Chihuahua cleanup carries big ticket

By J. PATRICK PEPPER

Times-Herald Newspapers

    DEARBORN — It cost the city more than $37,000 in contracting costs to clean up a house where authorities found Kenneth Lang Jr. and 250 live and dead Chihuahuas living in squalor last month.

    That figure doesn’t include the hours logged by numerous city employees including police, fire and building services workers who all played a role in the rescue. When those wages are factored in, the total price for the nine-day cleanup likely will be more than $40,000 – all for a 1,300-square-foot house worth $42,000 in taxable value.

    City officials released that information last week, along with some shocking video footage taken in the early days of the cleanup. The new developments preceded a demolition hearing on Wednesday where building inspectors described to hearing officer David Vaseau a house so filthy that a ceiling had collapsed under the weight and decay of rotting garbage and animal excrement from the second floor above.

    Aided by the descriptive testimony – one official said there was a 3-inch layer of dog feces on the floor throughout the house – and photos that showed skittish dogs inside, on top of and underneath piles of garbage, Vaseau agreed with a previous ruling that the house is unfit for human habitation. His ruling now brings one step closer the demolition of 7840 Orchard.

    The final decision could come in two months when Vaseau will present his findings to the city Demolition Board, which can agree or disagree with his ruling. If members vote for demolition, the homeowner can choose to appeal the decision.

    However, Lang’s attorney, James Schmier, has indicated they would cooperate fully with whatever the city decides.

    Lang, who Schmier says suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder, now is living in a group home in Oakland County and receiving treatment for his condition. But police still are  investigating the circumstances surrounding the incident, and Lang could face criminal animal cruelty charges based on the results. Preliminary findings already have been forwarded to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office for review.

    As for the cleanup costs, it still is unknown what, if anything, will be done to recoup the money. The city can put a lien on the property or sue the homeowner, but officials have not committed to either option.

    In related news, 32 of the 105 living Chihuahuas taken in by the Dearborn Animal Shelter have been adopted.

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