By J. PATRICK PEPPER
DEARBORN — Police investigators still are trying to piece together the events that culminated in their discovery of more than 250 live and dead Chihuahuas at a house in the 7800 block of Orchard two weeks ago.
At the top of the list is determining how the 160 or so dead Chihuahuas died. Police sent two of the bodies to Michigan State University for forensic autopsies in hopes of answering that question. The results of those autopsies were expected after press time of this edition and could factor heavily in whether or not homeowner Kenneth Lang Jr. will face criminal animal cruelty charges.
Investigators already have sent their early findings to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, but haven’t requested an arrest warrant as of press time, Prosecutor’s Office spokeswoman Maria Miller said.
Also uncertain is how Lang came to be in possession of so many dogs. Described by most of his neighbors as a loner, no one from Lang’s apparently limited personal interactions has been able to provide police with much information.
Preliminarily, though, police have suggested the collecting could have gone on for more than four years. But the manner of procurement is still a mystery.
According to court documents from a 2006 personal bankruptcy claim, Lang listed three dogs as assets he didn’t want liquidated. Lang’s attorney, James Schmier, posited that those dogs were the primogenitors of the pack. He suggested the huge number of dogs just three years after there were only three could be possible because of the nine-week gestation period for Chihuahua pregnancies, which usually net around three puppies per litter.
But animal shelter workers aren’t so sure. Chihuahua pregnancies are complicated, often requiring Caesarean deliveries, and many of the dogs look nothing alike, shelter officials said. And with the dogs ranging in age from weeks old to about 16 years, it appears that the collecting either would have had to predate Lang’s bankruptcy filing or include more than a single lineage.
Lang, meanwhile, remained in psychiatric treatment as of press time Friday. Schmier said Lang’s family was working in conjunction with the Michigan Department of Community Health to try to determine a course of treatment for the 56-year-old, who officials say seems to exhibit textbook symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder.
Schmier said it would be a tragedy if his client is charged in connection with the case.
“I don’t think this is necessarily an animal story,” Schmier said. “This is a human story, quite frankly, of somebody with mental issues that, hopefully, this may be the best thing that ever happened to him.
“He should now be able to get the treatment he needs and the dogs, certainly, will be headed to good homes.”
Schmier also praised city officials for their professionalism and compassion in their handling of the case, saying their focus always has been on Lang’s health first.
“Every time I talk to someone, whether it’s Chief Haddad, Nick Siroskey from (the Department of) Residential Services, or the people in legal, the first thing they ask me is, ‘How’s your guy?’” Schmier said.
“The people in the city of Dearborn elected some great people to lead this city.”
By J. PATRICK PEPPER