ATLANTA - The owner of 37 dogs and six miniature horses removed by the Montmorency County Sheriff's Department will face three felony charges, according to a release from the department.
Jennifer Elen Tucker-Richard has been charged with two counts of abandoning or cruelty to 10 or more animals, and one count of killing or torturing animals, according to the release. The 35-year-old woman turned herself in on Thursday, the same day the warrant was served.
Tucker-Richard was released on a $10,000, 10 percent bond and will be arraigned in 88th District Court on Feb. 15, according to the release. Each of the three charges carries a four-year maximum sentence.
The charges come after sheriff's deputies removed the animals on Jan. 24 and 25 from her Rust Township home, according to a separate release from the department. They removed the first 22 dogs and six horses on Jan. 24 after receiving a call from someone concerned about the animals' welfare. When deputies arrived, the dogs were outside with no proper shelter, food or drinkable water. The horses had the same lack of basic care, and deputies confiscated 15 of the 17 remaining dogs in the home on Jan. 25.
The dogs are being cared for at Elk Country Animal Shelter, and the horses are staying at a farm near Atlanta, shelter Director Pauline Hancock said on Jan. 25.
James Schmier, Tucker-Richard's attorney, said she was trying to supplement her income by raising dogs and "got in over her head."
"People get into these situations they don't know how to get out of," he said. "It's almost sad, but she's not a criminal by any means."
Tucker-Richard did not want to give the dogs to a pound or shelter because she feared they would be euthanized, Schmier said. While the dogs were cold, had frozen water and she was late in getting to them, she did not intentionally abuse or torture them.
"She was doing her best," he said. "Obviously, that wasn't good enough, don't get me wrong."
Paul Richard said the accused is his ex-wife, and he's concerned about the welfare of the four children the two adopted together when they were still married. He's had some contact with a Child Protective Services employee, but is still waiting to hear more.
Schmier said from his understanding and his conversations with Tucker-Richard, she has a well-kept home and sends the children to school. Her parents also are involved with their upbringing as well.
Tucker-Richard declined to comment except through her attorney.
Montmorency Undersheriff Brian Crane, said he couldn't comment directly about the case, but said law enforcement always evaluates living conditions and the condition of children inside homes their investigations bring them, regardless of the case.
Department of Human Services Director for Alcona, Alpena and Montmorency counties Director John Keller said child protection laws prevent him from commenting, or even confirming or denying if there's an active case involving the children.
"If there is a situation that our department is made aware of, if a child is in any sort of danger, we're charged by Michigan statute to investigate allegations of abuse or neglect," he said.
Jordan Travis can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5688.