Shelby Township Takes Bite Into Dog Rescue Controversy

Shelby Township officials say a local dog rescue and foster care operation in Forest Glen subdivision violates township ordinance.

Does a home-based animal rescue operation have a place in Shelby Township?

Township officials say no, which is news for Kelley LaBonty, who has operated the nonprofit Detroit Animal Welfare Group out of her home in the Forest Glen subdivision for the past 10 years.

A registered nurse, LaBonty serves as president of DAWG and fosters multiple animals at any given time in addition to her own four dogs.

In January, Shelby Township notified LaBonty that her operation was in violation of township zoning ordinances, as an animal rescue is "not a permitted use" in a residential area, according to The Macomb Daily.

A second letter was sent the first week of February, which ordered LaBonty to remove the fosters she had and cease operating the rescue from her home by Feb. 17. 

While the township does not have an ordinance specific to neighborhood-based animal-rescue operations, township attorney Robert Huth told The Macomb Daily that DAWG "violates the zoning ordinance because it’s not a permitted use in a residential zone."

For some of LaBonty's neighbors, the issue is liability.

Armand Verlado, president of the Forest Glen Homeowners Association, told the board of trustees last week that he and other residents are concerned about accountability should a dog get loose and injure someone.

Labonty had not complied with the township's order to cease operations as of Feb. 17, leading Shelby Township officials to consider court as the next step.

Should DAWG be permitted to operate in Forest Glen subdivision? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.

