#Michigan53 Background Information

#Michigan53 Background Information

In the summer of 2017, news broke about the dog fighting busts that where happening in Lansing, MI.  John Dinon, Director of Ingham County Animal Control, did a series of media interviews stating that there were fifty-three dogs that were seized in total[1]. Of the fifty-three dogs that were seized, ten were in Eaton County, MI and forty-three in Ingham County, MI. When this occurred, Director Dinon told the media that officials will likely petition a court to euthanize all fifty-three dogs that had been seized in Ingham and Eaton counties. Director Dinon had no right to draw a conclusion or suggest the likelihood of the ten dogs in Eaton County, MI would be euthanized. They were not dogs in his county, therefore he cannot make decisions on their behalf.

Director Dinon stated multiple times in media interviews that it was Michigan law that all fighting dogs had to be put down. That is a LIE. In response to Director Dinon’s carelessness, Grand Ledge resident and Humane Society advocate Jamie Hillman reached out to Richard Angelo, Attorney for Best Friends Animal Society and Michigan Native. Mr. Angelo agreed to do all he could to help and he began corresponding with Director Dinon via phone and email regarding the Michigan Law pertaining to dogs from fight busts. Mr. Angelo explained to Director Dinon that the law was not being interpreted correctly and explained the correct interpretation to him through their correspondences. The law was not put into place to kill dogs from fight busts, rather it was enacted to keep dogs out of the hands of criminals.

On August 3rd, 2017, Jamie Hillman & Taryn Herbert formed the Coalition Save the Lansing Michigan Pit Bulls.[2] They formed their petition, they also created various social media platforms such as: Facebook group, Twitter and Instagram accounts in order to spread the word. This proved to be effective as the petition took off like wild fire. It was so successful that the petition received 125k signatures to save the dogs from being euthanized and allow an outside evaluation from an organization that had expert experience with dogs from fight busts.

Within two weeks, the coalition had around 1,700 members but quickly grew to 2,500 members State and Nationwide in only a month.  On August 8th, 2017, coalition member Kaylah Wirtjes put together a T-Shirt Fundraiser[3] that earned $1,740. The money raised by the fundraiser was given to both Eaton and Ingham County in hopes to help the rescued dogs.

Since the T-Shirt fundraiser was so successful, Coalition members from Mid-Michigan, Statewide, and Nationwide took action and started large-scale fundraising efforts. Local residents dropped off donations and members out of the area sent monetary donations, shipments of food, toys, bones, and supplies from a list provided by Eaton & Ingham County. The Eaton County Animal Control Director welcomed the coalition’s help with open arms which he expressed in a personalized letter to Jamie Hillman  to share with Coalition members thanking them for all their help with the fight dogs seized in Eaton County. They also made a post on their Facebook page. You can see it here Eaton County Facebook Post

While Eaton County was quick to express their gratitude, Coalition Members that donated to Ingham County Animal Control & Shelter did not receive any “thank you” for their donations.  It is a known fact the Ingham County Animal Shelter had member’s addresses because they receive a newsletter from the shelter with an envelope seeking donations a few weeks later.

On July 21st, 2017, Ingham County Animal Control filed a petition with the Lansing 54-A District Court to euthanize 9 & 7 dogs. On September 6th, 2018, Judge DeLuca signed 11 dogs over to the Ingham County Animal Control & Shelter. Of the eleven that were transferred to Ingham County five of the dogs were instantly euthanized[4]. According to Mr. Dinon, the five dogs were euthanized because they were “pedigreed fighting dogs” and one was euthanized because it bit an animal control employee[5]. This “pedigree” Mr. Dinon speaks of is a highly unreliable source known as apbt.online-pedigrees.com. You can see here that anyone with $30 can sign up and make a Pedigree.

Attorney Richard Angelo had sent Mr. Dinon an email that contained information on other cases in the state of Michigan where the judge ruled just because dogs come from a fighting busts does not mean they need to be euthanized. On August 14th, 2017, Mr. Angelo received a response from Mr. Dinon that he had forwarded the information about the other cases to the City Attorney. Mr. Angelo reached back out to Dinon on several occasions and received no response.  We (the coalition) decided we would take this information about the other cases to the County Commissioners

On September 14th, 2017, Coalition members attend the Law & Courts Committee meeting. Click to view minutes Coalition members Christy Lawrence, Chelsea VanCamp, Jamie Hillman, Terry Chapman, Donna Roy, and Julie Duke spoke and submitted statements to the Commissioners. A letter from Mr. Angelo was also submitted to the Commissioners.  The coalition prepared statements, binders with stories from owners who had adopted dogs from fight busts.

Commissioner Celentino asked how the dogs that were released to Animal Control were evaluated. Mr. Dinon stated they performed a test known as the “Safer Test” and provided a brief overview of the test. Mr. Dinon stated that they evaluated five of the fighting dogs using an outside evaluator. In 2015 the ASPCA (Safer Testing) has discontinued its certification process.

Mr. Dinon stated that a veterinarian who was in her residency in animal behavior did the evaluations. He further clarified that the veterinarian had not taken her boards yet but was planning on taking them in October. This information that Mr. Dinon brought forward clarifies that the veterinarian who did the evaluations was not a county employee. About a week after the meeting, things apparently changed. The commissioners agreed to allow the dogs to get outside evaluations. Coalition members and Mr. Angelo started reaching out to numerous organizations that specialized in evaluations of fight dogs and were willing to help with out of state placement.

