HADLEY TWP. — Considering the rural nature of Lapeer County, Lapeer County Animal Control responding to a call about loose livestock isn’t uncommon. A recent call, however, turned into more of an ordeal than anticipated when Animal Control ended up in possession of an entire herd of severely malnourished Black Angus cattle.
In February, a neighbor reported that a cow was loose on Stewart Road in Hadley Township. Upon investigation, Animal Control officers noticed that the herd of cattle at the home appeared to be underweight with inadequate food. After multiple contacts with the owner and chances to improve the conditions, a search warrant was obtained and as a result, Animal Control seized 31 cows from the property — a mission that took over six hours and a lot of people and patience.
“We got really lucky. We had an amazing team of people,” said Animal Control Chief Rachel Horton. “It was a rough, rough day.”
Due to the condition of the animals, she said, it was difficult to get them loaded up, as some would collapse after a few steps.
The animals were transported to a safe location provided by a generous donor — otherwise housing the animals would have cost $25 per head per day, said Horton, which would have cost roughly $23,000. Since their rescue, the cattle have been drinking around 600 gallons of water and consuming a round bale of hay daily. Of the original 31, 26 are still alive. Several were pregnant, as well, and are giving birth to calves that require special care — one of which was born during the recent ice storm.
On Friday, Lapeer County Prosecutor reported that Stephen Bossenberry was charged with one felony count of abandoning/cruelty to 10 or more animals, with a habitual offender third offense enhancement. The crime is punishable by up to four years in prison, a $5,000 fine and he may be ordered to not own animals.
Blossenberry’s two prior felony convictions in 2012 were out of Kent County for resisting and obstructing police officers.
“I’ve had a lot of people that reached out to me and said, ‘how can I help? What can I do?’” said Horton. “That was wonderful. I needed that.”
The owner surrendered the animals to the county, and will likely face charges related to their neglect. Due to the legal proceedings, Animal Control could not advertise the cattle for sale. Connections were made with local people who are known to be experienced with beef cattle, and bids were accepted for the herd. Horton opened eight sealed bids in front of the Board of Commissioners on Thursday, and the board opted to take the highest bid for the entire herd — $14,547.50. This amount will cover the costs the county has incurred for the care of the neglected animals.
The cattle were expected to be transferred to their new owner on Saturday, and Horton said she will be happy to close this challenging case.
“It’s not my normal case, and it’s not in my comfort zone,” she said. “But I’m grateful for everyone that was willing to help.”