Tina February 25, 2013 at 04:17 PM
Amazing!! Yet it's okay for there to be a children's day care and adult care facility in a subdivision at 25 and Shelby....RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET FROM EACH OTHER....and that's okay?! Try driving through there in the morning or at 5:00 when they parents are dropping off and picking up their kids....it's insanity!!
macombresident February 25, 2013 at 05:51 PM
I agree with everything the above posters have stated about the 22 mile road shelter. This is nothing new to those who know about this so called "humane society"...they have one of the highest kill rates in the state. My personal interactions with them when trying to adopt a dog, along with the many many other people who have had problems in trying to adopt an animal, have confirmed what other posters are saying about this place: It needs to be shut down. While the clinic may be run fine, this kill shelter is not. I understand that the township is following up on complaints from the homeowners' association, but surely some sort of exception can be made. From the sounds of it, this wonderful woman is just fostering dogs until they can be adopted. SHAME on those neighbors who complained about her,
macombresident February 25, 2013 at 05:54 PM
Completely agree Tina...we've got an adult care facility AND a halfway house for convicted felons within a mile of my sub and these are okay but fostering homeless dogs so they can be adopted (rather than dumping them at the "humane" society on 22 mile so they can be killed, that's against some stupid sub rules? What is this world coming too?
macombresident February 25, 2013 at 05:55 PM
macombresident February 25, 2013 at 05:57 PM
what petition? i'll sign!
todd b February 26, 2013 at 02:14 AM
i just watched the Shelby planning board meeting where Kelley and several others presented counterpoints on her dog rescue effort. these folks and especially Mr. Moffit and Mr. Wynn were very indifferent to her appeals. outright mean more like it. no alternate ideas on how she might continue to do her work and conform to ordinances. not even a recognition that she is doing something good. a bunch of dead wood if you ask me and we pay these people?
Sandra Steele Wilen February 26, 2013 at 05:14 AM
Perhaps the new Macomb Animal Shelter in Clinton Twp (Macomb County) could help inspect her home, examine records, talk to her vets, and stand behind her as Well as perhaps MI Humane Soc. In Wayne and Oakland. That would certainly help. Also if no law was in effect in Shelby...wouldn't she win if they sued? Shouldn't she be grandfathered in if they brought in a law?
Sandra Steele Wilen February 26, 2013 at 05:15 AM
Clinic was our problem as well.
Sandra Steele Wilen February 26, 2013 at 05:17 AM
I think that would be fantastic! How would one do that? That place smells of death...horrible reputation I hate to have in my county.
Sandra Steele Wilen February 26, 2013 at 05:22 AM
Also was told by their officials she wasn't breaking any laws just 2 months ago by a Twp official. Now all of a sudden, were they lying to her...completely unjustified.
macombresident February 26, 2013 at 05:39 PM
You're right Matt and with that in mind: Armand Velardo president of the association is an attorney (of course) with a Ruggirello, Velardo, Novara & Ver Beek PC on Gratiot in Mt Clemens. Contact info is http://www.rvnvlaw.com/map.htm or phone 586-469-8660. Perhaps residents should contact the homeowners association president directly & let him know how the rest of shelby twp residents feel about his and the board's actions
macombresident February 26, 2013 at 05:46 PM
Perhaps residents should let the association president know that his actions in attacking a wonderful woman doing her best to help rescue abused, neglected & dumped animals are not a part of his law firm, his personal actions may have an effect on his professional life i.e. people will not consider using his legal services or that of his firm while he continues to go after this great lady & tries to stop her from fostering dogs while they are trying to be adopted. I work for an attorney...trust me the only thing they know is the bottom line, namely money..
Ron Brissette February 26, 2013 at 07:49 PM
If the people keep the property clean, do not allow the dogs to run loose, and the dogs are for all practical purposes "hidden" what harm does this create? The dogs are being taken care of, are up-to-date with shots and neutered or spayed, they would be a lot less risky than those dogs that are running loose and usually not watched closely by their owners. What ot the animals were not dogs - says cats for instance. What would the township say then? I have two dogs that are from a rescue and love them. Much better than getting them from a pet store!
Michelle Johnston Battice February 26, 2013 at 09:02 PM
the point here is that it is against the rules and some neighbors are unhappy about this, they have that right. Its not a competition as to who loves their pets more. I ran a daycare in Shelby Twp, I was licensed, i had limits, i was inspected. None of these things are happening at this location. It is great what she is doing, but for love of our pets (or children) you have to follow the rules, or take the proper channels to have the rules changed.
macombresident February 27, 2013 at 05:24 PM
What is against the rules? According to another poster above she was told only 2 months ago that she was not breaking any rules...but let a few mean spirited people who have nothing better to do with their life start stirring up trouble & all of the sudden they want to shut her down? For what....fostering some dogs for a short time period until they can be adopted? As Ron said above, as long as the dogs aren't running loose & the property is kept clean, then what is the harm? And I would add that running a daycare out of your home is much much different than fostering a few dogs.
AMANDA LABONTY February 27, 2013 at 05:51 PM
