Julie Kowal, office administrator of the Allegan County Animal Shelter, told the Kalamazoo Gazette that the original count of about 350 animals didn’t include puppies including three born Tuesday.
The dogs were taken Monday from the home in Cheshire Township, about 40 miles south-southwest of Grand Rapids.
“It’s been a zoo here,” said Jeff Stiegman, a board member of Wishbone Pet Rescue Alliance, which operates the Allegan County Animal Shelter.
People from around the state have offered to help with the dogs, and many of the animals have been sent to other shelters. The county handled almost 900 phone calls Tuesday alone related to the dogs and Internet traffic crashed the shelter’s website, Stiegman said.
The shelter also had three times the number of volunteers needed and ended up turning some away, he said.
The Allegan County Sheriff’s Department said Cheri and George Burke, both 64, were arraigned Wednesday at the Allegan County jail on felony animal cruelty charges following an investigation by animal control officers and sheriff’s officials. According to authorities, some of the dogs were covered in feces and fleas, and some had eye problems.
They requested court-appointed lawyers, posted bond, were released.
Cheri Burke told WOOD-TV that she and the dogs have been misrepresented in reports about the condition of the animals. She denied that the animals were sick and said she signed away her rights to the dogs. She said she cared about the dogs and got behind on their car when she and her husband became ill.
“I got behind in grooming, but they weren’t sick,” she said.
Kent County Health Department records show this isn’t the first case for Cheri Burke involving a large number of dogs. In 2005, Kent County Animal Control officers said they found nearly 100 dogs at a Grand Rapids home where she lived. She was charged at the time with failure to obtain a kennel license, a misdemeanor, and fined $392.
In the latest case, the Allegan County Sheriff’s Department said the owners were breeding small dogs such as Pomeranians but had too many to adequately care for.