By J. PATRICK PEPPER
DEARBORN — Authorities removed 104 Chihuahuas and similar breed dogs from a 1,320-square-foot bungalow in the 7800 block of Orchard last week.
Animal control workers removed 42 dogs on Wednesday and another 62 Thursday while an emergency restoration crew cleared out mounds of trash and animal waste looking for hiding dogs. Officials described the dogs as ailing and said many of them were covered in feces.
The house likely will be demolished after building authorities declared it unfit for human habitation. Homeowner Kenneth Lang Jr., 56, was taken for observation to Oakwood Hospital & Medical Center, where he remained as of press time. Lang’s family is involved in his care, and animal cruelty charges are not being pursued at this time, city spokeswoman Mary Laundroche said.
“The city’s first priority in situations involving people living in houses unfit for habitation is to care for the person involved and to identify the appropriate resources needed to get the person help,” said Laundroche.
The huge influx of dogs has the Dearborn Animal Shelter scrambling to make accommodations. Shelter spokeswoman Sandy Boulton said the shelter already was at capacity before the Chihuahuas were found due to a rescue of 40 cats from another house earlier this month, combined with the growing number of people leaving their pets because they can no longer afford them.
So while shelter officials assess the health of the animals and determine a course of action, the dogs are being housed temporarily in makeshift crates wherever there’s space. Boulton said some other local animal rescues have offered to receive some of the dogs, but shelter management wanted a full accounting of the dogs and their health before any moves are made.
“These dogs are frightened and they’re scared,” Boulton said. “No matter what the circumstances were where they were living, it was still their home, and they have been uprooted, so we want to be sensitive to that.”
The shelter already has received several applications to adopt one of the dogs, which will be made available as soon as possible. In the meantime the shelter is seeking financial contributions and donated puppy kibble to help deal with the massive rescue. Those interested in assisting can obtain more information at (313) 943-2697.
On Thursday, curious onlookers gathered around the cordoned-off house as workers in white jumpsuits and respirators filed in and out. Sometimes they carried puppies; sometimes urine-soaked furniture or obsolete TVs.
Two portable storage units and a large box truck being used in the cleanup sat on a neighboring front lawn and the acrid stench of fermenting dog waste could be smelled by neighbors at least three houses away.
To many in the neighborhood, though, it was hard to grasp how such unsanitary conditions could exist in a house with such a seemingly tidy owner. Neighbors said Lang has a reputation for being a good-natured green thumb.
“He was a very nice guy; never bothered nobody,” said Ibrahim Majed, whose parents live a few doors down from Lang. “And he has the best lawn on the block, no problem. It’s the only one with a sprinkler system.”
Neighbor Zeinab Moughnia agreed.
“Obviously he takes really good care of the place on the outside,” Moughnia said. “And he used to come over and trim our bushes sometimes. He used to cut (another neighbor’s) grass all the time.
“So … this is shocking.”