe she was interested in the shiny collar being worn by one of the wolf dogs. A wolf dog that was friendly, loved to be groomed and preferred human attention over treats. We believe she grabbed his collar and he pulled to get away. She then got her arm stuck in the fence at the elbow and lost her arm. After she was rushed to the hospital, I went back to the pen and picked up her little arm. I can still see it today. Her little hand was still closed as if she was still grasping the collar. She had no bite wounds on her arm. She had one tiny cut on her wrist. I was bitten when I went into the pen probably due to them being stressed from all the chaos. My leg turned black and blue from my knee to my toes. I had two puncture wounds. If she was bitten, hers would of looked the same. Initially, I reported it as a bite but the more I thought about it, it didn’t make sense. If the animal bit an arm that was inside the pen, there would be bite wounds on the hand and lower part of the arm. If the animal bit the arm from the side, there would be a part of her arm missing…”
The child was rushed to the hospital where she underwent surgery for her arm which had been severed from the elbow down. The dogs were not euthanized and remain at the facility.
Pearson states she has been in business for 27 years and continues to care for the wolf-dog hybrids because they can not be released into the wild. She claims the animals are not being bred at the sanctuary, and even though it is illegal in Michigan to crossbreed wolves and dogs without a permit, some of the hybrids come in pregnant. The wolf dogs are not adopted out either.
Pearson’s Facebook page claims the account in the press release by the DNR is “full of lies and misleading information.”
Conservation Officer Anna Cullen states Pearson is aware that she is not licensed in Michigan for rehabbing or possessing wolf-dogs. Although she has been applying for licenses, she has not completed all of the applications. Pearson, however stated that DNR officers had been at the sanctuary in July for an inspection and approved her license to take in wildlife, but in September officers told her there had been a miscommunication.
Instead she was told not to bring in anymore animals but to continue to care for the three coyotes, two raccoons and two deer.
Howling Timbers is staffed by volunteers and is located on 34 acres with their mission “to provide life-long sanctuary to wolves, wolf dogs and exotic animals that have been neglected, abused, abandoned or relinquished by their previous owner…”
In addition the organization also assists humane societies, animal shelters and the Michigan Department of Agriculture.
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