U.P. woman accused of running puppy mill enters plea, won't face trial

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

An Upper Peninsula woman accused of running a puppy mill has pleaded to cruelty to animals and to having an unregistered shelter, officials said Thursday.

Rebecca Johnson of Rock faced one felony count of abandoning/cruelty to 25 or more animals and a misdemeanor count of having an unregistered shelter. A jury trial was set to start Monday but the plea cancels that, the Delta County Prosecutor's Office said.

Sentencing is scheduled for 2 p.m. July 7 at the county's 47th Circuit Court.

One of the dogs removed in August 2020.

“Our office wanted to make it a priority that she be held accountable for the conditions those animals lived in,” said Delta County Acting Prosecuting Attorney Lauren Wickham in a statement. “No plea offer was ever even considered in this circumstance.”

The case stems from charges filed nearly two years ago.

On Aug. 24, 2020, a Michigan State Police trooper responding to a call about a horse running lose in the road near Maple Ridge Township spotted underweight dogson Johnson's property, prosecutors said. The trooper found many in outdoor kennels with matted fur or appearing injured.

Through a search warrant, authorities seized 69 puppies, 66 dogs and 23 horses. Several of the canines were pregnant at the time of the raid and had their litters at the Delta Animal Shelter, which oversaw treatment.

Johnson forfeited the animals in January 2021, which allowed the shelter to start adopting them out, officials said.

“This is a win for the whole community,” Wickham said. “The way the people of Delta County responded to the needs of these animals is just incredible. Law enforcement and the volunteers at Delta Animal Shelter made this case such a success, both inside and outside the courtroom.”

Meanwhile, Johnson was sentenced in February to a month in jail for possessing a dog with the intention of breeding it.

She was ordered not to tend, care for or possess any pets or reside with any person who has them when released.