STANTON — A Montcalm County man is hoping a century-old law will provide him and his wife with financial restitution after a vicious dog attack resulted in the deaths of eight of their sheep.
On Monday, the Montcalm County Law Enforcement & Courts Committee considered a request from Kenneth Lund of Sheridan. Lund wrote commissioners a March 22 letter detailing a Nov. 20, 2012, incident in which a flock of 28 sheep owned by Lund’s wife Deb were attacked by two neighborhood dogs. Six ewes were killed by the dogs and two more ewes had to be euthanized due to the severity of their wounds. The remaining sheep were all injured in some form or another.
Lund said he was informed by Montcalm County Animal Control that the county might be able to provide financial reimbursement.
According to a Michigan law dating back to 1919: “If a person sustains any loss or damage to livestock or poultry that is caused by dogs, or if the livestock of a person is necessarily destroyed because of having been bitten by a dog, the person or his or her agent or attorney may complain to the township supervisor or a township official or other qualified person designated by the township board of the township in which the damage occurred … Any owner or keeper of the dog or dogs shall be liable to the county in a civil action for all damages and costs paid by the county on any claim as provided in this section.”
Lund is requesting $450 each for the eight dead ewes ($3,600), $200 each for the damaged 18 ewes ($3,600) and $564.10 for the Central Michigan Equine Veterinary Services bill for a total of $7,764.10.
“We believe the damage done to the surviving sheep will permanently reduce their lambing productivity,” Lund stated.
Lund forwarded commissioners a letter from Dr. Thomas Barkham of the Almont-Dryden Veterinary Clinic in Almont stating the estimated value of an ewe is $350 to $450. Barkham also stated that devastated ewes abort, don’t breed, have small lambs, don’t milk or are damaged beyond repair and killed.
The two dogs, Chewy (a rottweiler mix) and Mater (a Labrador mix), were found in Lund’s sheep pen and were euthanized by Animal Control officials. The dogs both had rabies tags and a Michigan State Police officer was able to locate the owner, Kelly Sue Hitsman of Sheridan. According to the police report, Hitsman told police her dogs got out of their pen sometime in the middle of the night and killed her goats. She had just picked up the dogs from Animal Control earlier that week after the dogs were found running at large.
According to the police report, Hitsman asked for Lund’s name and phone number so she could contact him about paying for the sheep.
Lund declined to comment when contacted by The Daily News. Hitsman could not be reached for comment by The Daily News.
On Monday commissioners discussed what role, if any, the county should play in the matter.
“It’s pretty obvious who the owner was,” said Controller-Administrator Chris Hyzer. “It sounded like she was sorry for what her dogs did to the sheep and she was trying to make things right. If she has not paid Mr. Lund and we do make payment, we do have the right to seek reimbursement from the dog owner.”
Commissioner Steve DeWitt of Coral was emphatic that the county should take no position in the matter.
“The dogs have been identified,” DeWitt said. “The owner recognizes them as her dogs and offers to make restitution. I don’t think we have any responsibility to make restitution in this case. I don’t think the county should be involved at all. I would feel very uncomfortable with the county being any part of this.”
Commissioner John Johansen of Montcalm Township disagreed.
“This is not the first time we’ve had these issues in front of us,” Johansen said. “If I was the individual that owned the sheep and I read this law, he should have started out with the township to begin with. I don’t think I favor us washing our hands of the issue, I don’t think I can do that.”
Commissioners were not clear about whether Hitsman had provided Lund with any restitution in the matter. They agreed to recommend the full board vote to refer Lund to Hitsman for civil liability. If Lund is unsuccessful in this matter, he will have the option of coming back to the county for assistance.
The full Board of Commissioners is next scheduled to meet on April 22.