Saginaw County animal rescue still adopting sick cats months after police raid

Saginaw County animal rescue still adopting sick cats months after police raid

KOCHVILLE TWP, MI — In March, law enforcement raided a Saginaw County animal shelter and pulled dozens of ailing cats from it. Nearly three months on, the shelter continues to operate, still adopting out sick animals.

Well-meaning adopters, eager to have a furry new friend in their families, are thus left with steadily mounting veterinary bills.

The afternoon of March 6, sheriff’s deputies served a search warrant on Amazing Grace Animal Rescue, 3365 Freeland Road in Kochville Township, after receiving several allegations regarding multiple public health violations. Deputies and Saginaw County Animal Care & Control personnel found 237 cats and 16 dogs at the facility. They seized 27 severely sick cats in need of urgent veterinary care and took them to Animal Control, with a 28th cat seized the next day.

Sheriff’s office investigators sent their reports to the Saginaw County Prosecutor’s Office for review the last week of March. Since then, prosecutors have not decided if criminal charges will be forthcoming.

In the meantime, the nonprofit no-kill shelter remains open for business, asking for donations and seeking volunteers on its Facebook page.

Adopters’ accounts

One customer who was unaware of the controversy surrounding Amazing Grace and inadvertently took a sick cat into her home is Rose Reyes.

Reyes, 60, had been wanting a cat since December to give her 12-year-old dog a playful companion after seeing how the dog interacted with her adult son’s cats, she said. She spent months buying the odds and ends needed for a cat, taking her time to ensure her home was prepped and hospitable for a new feline.

In April, Reyes twice visited Amazing Grace on a friend’s recommendation. The shelter’s condition was far from ideal, she said.

“I saw cats with their eyes watery and crusted and diarrhea on the floor,” Reyes said of her observation of Amazing Grace. Sick cats were not separated from healthy ones, she added.

Nevertheless, Reyes returned a third time on May 2 and adopted a black, 2-year-old cat named Elaine. While Elaine appeared quite skinny, to the extent Reyes was initially hesitant to hug her for fear of breaking her bones, Reyes liked that she was a polydactyl, meaning she had an extra toe on each paw.

Reyes paid a $100 adoption fee and received paperwork stating Elaine had been spayed but was not current on her immunizations. She renamed the 5-pound, 5-ounce cat Pátas — Spanish for paws — and took her home.

Things immediately went south.

“From day one, she had diarrhea, bad. It was everywhere,” she said. Reyes initially considered this might stem from Pátas’ nerves being shaken by a move to a new environment, but the diarrhea did not abate.

Pátas also began sneezing and showing signs of a respiratory infection. In the following days, Reyes twice took Pátas to a veterinarian. Combined, the visits and medication totaled about $285. She also learned Pátas may need bloodwork in the future, to the tune of another $220.

While Reyes is committed to Pátas, who is gaining weight and whose symptoms are waning, she is less than pleased that such an ill animal was adoptable to begin with.

“I told them I did not want a special needs cat and this is what she is now,” she said. “I have to give her medicine all the time.”

She advised others to search elsewhere before taking in a new pet.

Pátas

Pátas, a cat adopted by Rose Reyes from Amazing Grace Animal Rescue in Saginaw County’s Kochville Township.

“The only way I would adopt from there is to get animals out of there,” she said. “If they can’t keep the sick ones from the well ones, they should not be in that business. I just feel so bad for the other animals in there.”

On the plus side, Pátas and her Reyes’ 96-pound pit bull have bonded nicely.

“It’s a sight to see, them playing together,” she said.

Offering a similar account is Chan Brady, albeit one that began before police served their warrant on Amazing Grace.

Having bought a home in October and with two cats already, Brady and her boyfriend sought to bring a third feline into their family. They visited Amazing Grace on Feb. 11 and adopted a female cat they later named Dusty Peach.

As they paid the $50 adoption fee, a volunteer asked Brady if she promised to get Dusty spayed but did not make her sign a contract or put down a deposit to ensure such a procedure would take place.

Two days after taking Dusty home, Brady took her to veterinarian Dr. Genevieve Hoffman of Veterinary Health Center, 305 N. Center Road in Saginaw Township, and learned the cat should have been spayed before they adopted her.

Since then, Dusty has been beset by numerous ailments, costing Brady and her boyfriend about $450 in vet bills by early April. On her fifth visit to the vet’s on April 11, Dusty was diagnosed with pyometra, a potentially fatal bacterial infection in her uterus.

The affliction has left Dusty often yowling in pain and acting as though she’s in perpetual heat, Brady said.

Dusty Peach

Dusty Peach, a cat adopted by Chan Brady from Amazing Grace Animal Rescue in Saginaw County’s Kochville Township.

“Her reproductive organs are completely shot and need to be removed ASAP, and, as you might imagine, that adds a whole new layer of complexity to getting her spayed,” Brady said. “While in the past our cats’ spays have only cost around $350, the cost to spay Dusty is running us $900.”

