The Michigan Humane Society has expanded its rescue efforts with a statewide response team for natural disasters and training for law enforcement and rescue organizations around the state.

The response team was launched by two animal cruelty investigators with decades of experience at the Michigan Humane Society who wanted to help cases that often ignored, the agency said. 

"There's a need around the state for a statewide response team with the gear and training to respond to more technical rescues in disasters," said Debby MacDonald, director of the statewide program. "So many counties may have one or no animal control officers, or law enforcement that may not have the training to deal with those issues. 

"We can assist where there is a need and that way, cruelty situations that don't have the experience to be tended to, are able to be addressed."

With a 20-foot trailer, the response team has been traveling around the state over the last two years and is now stocked with supplies and equipment to handle livestock or any situation that may come up.

"We've got all the supplies we need for any animal and a camper with boats so we can be self-sufficient anywhere we go for as long as we need," said MacDonald, who has worked with the society for 30 years.

"In Michigan, we've stayed close to home in Wayne County, but have traveled up north and the western side of the state training. We plan to expand our efforts and be in the (Upper Peninsula) by this summer giving our training."

The training is given to law enforcement agencies, animal control and other humane society and rescue groups so that they can identify cruelty. MacDonald said they hope to have animal search-and-rescue credentialing by this summer.

Class topics include Michigan animal law, animal behavior and handling in the field, human violence and animal cruelty, animals as evidence, dog fighting and cock fighting awareness and disaster preparedness. Investigation topics include insights into puppy mills and hoarding cases.

Counseling services are also offered for forensic veterinary support, assistance in identifying and cataloging animals as evidence, expert witness resources and assistance in large-scale impounds and temporary sheltering.

It's unclear how many animals the team is servicing, but MacDonald says she hopes this will help counties around the state.

"Having an agency that's willing to take that experience that we have and put it where it's needed, we're very fortunate," she said.
Twitter: @SarahRahal_

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