Dead cat allegation sparks Allegan County park probe

Sandy Pines Recreational Community reacts to dead cat photo

A Jan, 29, 2018 image of Sandy Pines Recreational Community in Salem Township.

SALEM TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — An Allegan County recreational park says its working with authorities investigating how it handles its feral cat population.

Several viewers contacted 24 Hour News 8 after spotting video and pictures posted on Facebook allegedly showing a dead cat found inside a metal trap at Sandy Pines Recreational Community.

“I think the assumptions were made based upon the weather and the time in which it was found, that hypothermia, that type of thing, would be a factor in the case,” explained Allegan County Sheriff Frank Baker, whose office is handling the case.

“Apparently, somebody had found one of the traps that they utilize out there to deal with their feral cat issues, and it appears as though one of the cats inside that trap was deceased. And as a result of that, we began an investigation into what occurred,” he explained.

Baker wouldn’t elaborate on the ongoing investigation, but acknowledged that deputies were interviewing people Monday and the investigation may take the entire week.

“Right now, I don’t really have a lot of the details,” Baker said. “I know it’s still under investigation.”

Once the probe is complete, his office will forward its finding to the prosecutor’s office for review.

Sandy Pines has not yet returned 24 Hour News 8’s messages seeking comment about the investigation. However, a statement on its website calls the allegations “not true.”

A statement posted on the recreational community’s website Saturday reads:

“The Sandy Pines Public Safety Department is working with the Allegan County Sherriff’s (sic) department, Administration and Animal Control to complete a full and thorough investigation. We fully understand the seriousness of these allegations and understand how the pictures being shared through social media, and improper assumptions being made, portrays Sandy Pines in a negative light. While we want to correct the record now, it is important for everyone to let law enforcement correct the record. If we were to disclose the actual evidence that has been obtained, it could compromise the ongoing investigation.

“Please know that our Public Safety Officers do check all our traps on a routine schedule, thus it is highly unlikely this incident happened as it is alleged and as it is being portrayed. There are many factors at play which could affect the outcome of this investigation, again none that we are able to disclose until the culmination of the investigation.

“While we welcome constructive conversation on this topic, we will not tolerate speculation, accusation, name calling and blame. We have a zero tolerance policy and such speculation and accusation – before the facts are revealed – will be removed from our wall and users will be blocked from our page. Additional speculation and accusation posted as reviews will be reported to Facebook and users will be blocked from our page. Our Facebook Wall is a public page and not a closed forum. Such improper speculation and accusation could also subject the accuser to a defamation claim. To the extent anyone has already engaged in such misconduct, we are asking for an immediate retraction. Again, we welcome constructive conversation on the topic.

“We look forward to the day when the investigation is concluded and the truth revealed. However, we do not know how long the investigation will last as many reports and statements are yet to be collected, but we will keep you informed as we are authorized to do so without compromising the investigation. In the meantime, we can assure you that there is no conspiracy, no hidden agenda and no efforts to hide information from our members or the public. We simply cannot risk information compromising the investigation. The results of this issue are in the hands of Allegan County Officials, and we are confident that the truth will win out. In the meantime, Sandy Pines will continue to work in the best interest of the safety and security of its members and community. Thank you.”