Shelby Township, Michigan has ordered the removal of all foster dogs in the care of Detroit Animal Welfare Group (DAWG) in 10 days because the operation is allegedly in violation of township zoning ordinances. According to the township, an animal rescue is “not a permitted use” in a residential area. Its important to note, however, that no such ordinance or zoning restriction exists, and this is the Township’s interpretation of “permitted use.”
Kelley LaBonty, a registered nurse, has run DAWG out of her home for the past 10 years with no complaints. DAWG is an all-breed rescue, but one look at their website reveals they are very bully friendly. The home owners association (HOA) for the community in which Ms. LaBonty lives states neighbors fear possible injuries, particularly to children, should a dog get loose.
The HOA took their complaint to the Township Board asking that they enforce the zoning ordinance, but there is no ordinance to enforce. According to the township attorney, Robert Huth, the township ordinances do not specifically address an animal-rescue operation. As such, Mr. Huth claims that if such a use is not spelled out in the township code, then it’s deemed impermissible in a residential area. He added that “in his view,” the rescue violates the zoning ordinance because it’s not a permitted use in a residential zone.
Please reach out to the officials of Shelby Township and let them know you support responsible rescues fostering animals in Shelby Township homes. In prohibiting rescue organizations and foster homes, hundreds of dogs will die in animal shelters due to lack of space. At the very least, encourage city officials to enter into talks with Ms. LaBonty to discuss alternatives to remedy the situation that don’t result in the closing of the rescue.
Code Enforcement officer
Board of Trustees
Time is of the essence. If unable to put a hold on or stop the order to enforce the removal of the dogs at DAWG, this rescue will be forced to close, and animals now and in the future, will be denied that crucial second chance at a new life simply due to lack of room in shelters always overrun with animals in need.