Hearing held on the future of the Muskegon Wolfdog Sanctuary


MUSKEGON, Mich .– A judge in Muskegon heard testimony Monday morning regarding what should happen to the animals currently living at the Howling Timbers Animal Shelter.

Howling Timbers Animal Sanctuary owner Brenda Pearson appeared before Judge Annette R. Smedley at 9:30 a.m. Monday for a forfeiture hearing regarding the 47 wolf dogs in their custody.

Pearson is currently facing civil and criminal charges related to wolfdogs on his property.

In 2020, Michigan DNR officers served a search warrant at the sanctuary after learning of reports that a child and volunteer were injured by a wolfdog.

During the execution of this warrant, two fawns, six red foxes, three coyotes and four box turtles were removed from Howling Timbers. According to the DNR, they were not duly authorized to house the animals.

They also found 47 wolfdogs living there at the time, claiming they were also not allowed to house them.

In court on Monday, during a confiscation hearing in the civil In this case, the prosecution claimed that the sanctuary had not been properly authorized to house wolfhounds since 2018.

A defense attorney for Pearson and her husband on Monday asked Judge Smedley for more time before proceeding to the hearing, saying they did not have enough time to review the prosecution’s evidence.

Justice Smedley denied their request and the forfeiture hearing continued.

The prosecution showed several photos of injuries allegedly caused by wolfdogs living at Howling Timbers.

One of those photos appeared to show an arm with open wounds, detached from a body, which prosecutors said had been torn off by a wolfdog.

Pearson’s defense attorney said it was Pearson’s young granddaughter who had her arm torn off by one of the wolfhounds. They also admitted that a staff member was injured by a wolfdog after entering one of their enclosures.

Prosecutors, in response, claimed at least 4 people had been injured by wolfdogs in recent years at Howling Timbers.

Pearson also faces criminal charges following the 2020 MNR investigation. She faces one count of dangerous animal causing serious injury and a violation of the Wolf Dog Cross Act.

The trial date for these charges has not yet been set.

Pearson started the shrine in the early 1990s.

The state of Michigan permitted the keeping of wolfdogs in residential homes until 2000, when the laws were changed. After this point, all wolfhounds in the state were to be in the care of a properly licensed sanctuary.

“It was never really meant to be that big, it was never meant to last that long. They started with a few wolfhounds. It was kind of a personal thing,” said one of the Brenda’s granddaughters at FOX 17 during a visit to the shrine in December 2019.

Howling Timbers posted on his Facebook page on October 14: “We have held back from making a public comment, but not anymore. The trial for the confiscation of all our animals continues on Monday. There are no sanctuaries for all of our animals, the DNR does not have a placement, so the Muskegon County District Attorney is forcing the deaths of all of our animals IF THE PLACEMENT IS NOT OBTAINED. The blood of our beloved animals is in the hands of the Attorney General, DNR and MDARD. It is an atrocity of the first magnitude!

This post has been shared over 1000 times.

After starting to gain momentum on social media, the Muskegon County District Attorney’s Office released its own statement on Friday, October 15, stating in part: “There have been false information and allegations made about social media about an ongoing legal case involving animals in the care of a local defendant in Muskegon County. Our office supports animal rights and supports the ethical and legal treatment of animals. Our office will continue to advocate for safe, legal and appropriate care for all animals, including wolves and mixed wolf-dog breeds. We believe that all animals deserve proper care and will do everything in our power to achieve this goal. “

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