Michigan Rescue in Trouble as Accusations Fly and Controversy Stirs

Critter CafeImage courtesy of Critter Cafe

The Critter Cafe has rescued guinea pigs, rabbits, rats, cats, birds and other animals during the five years they have been open.

In Fruitport Township, Michigan, there’s a rescue responsible for saving over a thousand lives called the Critter Café. Christine Bishop is the founder and has rescued guinea pigs, rabbits, rats, cats, birds and other animals during the five years her 501(c)(3) organization has been in existence. Recently, she has come under fire from the very community which she supports.

A local official, township supervisor Brian Werschem, has brought up allegations that Bishop’s rescue is operating in a location not zoned for this type of organization. However, Bishop and her supporters believe the Critter Café, which is also her rented home, was given approval in writing by the township’s previous administration, former township supervisor Ron Cooper, in 2008. As accusations turn personal, the issue becomes more controversial.

According to Bishop, an animal-abuse complaint was filed against Tom Christmas in reference to beating a raccoon which Bishop cared for and turned over to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. Werschem said he had been discussing with Bishop potential ways to make the animal rescue legal in the township when he turned the matter over to the township’s attorney, Ron Bultje, after the abuse complaint was filed against his fellow Lion’s Club member. Bishop claims Werschem is personally trying to shut down the rescue as retribution for the animal-abuse complaint. Werschem says the decision to file charges belongs to the Prosecutor’s Office and the two incidents are unrelated.

Werschem said the previous supervisor did not have approval power over such activity and no meeting minutes can be found showing a vote to allow the special use. The topic was expected to be on the agenda for community discussion Tuesday, March 27th, 2012 but it was moved.

A supporter of Bishop from Massachusetts has established an online petition which sites additional allegations. Some of these are being disputed by the township.

Comments from the community posted on websites appear divided. They range from those of encouragement, stating the need for an animal rescue in the area, to accusations of hoarding, claiming the rescue is an eyesore along a main road.

According to Muskegon Chronicle reporter Eric Gaertner, Bishop has begun the application for approval although she rents her 832-square-foot home and has turned over the application without the property owner’s signature. You can view photos from his report here. She currently houses about 45 animals that she continues to care for although future fines are possible. News Channel 8 has further coverage on the story.

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Angela, Editor-in-Chief, GPT

Angela founded Guinea Pig Today and guest writes for CavyMadness. She volunteers with Metropolitan Guinea Pig Rescue and supports the ROUS Foundation. Her guinea pig, Papua, is the star of WHEK-TV/DT.

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One Response to “Michigan Rescue in Trouble as Accusations Fly and Controversy Stirs”
  1. SWD says:

    This Brian Werschem character sounds like an out n’ out asshole who is just causing trouble cos his dickhead buddy is an animal abuser. what a pair of stupid morons, doesn’t this clown realise that if he shuits this rescue down it will endanger the lioves of many animals who are in need of the care provided at this wonderful rescue. I think Werschem needs to grow up and get a life, WHAT A PRICK!

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