Owners aim to keep wolfdogs at Muskegon County Wildlife Sanctuary by filing appeal


MUSKEGON, MI — The 37 wolfdogs at Howling Timbers Wildlife Sanctuary are expected to remain there at least until the appeal process is completed.

Brenda and James Pearson, owners of the animal sanctuary, were quick to decide to appeal a judge’s decision that would remove the wolfdogs. In an April 7 decision, Muskegon County Judge Annette R. Smedley determined that the owners of the sanctuary illegally possessed the wolfdogs.

Despite the judge’s decision to confiscate the animals, the Howling Timbers wolfdogs are expected to remain on the property, for the time being, as the owners are appealing the decision. The entire appeal process could take up to two years, according to the Pearsons’ lawyer.

“We absolutely knew we were going to appeal,” Brenda Pearson told MLive/Muskegon Chronicle on Friday, April 8. “We consider (the judge’s decision) a victory.

Pearson said the judge recognized Howling Timbers as a registered animal shelter. His lawyer, Celeste M. Dunn, confirmed this and said that “it will be an excellent case for the court of appeal”.

Howling Timbers, located east of Muskegon in Egelston Township, provides refuge for wolves, wolfdogs and exotic animals that have been neglected, abused, abandoned or abandoned by their former owner.

“They’re a Michigan animal shelter, and what’s going on here is problematic,” Dunn said.

Nothing can happen to the wolfdogs for 21 days after the order is placed, Dunn said. If nothing is done after the 21 days, the dogs will be confiscated by the state. However, Dunn said she would file a motion with the appeals court to extend the order indefinitely.

The DNR argued that the Pearsons were illegally breeding and harboring wolfdogs, which are crossbred between wolves and dogs. Breeding such hybrids is illegal in Michigan without proper permits.

The Pearsons shared news of the decision on the company’s Facebook page. Within hours, the post was inundated with comments.

The post garnered over 2,500 reactions and over 300 shares.

The court ordered the immediate euthanasia of two wolfdogs who seriously injured a child in 2019. The other 37, aged 2 to 13, will remain at Howling Timbers.

On Saturday, April 9, a wolfdog escaped from its enclosure at the animal shelter. The animal was found safe and sound after a four-hour search, police said.

The Pearsons said they are investigating the incident.

“We have perimeter fencing around our enclosures,” the owners wrote on the company’s Facebook page on Saturday. “The doors were locked, no escape holes, no open doors, no possible way for the wolfdogs involved to escape on their own.”

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