On September 26th, 2017, Mr. Angelo spoke with Mr. Dinon on the phone regarding the potential placement of the dogs that were ready to be transferred. On September 27th, 2017, Mr. Angelo emailed John Dinon a list of the eight organizations that had expert knowledge and experience in dealing with dogs from fight busts. This list consisted of organizations that were currently offering assistance, via assessments and/or placement at no cost to Ingham County.  Mr. Angelo also mentioned in the email that in addition to the groups he listed, through Best Friends’ Network Partner groups, that their regional Network Specialist could reach out directly to all of their partner shelters in the region for potential placement. This region includes: MI, IN, IL, OH, and WI with more than 200 rescues and shelters in those states.

It was frustrating for our Coalition to stand idlily by as Director Dinon was ignoring the help of the groups we worked so hard to get on board, while the dogs were ready to be assessed.

Since then, Mr. Dinon has done multiple media interviews in which he states he did reached out to groups and could not get any help[6]. That was a lie. Director Dinon knew he had plenty of options for the dogs, but he failed do the right thing and accept the help.

On October 24th, 2017, WLNS spoke with Mr. Dinon. During this interview he said the ICAC is waiting to hear back from Bark Nation, a Detroit non-profit that specializes in rehabilitating fighting dogs on the transfer of the 4 dogs. The other 20+ dogs are still being held as evidence.

Mr. Dinon was offered help a month prior, on September 26th, 2017, but he ignored them. He did not return phone calls or emails accepting or rejecting the offers that were made to him. The organizations were in limbo waiting for further action from Mr. Dinon.

On November 1st, 2017, Fox47 News reported The Ingham County Animal Control Office announced that four of the dogs from the mid-Michigan dog fighting ring would be transferred to Bark Nation. The group evaluated the dogs and deemed all four to be good candidates for rehabilitation[7].

Mr. Dinon is solely responsible for the four dogs that spent over a month in the shelter when they did not have to. If Mr. Dinon would have accepted help that was offered by multiple organizations, he would have saved the county money. There is no excuse for him to not work with established organizations (at no cost to the taxpayers) that have experience in dealing with dogs from fight busts and helping move them from the shelters.  He stated they were ready to go to Bark Nation over a month ago. Instead, these dogs’ jail sentence for a crime they did not commit was extended. During this extended time in the shelter, the dogs were exposed to whipworm and were not getting the healthy amount of exercise. Shelters are supposed to be a safe place for these animals, but in this case it was just another disappointment in these dogs’ lives.

In the months to follow, the coalition would see updates as more of the #Michigan53 dogs were being transferred out of the shelter by Bark Nation. Stand Up for Pits Foundation  a 501c3 non-profit dedicated to saving lives and ending the abuse and discrimination of Pit Bull “type” dogs (Pibbles) through live events, funds, education and advocacy along with the continued support from Bark Nation were determined to prevent any more the #Michigan53 dogs from being euthanized. After extensive advocacy, education, and trouble-shooting, Bark Nation was permitted to evaluate the 47 (Ingham & Eaton) remaining dogs and place them in appropriate care outside the State of Michigan.

The Eaton County dogs were sent to Capital Area Humane Society for spay, neuter & vet checkup before being transferred out of state.

Stand Up for Pits Foundation provided a grant to Bark Nation to ensure they had the financial resources to save as many dogs as possible.  The grant covered Babesia testing (an essential first step for all victims of dog fighting), transport, enrichment, and supplies. As of March 31st, 2018, Bark Nation had placed 31 inherently good survivors with transfer partners across the nation.[8]

Now it is June 2018, almost a year later and the sad news continues. The coalition has learned shocking details about abuse, neglect, suffering and even death that some of the dogs endured while in the “care” of Ingham County Animal Control & Shelter.  This news came to the coalitions attention after reading a report from May 10th, 2018 that was released by Deborah MacDonald, Senior Investigator with the Michigan Humane Society. The report goes in to graphic detail on how the dogs were neglected, abused and died. Click here to view the Report.  FileName: Michigan Humane Report

On June 19th, 2018, coalition founders and members held a meeting, and at that time we decided to take action and seek justice for the dogs that suffered greatly. The coalition gathered research, started another petition, started social media and community outreach, and began demanding a change of leadership at Ingham County Animal Control. Director John Dinon, Deputy Director Anne Burns, and Shelter Vet Dr. Worthington all played a crucial role in the pain and suffering these dogs had to endure.

We thank you for reading the background information on the #Michigan53, and we hope we can count on your support. If you haven’t already, please sign our Petition, visit our website, “Like” us on Facebook, Follow us on Twitter and Instagram for further updates. Dreamville, and Jay Jay are looking down at us from the rainbow bridge with lots of tail wags and happy little faces.


[1] https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/michigan/articles/2017-08-02/2-arrest-warrants-issued-in-lansing-area-dogfighting-probe

[2] https://www.change.org/p/please-sign-and-share-to-help-save-the-lives-of-the-53-dog-fighting-victims-in-lansing-mi

[3] https://www.customink.com/fundraising/michigan53

[4] https://www.wlns.com/news/6-news-on-demand/ingham-county-takes-possession-of-animals-seized-in-dog-fighting-case/999917262

[5] Lansing State Journal 10-17-17

[6] https://worldanimalnews.com/immediate-help-needed-save-5-dogs-dog-fighting-ring-michigan-euthanized/


[7] https://www.fox47news.com/news/local-news/four-fighting-dogs-to-be-transferred-for-rehab-and-adoption

[8] https://standupforpits.us/amo-team/the-lansing-53/