Michelle please see michigan pet fund alliance for statistics on the Humane Society of Macomb for the real truth and the fact they are rated worst charity in the COUNTRY. They euthanize 79% of all animals and refuse to work with rescues or let anyone take pictures to help find homes for their dogs. That is not a shelter. it is a euthanasia facility. It has nothing to do with the vet there. She is a paid employee. Animals are not better cared for confined to cell 24 hours a day with little human interaction versus a loving home. In addition, there are no rules against fostering dogs as there are HUNDREDS of dogs fostered in Macomb county. The Michigan Humane Society also uses a very large amount of residential homes for their dogs. There are no limits on dogs in Shelby Twp, Macomb County or the state of Mi
AMANDA LABONTY February 27, 2013 at 06:06 PM
There is no limit on number of dogs or fostering dogs in Shelby twp.according to the ordinances so no laws are being broken. Foster based rescues are not required to be licensed by the state as shelters and kennels are per the USDA.
AMANDA LABONTY February 27, 2013 at 06:08 PM
Shelby Twp was contacted in 2011 and 2012 and asked if there was any limit on the number of dogs or fostering in the twp and were told no on both occasions. Just a bark/noise ordinance and the animals must be well cared for
AMANDA LABONTY February 27, 2013 at 06:13 PM
there have been no complaints of noise or any other is3ues than ONE neighbor complaining about the number of dogs to the association and city who then got the assocation president to make a public comment at a board meeting that the dogs could get out and maul a child. There has never been an incident with any of the dogs at this home biting/hurting any person, they are in a fenced yard when outside. The dogs are not aggressive and neighbor children walk them regularly. . More people die of bee stings every year than dogbites,...just saying
AMANDA LABONTY February 27, 2013 at 06:16 PM
We have petitions if you would like one please email me at kelcruiser@aol.com. We need Shelby Twp registered voters to sign please!
AMANDA LABONTY February 27, 2013 at 06:27 PM
Most neighbors stop to thank us for fostering the animals. The dogs do not bark excessively and the home maintained aesthetically pleasing. The complaint that soemeon dosent like the number of dogs one has is an opinion if there is no law against it. Many neighbors signed a petition to support the fostering of animals in this home and others in the Twp as there are 12 other foster based rescues locally!
Macomb Rocker February 28, 2013 at 06:37 AM
I adopted one of my animals from the 22 mile Shelter. I couldn't be more satisfied. What type of dogs is 'Dawg' fostering? Pit bulls? Dobermans? I grew up in a St. Clair Shores neighborhood. We raised, showed and bred purebred Siberian Huskies. We usually had a few at a time. We had kennels in and out of our garage. It depends on what you do to keep the dogs quiet and the smell gone. We had no complaining neighbors. Later in life i raised and showed purebred Collies (we also had horses when my kids where little and boarded them out). Same setup we had kennels built in our garage and maintained the dogs. No complaints from neighbors. Do the dogs bark? Does the rescue house smell? My mom still raises and shows dogs. They too put kennels inside their garage, insulated the sound and heated it. They have no neighbor complaints. Is this a lonely gay neighbor complaining because he is a control freak?
AMANDA LABONTY February 28, 2013 at 12:34 PM
Kelley's home is beautifully maintained and there are NO complaints of noise or odor.
sue March 02, 2013 at 01:08 PM
The really said thing is. Schools take field trips there. We need to educate Shelby Twp what a terrible place that is. So people to surrender a animal or if they one to call a rescue group and not to take it there. It is not a REAL HUMANE SOCIETY.It isowned by someone in ofstate CO.Checkout assessing inShelby Twp.org. And a far as no petfinder and web site.Is told at the Christmas Party there in 2011.they were working on it>WHere is it??They finally put somecats on it.And finally the very first sign of compasionthey have adopt a pet inThe Source Newspaper where they have 4 sponsors with four dogs name to be adopted. This place has been around since 1960's and very first sign they care.If you look under Charity Navigator inthe last 10years they barely made 1 star, And people are donating to them. I think people think they are real Humane Society..They are not.Thye areprivate owned for profit .Under Charity Naviagtor you can see there tax filings????
sue March 02, 2013 at 01:21 PM
It is not the animals fault that there is people out there that do not spay or neuter there pets. All the rescue groups have them spayed or neutered before they are adopted out.You had a kennel because you were raising dogs.This is for fostering. Even the REAL HUMANE SOCIETY IS ROCHESTER HLS,DETROIT,WESTLAND have a fostering program inplace hoping to have there animals out.They know that a animal in shelter can easily get kennel cough,That isa death sentence for the 22mile In Humane Society
sue March 02, 2013 at 10:05 PM
I'm getting to think thats only board Shelby has. Since I've lived here for 35yrs. They can't confirm ordinances on this because there is not one.... Shelby has always had problems .. They do what ever they want and try toget away with.This is not the only issue they are dealing with....Other cities must be looking on and saying what a bunch .... representing Shelby Twp.
Dana Horton March 03, 2013 at 09:36 PM
Mr Stathakis and Mr Flynn are upset because the dogs haven’t been paying their taxes.
Matt Guarnieri March 04, 2013 at 07:41 AM
Ms. Horton's comments reflect an obsession with a couple of board members. Like a scorned. stalking lover would have.
Deanna March 05, 2013 at 05:59 AM
She has been doing it for 10 years why make a big deal now. Thats just so sad that people have nothing better to do than complain about the neighbors that do good things.
Carrie Odonnell May 29, 2013 at 02:47 PM
My husband and I currently are fostering two dogs from Kelly. They are good dogs . Kelly is very respecful whenever we need to get a hold of her for anything. Also, we have adopted our 4th pot bellied pig (Blanquita) means white in Spanish she is all white. Otherwise she would of been put down at Macomb Animal Shelter behind the jail at Cass. That place is dispicable ,animals always sick especially dogs. Please find yourselves other stuff to occupy your minds. Rescue work is hard, loving and rewarding. Sincerely, Pig Farmer John and wife Carrie.


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