Woman can’t own pets as part of animal cruelty sentence

MUSKEGON, MI – The owner of a now-defunct dog rescue shelter engaged in “classic hoarding behavior” when investigators found dozens of dogs in deplorable living conditions in and around a woman’s home, a prosecutor said.

An emotional Lisa Marie Cooper admitted she was in over her head as she continued to foster more dogs than she could handle.

Cooper, 44, was before a judge Monday morning, May 6, in Muskegon County Circuit Court to find out her sentence in the animal cruelty case.

Related: A woman pleads guilty to animal cruelty a year after removing 78 dogs from her West Michigan home

The case began in January 2023 when police removed 78 dogs from Cooper’s home that she had smuggled from her home in Norton Shores. The dogs were confined in cages and, in some cases, lived in urine and feces.

The dogs were divided up and sent to different state-regulated shelters in Muskegon County. Some dogs died of diseases — such as tuberculosis — in the weeks following the rescue.

Cooper was charged with abandonment/cruelty to 25 or more animals, and pleaded guilty — through a plea deal — in March.

In court Monday, Muskegon County Assistant Prosecutor Charles Cobb said Cooper had been flying under the radar for many years. Cobb pointed to two incidents — in 2018 and 2019 — in which police were called to Cooper’s home due to complaints about the number of dogs she had on her property.

No criminal charges were filed in either incident. The prosecutor referred to Cooper’s actions as “classic hoarding behavior.”

After reading a letter, Cooper told the judge that she had never abused, neglected or tortured any animal in her care.

“I’m over it…which is easy to do with a rescue,” she told Judge Matthew Castle. “…All I wanted to do was save them.”

She said she will never return to animal rescue. Cooper said if she could do things differently, she would.

Related: A group of dogs are now “craving attention” weeks after being rescued from a Norton Shores home

She said: “My crime was caring too much and not being able to say no.”

In drafting the sentence, Castle did not order any prison sentence. Instead, he placed Cooper on probation for five years and ordered her to complete 100 hours of community service. While on probation, Cooper cannot own or own any animals.

The refund was not immediately requested on Monday.

Big Lake Humane Society in Muskegon was one of the shelters that took in a portion of Cooper’s more than 70 dogs. It was a difficult time for the shelter, Velvet Light said.

The shelter was forced to close for an entire month due to diseases brought in by dogs from Cooper’s home, said Light, the director of Big Lake. Three dogs died shortly after arriving.

She said Light was among a few shelter representatives who attended court Monday to witness justice, accountability and hope in the case.

“We’re glad there’s some accountability here and responsibility that’s being taken and actions that hopefully will result in this not happening again,” she said.

Big Lake still has one of Cooper’s dogs – Elvis – available for adoption. To learn more about the adoption process, click here.

“The best thing is seeing them recover and show their personality,” Light said of the dogs.

Want more Muskegon area news? Local reference Muskegon News Page Or sign up for free”3@3 Muskegon“Daily Newsletter.

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