01/16/09 — McKenzie ordered to pay $8,000 bond

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McKenzie ordered to pay $8,000 bond

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on January 16, 2009 1:46 PM

Lawton McKenzie

A Wayne County judge ordered a Fremont man Thursday to pay the county $8,000 or forfeit his animals while abuse charges against him are pending.

The county had filed a lawsuit against Lawton McKenzie to recoup the costs of caring for the animals seized from his home, where they say abuse was rampant and living conditions were abhorrent.

On Thursday morning, District Court Judge David Brantley gave McKenzie five days to pay the $8,000 bond.

"This (bond) is for him, to basically show that he still wants the animals, so he can pay for the animals until a decision can be made by the judge on criminal charges," Animal Control Director Justin Scally said.

Criminal proceedings against McKenzie, 28, will probably begin next month, the animal control director said.

McKenzie was charged with three misdemeanor counts of animal abuse after animal control officers encountered a "horrific" scene at McKenzie's home.

Then, state Wildlife Enforcement Officer Josh Hudson charged him with possession of a dead owl carcass, a Class 3 misdemeanor.

Four dead owls were found on the property, and each owl carcass could have produced a charge against McKenzie, Hudson said, but he chose only to file one charge.

Animal Control authorities seized 26 live animals from McKenzie, and now have them in "protective custody" at the county's Animal Adoption Center.

That care costs money, and the figure for veterinarian bills and boarding for 30 days while a February court date approaches was about $8,000, Scally said.

Scally had approached McKenzie before, following complaints of animal abuse by neighbors.

McKenzie told the animal control director he was studying taxidermy, and was collecting road kill, using their bones to make necklaces, Scally said.

But animal control officials allege more sinister activities were taking place at the Old Black Creek Road home, including malnourished animals.

Investigators also described dismembered animals in a number too high to count, including reptiles, dogs, goats, snakes and turtles.

There was also a goat in such poor health that it could not lift its head, although the animal has since recovered, the animal control director said.

Investigators also said the home contained bowls of blood and what appeared to be a puppy's head in a plastic food storage bag. McKenzie has since denied the claim about the puppy.

McKenzie did not return a phone all for comment on Thursday evening and could not be reached for comment before deadline today.