DELTA COUNTY, Mich. (WLUC) – Rebecca Johnson of Rock, Mich. entered a plea as charged on Wednesday, April 27 days before her trial was to take place.
Johnson entered a plea as charged to one felony count of Abandoning/Cruelty to 25 or more animals, and one misdemeanor count of Unregistered Animal Shelters/Pound. The plea cancelled the jury trial scheduled to commence on May 2, 2022. Johnson will be sentenced on July 7, 2022 at 2 PM in the 47th Circuit Court.
The investigation into the matter started on August 24, 2020, when a Michigan State Trooper responded to a report of a horse running loose on the roadway in Maple Ridge Township. The horse was secured, and during the course of the investigation, the Trooper observed a large amount of dogs that appeared underweight on the property.
“There was an overwhelming stench of feces coming from the property and what she could see of the dogs at that time, from some distance, was that the dogs appeared underweight, that there was just a large number of them,” said Lauren Wickman, Delta County’s Acting Prosecuting Attorney.
Further investigation, led the Trooper to locate numerous dogs in outdoor kennels that looked underweight, with matted fur and some apparent injuries. A search warrant was obtained for the property later that day, and a total of 135 dogs and 23 horses were seized from the property. Of the 135 dogs, 69 were puppies.
The animals were immediately seized by the Delta Animal Shelter, underwent medical evaluations, and received necessary treatment. Several dogs were determined to be pregnant at the time of the seizure, and the total dogs quickly ballooned to close to 200 dogs.
“We are thrilled that this community as a whole can lead by example and show that this is not tolerated,” said Sue Gartland, director at the Delta Animal Shelter.
On January 11, 2021, Johnson forfeited her ownership to the animals, allowing for the Delta Animal Shelter to being the process of adopting the dogs and horses to families.
In February 2022, Johnson violated her parole by bringing a dog to the Negaunee Vet Clinic with the intent to breed it.
“This is a win for the whole community,” stated Acting Prosecutor Lauren Wickman. “The way the people of Delta County responded to the needs of these animals is just incredible. Law enforcement and the volunteers with the Delta Animal Shelter made this case such a success, both inside and outside the courtroom. Our office wanted to make it a priority that she be held accountable for the conditions those animals lived in. No plea offer was ever even considered in this circumstance.”
The Delta County Prosecutor’s Office sincerely thanks the efforts of Michigan State Police and Delta County Sheriff’s Office for their thorough investigation. The Delta County Prosecutor’s Office further thanks the tremendous efforts of the staff, volunteers, and foster families with the Delta Animal Shelter, Bay Veterinary Clinic, D&D Dog Dynamics, Pampered Pets Grooming, and Countryside Veterinary Clinic.
“This is a success for the community and we are very happy that we can close part of this chapter and move forward continuing to educate and be the voice for animals in need,” said Gartland.
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