Humane Society starts special response team for cruelty, rescue cases

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Two animal cruelty investigators with the Michigan Humane Society who've worked side by side for years now have a new project that will save even more animals.

"We've had bears and tigers and cows tied up to the back fence and horses in warehouses and we just never know," Debby MacDonald said.

MacDonald and Mark Ramos have been a team for more than 20 years investigating animal cruelty and neglect to prosecute those responsible, and to educate those who need a little help.

"Most of what we do is education," Ramos said. "People don't know how to properly care for their animals. They don't know how to properly feed them, house them - that's where we come in."

Part of that is the Humane Society's pet pantry on Trumbull, which offers free food and supplies. But now there's a new service the Humane Society is providing - a special response team to assist other agencies throughout the state and beyond.

"We can bring out 40 to 50 crates to put animals in," Ramos said. "We can bring out tents to set up, so that people aren't working outside in the rain."

"We set it up so we can kind of put shelters together," MacDonald said.

With a trailer full of supplies, it's like their own tent city for animal rescue where they're able to deploy to natural disasters and large scale impounds that many areas just can't handle.

"When you look around the state of Michigan we have counties that don't even have animal control and those responsibilities fall on the sheriff's department," MacDonald said. Large dog fighting or cock fighting rings are the most common

That's where the special response team can help. Recently they were asked to help out in northern Michigan.

"(They had) one animal control officer and when we got out there there were 103 fighting roosters," MacDonald said. "That's more than one animal control officer can handle."

"Now they have some place to turn to and we can bring eight, nine, 10 people out there and help assist with removing the birds, cataloguing the birds (and bringing) a veterinarian in to check things," Ramos said.

Especially because the birds can be in very bad shape.

"It's heartbreaking and we don't think about it so much with the roosters but they have 2-inch knives strapped to their legs and they are let loose on each other to tear each other apart - it's incredibly violent," MacDonald said.

She says the special response team is training law enforcement in animal cruelty investigations from throughout the state, but there's something else that's especially exciting.

"We have boots, special gloves - helmets," Ramos said. "Mechanical assists with harnesses."

The special response team is currently going through specialized training. Brand new equipment will allow them to respond to natural disasters and rescue animals trapped by floods, fires, mud - it could be anything.

"To be able to lift animals up and out of things in specialized harnesses with ropes and pulleys - it'll be much more humane for the animals and I think safer for the rescuers as well," MacDonald said.

Which is why this team of two decades is so happy to be using their skills to build this special response team - ready to respond wherever animals are in need.

"It's very exciting to come to work these days because we're getting all this training all this gear - different situations than we're used to being in," Ramos said. "And it's good to be able to have more skills so we can help more animals."

"Whatever agencies need big scale or small scale," MacDonald said. "We're really excited about it."

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