More than 30 dogs found in filthy Michigan City home

August 1, 2018

MICHIGAN CITY – Police found more than 30 dogs living in filthy conditions inside a home on the city’s east side last week, including one that was dead, and the homeowner is now facing dozens of criminal charges.

The home was originally visited by police as part of a code enforcement sweep after neighbors reported eight or more dogs were living in the house and there was a “stench permeating the neighborhood,” a statement from Michigan City Police said.

On July 26, La Porte County Adult Protective Services Unit called Michigan City Police to say a woman who lived in the home in the 200 block of South Woodland Avenue was found on the back porch and had been taken to the hospital, police said.

“At the hospital it was discovered that she was covered in urine, feces, maggots and lice; and they listed her injuries and condition as serious,” Sgt. Chris Yagelski said in the statement.

Detective Corporal Greg Radiger and animal control officer Jason Speakman then went back to the home with a search warrant, and had to kick the door in to gain entry. Found inside were 35 various-sized dogs – 34 alive and one dead.

“It’s the worst house I’ve ever been in,” Speakman said. “We wore tie-back suits, booties and masks due to the feces and unknown other materials in there. It was so bad that we went in regular paper masks at first, but (Fire Chief) Randy Novak had to bring us breathing apparatuses with filters. Halfway through, we had to change our filters because it was so bad.”

A local veterinarian also entered the home.

“Each dog was medically assessed by Dr. Rex Bailey upon removal and most could not stand or walk,” Yagelski said.

The dogs were tagged and taken to on-site cages before being transferred to medical facilities and shelters. Due to the large number of dogs and because “they were all infested with fleas and feces infections,” the La Porte County Animal Shelter and Michiana Humane Society helped remove, isolate and take in the dogs, police said.

About a week earlier Code Enforcement and City Inspection officers had checked the outside of the building and Animal Control was called, according to Yagelski.

Speakman and fellow animal control officer Julie Holbrook “discovered the foul odor and the approximate number of dogs at eight or more in the household,” police said.

However, the owner of the home refused to answer the door and did not allow investigators inside, police said. Speaking through a window, a woman inside admitted she did not have city licenses or rabies tags for any of the animals, police said.

The owner was cited for eight city ordinance violations for neglect of an animal; eight for no city tags; and eight for no rabies certifications – a total of 24 violations, police said. He refused to sign for the tickets, however.

On Tuesday, the homeowner, 67-year-old Terry Marthinsen, was charged with 35 Class A misdemeanor counts of animal neglect, Yagelski said. He is the husband of the woman who was taken from the home by ambulance. She remained hospitalized as of Tuesday evening.

The home has been deemed uninhabitable, Yagelski said, and condemnation proceedings are underway. NIPSCO has shut off utility service.

Speakman said the 15 dogs that remained in the care of animal control Tuesday received complete medical exams, rabies shots and microchips from Dr. Bailey, a veterinarian at Michigan City Animal Hospital. They were bathed and treated for fleas before being returned to the kennels, which also were cleaned during the dogs’ examinations.

Chief Mark Swistek applauded the efforts of Dr. Bailey, who came to the house with another vet and staff, and even closed his business to give the dogs immediate medical attention. He also lauded the efforts of the Adult Protective Services, the La Porte County Health Department, and his own Animal Control officers and volunteers.

“We are pleased to say that even though this was an ill-fated incident with inhumane treatment of animals, the homeowner has agreed and signed off ownership of these animals, so they will be treated and potentially adoptable,” Swistek said.

He also thanked citizens who made donations to help the animals.

In a Facebook post, the Michiana Humane Society said some of the dogs taken from the “hoarding situation” will be treated and prepared for adoption.

“The dogs are receiving veterinary care,” the society posted. “First assessment indicates that they are flea-infested and have been living in dirty conditions, but are basically all right. Here at MHS we will be heartworm testing them Tuesday, and Dr. Bailey will help us get them vaccinated.

“What we are most looking for now is foster homes that can take one or two of them so that we can help to get the others out of the Michigan City kennels. Their housing is not made for longer term care.”

If you would like to adopt one of the dogs, call Becky at (219) 872-4499, or visit the MHS shelter at 722 Ind. 212 to fill out a foster application.

Another group of dogs were taken to the La Porte County Small Animal Shelter in La Porte.

In a Fcebook post, the shelter staff called it a “horrible hoarding case in Michigan City” and said dogs will be available for adoption soon.

“We appreciate everyone’s patience while we had medical checks done ... In our care are 11 of the 34 dogs which includes two females and nine males of various poodle-terrier mixes. Ages range from 4 months to 10 plus years.

“All dogs have been vetted thanks to Dr. Patrick Dorroh and will be spayed or neutered tomorrow [Wednesday]. Many of you have asked what supplies we need. At this point, monetary donations would be best for costs of the medical care, which includes vaccines, medical tests and medications.”

To donate or inquire about adoptions from the shelter, call (219) 326-1637.

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