Distemper exposure forces Muskegon animal rescue shelter to remain closed until the end of the month


MUSKEGON, MI — The doors of a Muskegon animal rescue shelter will remain closed under quarantine until at least the end of the month after an encounter with a deadly disease.

Big Lake Humane Society was one of the shelters that took in some of the 78 dogs removed from Lisa Cober’s home in January. Many of these dogs suffered from a fatal disease called distemper. The virus attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous systems of the animal.

The shelter announced last week that it would be closed to the public and volunteers until March 21 after two dogs – not part of Cober’s lot – began showing signs of distemper, a source said. manager of the shelter.

These two dogs died of distemper last weekend.

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It remains unclear how the two dogs, which were taken into the care of the shelter after staff received the animals from Cober, may have come into contact with distemper.

“Distemper is not something to play with. We’ve never seen it before,” Big Lake Humane Society executive director Alexis Robertson told MLive/Muskegon Chronicle.

Big Lake Humane Society staff met on Tuesday, March 14 and made the decision to keep the shelter doors closed until the end of the month as a safety precaution.

“(Distemper) is unlike any other virus I have ever seen,” Robertson added.

When the 78 dogs were taken from Cober’s home in Norton Shores, where she ran her rescue business, they were split up and sent to other shelters for care in Muskegon County.

At the time, the Big Lake Human Society took in 18 dogs, but three have since died of distemper, Robertson said.

The remaining 15 dogs have been medically cleared and are starting to bounce back healthy.


“A few of them went to foster homes and most of them are still here with us,” Robertson said, adding that the dogs are not in permanent homes as they are considered as evidence in Cober’s criminal case.

The overall situation, Robertson said, has put the shelter in a difficult financial position.

“We are in a very fragile state after spending over $10,000 on Cober’s Canine dogs,” Robertson said.

If you would like to donate or help purchase items you need, you can do so by visiting the Shelter’s Amazon Wish List here or through the Shelter’s website here.

Cober, 42, was sentenced to stand trial on one count of abandonment/cruelty to 25 or more animals. A trial date has not been set.

Muskegon County prosecutors are also pursuing a civil suit against Cober. Prosecutors want Cober to waive his rights to the remaining dogs so they can be rehomed, according to filings in Muskegon County Circuit Court.

A total of nine of the 78 dogs removed from Cober’s home have since died.

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