HESSEL, MI – More than 40 dogs are recovering at an animal shelter after a gas explosion at an Upper Peninsula residence in late November.
Many of the 46 dogs rescued from the fire suffered facial burns, including around their eyes and on their ears and snouts, photos show. Many of their bellies were also burned. Part of one dog’s snout melted off. Most of them are also underweight and may have been abused or neglected prior to the fire, officials said.
The dogs and their owner were rescued by an off-duty firefighter who ran to the scene.
The explosion was ignited when the dog owner lit a cigarette too close to gas cans that had leaked fumes at her residence in Hessel, said Mackinac County Undersheriff Ed Wilk. She was injured and remains hospitalized at Michigan Medicine in Ann Arbor.
Not only are many of the dogs recovering from burns, but most were also underweight, said Tina Newsome, animal shelter administrator.
The dogs had ribs and hip bones showing from being malnourished, MAAA said in an update.
The Mackinac County Sheriff’s Office is investigating suspected animal abuse or neglect related to the dogs’ condition and treatment prior to the fire, Wilk said.
The dog owner, who could face criminal charges, had recently moved to Hessel from Alaska. Police believe the dogs may have been used for sled dog racing.
Most of the dogs were chained outside while some were in the residence at the time of the explosion, Wilk said.
An off-duty firefighter who lives in the area of the incident was first on the scene. He ran to residence, pulled the woman out and then “chucked the dogs out as fast as he could,” Wilk said. Dogs chained close to the structure were released so they could get away; about a dozen dogs were let loose. Police tracked down most of the dogs, but 10 days after the incident, one was still missing.
The firefighter was hospitalized after the incident.
The animal aid group is collecting donations to support the medical needs of the recovering dogs. Donations can be sent to Mackinac Animal Aid Association, PO Box 71, St. Ignace, MI 49781.
The dogs are not available for adoption at this time and could be returned to their owner pending her recovery and the outcome of the criminal investigation.