NORTON SHORES — Harbor Humane Society in West Olive is already struggling with a recent theft and slower adoption rates, but the nonprofit took in 20 dogs this week anyway, pitching in to help after 78 pups were found living in unfit conditions in a Norton Shores “shelter.”
At least eight puppies died in the Muskegon-area home of Lisa Cober, owner of Cober Canine Shelter, reports WOOD TV-8. The arrest came after the Norton Shores Police Department received a tip from the director at Pound Buddies Animal Shelter that “many animals were living at a house on Sheffield Street near West Columbia Avenue.”
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“First thing I thought was, ‘Oh my God, somebody finally nailed her,'” Muskegon resident Barbara VanBogelen told WZZM. Her dog, Annabelle, came from Cober.
VanBogelen told WZZM she adopted Annabelle in July 2019, meeting the rescue at PetSmart. She paid a $225 adoption fee, and then — after getting Annabelle home — started to “get the sense” something was wrong.
“She stunk terrible,” VanBogelen said. “Getting closer to her, the only way that I could explain what that dog’s breath was like, was like somebody opening a septic tank when it’s needing to be pumped.”
A few days later, after a trip to the vet, VanBogelen learned Annabelle had tested positive for heartworms, Giardia and hookworms. Treatment cost more than $1,400.
And yet, in the packet VanBogelen has from Cober Canine, dated November 2016, the shelter claimed all of its dogs were microchipped and heartworm tested.
Seventy-eight dogs were seized Monday, Jan. 30, from Cober’s property. Court records show Cober told investigators she had at least 22 puppies in the home, but didn’t know how many adult dogs were there. She said eight puppies had died and two more had been euthanized due to distemper in the last month, according to WOOD TV-8.
A vet who helped retrieve the dogs told the Norton Shores Police Department at least 25 were sick or injured. Harbor Humane said it was monitoring one puppy for distemper and another for pneumonia. Others had kennel cough.
Jen Self-Aulgur, executive director at Harbor Humane, said many of the dogs had urine scalding, an infection caused by standing in urine. Health inspectors ultimately deemed the home uninhabitable.
Bex Britz has a similar story VanBogelen. She adopted her dog, Bailey, as a puppy after meeting Cober at PetSmart. Bailey will turn three next month.
Britz told WOOD she was appalled by the conditions shown in a police video, but said they were no surprise.
“Within that week (of adopting Bailey), we had over $1,500 in vet bills. She had a horrible case of worms, one of the worst my vet had ever seen. Two of the other puppies that were on the same transport as her were positive for Parvo,” Britz said.
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Cober was arraigned Tuesday on a felony count of abandoning or cruelty to 25 or more animals. Her bond was set at $1,000. She could face up to seven years in prison.
“I think it’s just really important for people to realize that the source of where you get your animal matters,” Self-Aulgur said. “Whether you’re adopting it or you’re buying it from a breeder or you’re purchasing it from a pet store, make sure that you see where that animal came from.”
— WOOD TV-8 contributed to this report. Contact editor Cassandra Lybrink at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @CassLybrink.