Brady wondered if Dusty’s pyometra and the expense of addressing it is why Amazing Grace did not have her spayed before adopting her out.

As of May 24, Dusty has not been spayed, due to her having had a seizure that stopped everything in its tracks, Brady said. Dusty received medication for this and has not had a recurrent episode, but Dr. Hoffman also determined she had severe kidney problems which will cost Brady about another $400 to address, she said.

“We are going down a rabbit hole of trying to fix everything wrong with our kitty,” she said. “At this point, my boyfriend and I have had to say we need to stop paying attention to how much it costs. It’s so frustrating and our vets are doing the best they can. Every time we bring her in, there are new symptoms and something new going on that is constantly getting in the way of getting her spayed. It’s affecting her quality of life.”

Neither Brady nor her veterinarian have received paperwork from Amazing Grace regarding Dusty’s medical records or vaccination history.

“That part is really concerning to me,” Brady said. “Did they have paperwork that said she had this?”

Despite Dusty’s litany of medical issues, Brady does not think there was anything malicious on the part of Amazing Grace’s volunteer staff.

“I know people there are trying their best,” she said. “It comes down to negligence. The idea you can save every animal if you try hard enough, when you get down to it, that’s not how it works.”

Case background

Of the 28 cats authorities seized from Amazing Grace on March 6-7, all were diagnosed with upper respiratory infections, some had ringworm, one had FIV, and one had FeLV, analogous to leukemia. One of the cats died of bacterial pneumonia suspected to have been from an untreated respiratory infection.

Amazing Grace Director Shawna Guiett has relinquished her ownership rights to 20 of the 27 cats. Seven remain with Saginaw County Animal Care & Control, several of which are still undergoing veterinary care, said Director Bonnie Kanicki on May 24.

Guiett was supposed to provide documentation that a veterinarian was to inspect the remaining hundreds of cats at her facility. She has not done so, Kanicki said.

Amazing Grace Animal Rescue in Kochville Township

Amazing Grace Animal Rescue in Kochville Township

Between August 2022 and March 2023, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (or MDARD) received 10 complaints against Amazing Grace. The complaints described sick cats overcrowded in cages, poor ventilation leading to noxious odors, sick cats not receiving proper care, adoptable animals not being sterilized, and cats being taken home only to immediately come down with illnesses including ringworm, respiratory infections, and FIV.

Between the start of the new year and the March 6 raid, Saginaw County Animal Care & Control received six complaints regarding animal care at Amazing Grace. The complaints were submitted by Humane Society of Saginaw County President Liz Quarm, a volunteer at Amazing Grace, a veterinarian, a professional pet groomer, and civilians.

In her complaints to both MDARD and Saginaw County Animal Control, the veterinarian recounted the unsavory stories of 11 cats adopted from Amazing Grace going back years. Several had to be euthanized, and one died at Amazing Grace in the arms of the woman who was going to adopt him.

The vet wrote she filed numerous complaints against Amazing Grace going back more than 10 years, alleging state regulatory violations.

“My history with Amazing Grace Animal Rescue has been long and, quite frankly, heartbreaking,” the vet wrote in one complaint. “Needless to say, my frustration with MDARD’s lack of concern for the welfare of animals housed in a facility … dubbed a ‘Slow Kill Shelter’ has recently been reignited by the alarming increase in the number of owners seeking treatment for sick, diseased, or dying cats adopted from Amazing Grace Animal Rescue.”

MDARD on Oct. 17 conducted its annual inspection of Amazing Grace and found several issues of concern requiring corrective action. Of those, four were classified as critical and two as priority.

“The majority of the cats in the isolation room exhibited signs consistent with upper respiratory disease,” the report states. “Multiple cats in all community rooms also exhibited upper respiratory signs, including the room in which FeLV-positive cats are housed. There must be a way to keep healthy cats safe from sick cats.”

Click here to read the full inspection report.

Meanwhile, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) on May 18 sent a letter to Saginaw County Sheriff William L. Federspiel, Kanicki, Quarm, and MDARD lauding them for their investigative efforts.

“Thank you and everyone else involved for working to ensure the safety and welfare of animals who were reportedly found in desperate need of veterinary care at a self-professed animal ‘rescue doing business as Amazing Grace Animal Rescue,” wrote Teresa Chagrin, animal care and control issues manager of PETA’s Cruelty Investigations Department. “Thank you for your hard work for residents in your community, both two-legged and four-legged.”

In her letter, Chagrin said there are 3,000 PETA members residing in Saginaw County.

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Read more:

Complaints detail overcrowding, ailing cats at Amazing Grace Animal Rescue in Saginaw County

Inspection report details critical concerns at Amazing Grace Animal Rescue in Saginaw County

Amazing Grace Animal Rescue strikes agreement with authorities after 28 cats seized, investigation ongoing

Dozens of severely sick cats seized from Saginaw County animal rescue