Michigan conservation officers searched an illegal animal facility in Muskegon where a child was attacked by a wolf dog.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officers led a joint investigation and served a search warrant Friday, October 9 at Howling Timbers, an animal rehabilitation facility in Muskegon that is believed to be illegally breeding and housing animals, including “wolf dogs” (a crossbreed between a wolf and dog) which is illegal in Michigan without special permits.

During the search, officers removed six red foxes, three coyotes, four eastern box turtles, and two fawns. Other non-native wildlife remains on-site, including 47 illegal wolf dogs.

The DNR is currently investigating the unlicensed facility,” said Steven Burton, assistant chief of the DNR Law Enforcement Division. “We want to make sure that anyone who comes into contact with these animals at this facility is safe, and that all of the animals at the facility are being cared for properly.

A search warrant was obtained following an investigation into an informant tip received in August. The informant told a conservation officer that a young child lost an arm after being attacked by a dog at Howling Timbers in July. The officer received a copy of the bite report which had been filed through Kent County Animal Control. The report confirmed that on July 23, a 2-year-old child stuck an arm into a cage at Howling Timbers and a dog latched onto the arm. One of the Howling Timbers volunteers attempted to free the child’s arm. The child's grandmother is Brenda Pearson, owner of Howling Timbers.

The Michigan DNR, the Muskegon County Sheriff’s Office, and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development are investigating Pearson for operating the facility without required permits.

Brenda Pearson said she is aware that she is not licensed in the state of Michigan for rehabbing or possessing the wolf dogs but that she has applied for the needed permits. Michigan DNR officers say that though Pearson has applied for permits, she has failed to complete all of the needed applications or follow through with the inspection process.

This is not the first time the facility and its owner have been on the wrong side of the law. DNR officers served a search warrant on the facility in 2008. In 2010, the DNR revoked Pearson’s wildlife rehabilitation permit.

Pearson’s history of criminal violations from the DNR includes:

  • Failing to submit wildlife rehabilitation permit records.
  • Failing to notify the DNR or any law enforcement agency regarding an escaped bear.
  • Failing to properly care for animals at the facility in humane and sanitary conditions.
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