It was small cries the night of June 7 that alerted neighbors around Higgins Lake that something bad was going on.
"I had gotten a knock on my door from a neighbor and she was all upset and said that somebody was down here trying to drown kittens on the dock,” said Stacy Dexter-Priebe.
Neighbors out enjoying the weather heard the cries and saw a couple on the dock with a bag submerged in water.
That’s when Pam Delhanty jumped into action.
She was able to get the bag away from the pair, opened it, and found six kittens inside.
Dexter-Priebe is Delhanty’s neighbor.
“She’s a hero and when she heard those sounds, the mother in her just took over and she went out there and saved those cats," Dexter-Priebe said.
Pam's son James is not surprised about what his mom did.
"She has the biggest heart in the world. She saved them, they're here because of that," James said.
Dexter-Priebe has taken the kittens, and they both say they are angry about what happened.
"I am beyond frustrated, words cannot describe my anger,” Dexter-Priebe said. "To think that somebody could be so evil and do such a thing."
Dexter-Priebe said despite all the kittens have been through, "they do seem to be healthy kittens, they're not scrawny. It's kind of a blessing in a way because these six kittens will have loving homes to go to."
Just about every one of the kittens in on their way to a new home.
Roscommon County Prosecutor Mary Beebe said she will not be issuing charges against the couple who tried to drown the kittens.
In a lengthy statement, Beebe said the couple - ages 90 and 78 - found the kittens in their garage and tried to contact different animal facilities to take in the kittens. But none of the agencies could take the cats, Beebe said.
"Later that evening, the couple decided that the most humane thing left for them to do was to drown the kittens so they did not starve or be left to be eaten by wild animals," Beebe said in the statement.
You can read the full statement below:
"Our office has received calls from local media as well as others regarding the recent report of an attempted drowning of kittens by a couple in our county on June 7, 2019. This occurred in the Higgins Lake area where there has been an issue with feral cats and more recently with feral kittens.
The couple, ages 90 and 78, recently noticed a strong odor in their garage and that feral cats were destroying their property by urinating/defecating on personal items. Two different sets of feral kittens were born in their garage over the last couple weeks.
The first set they were able to take outside and the mother came back and took the kittens away. For a couple of days before the incident, the couple observed a fox in their yard as well as another feral cat. In the morning of June 7, 2019, after seeing what they believe now to be the mother cat near their garage, the couple found another litter of kittens in their garage.
The mother cat had left and the couple was concerned about leaving the kittens outside like they had the previous litter because of the fox so brought the kittens inside. They contacted four local animal facilities, one being a rescue and were informed by all four that they could not take the kittens either because they do not take cats or because they were full and had a wait list.
The couple also reached out to a couple neighbors for advice and they did not have suggestions as to how to handle the situation. Later that evening, the couple decided that the most humane thing left for them to do was to drown the kittens so they did not starve or be left to be eaten by wild animals. While attempting to do so, they were stopped by a neighbor who was walking in the area.
The kittens were placed with another neighbor, who feeds feral cats in the neighborhood, and the mother cat and kittens are now with her and are doing well.
I have reviewed the report and it was verified that the couple had called the agencies and that none of the agencies could take the kittens. After reviewing all of the information, I have determined that I will not be issuing charges against the couple.
The couple understands that they did not make the right decision on how to handle this situation and now know that there are other resources they could have at least attempted. However, they were not aware at the time of those resources and they contacted the local resources they were aware of and tried to do the right thing. This included them contacting the local rescue number they were given and they too were not taking kittens and had a wait list.
As a prosecutor, I base my decisions on the law and what is in the interest of justice. These individuals were not attempting to torture these animals, they were not taking satisfaction in making them suffer, and were not trying to be cruel. These are the things we look at when we issue criminal charges in animal cruelty cases. These people did not own these kittens and had no obligation to take them in and care for them. It is wonderful that many people will do so but not everyone has the desire or ability to afford or take in numerous animals.
The real issue here is to figure out what we can do to prevent something like this from happening again. No one should call four different locations and be told they cannot be helped. However, our state does not mandate that animal shelters take in cats. Thankfully some shelters, including Roscommon, will take in cats when they have room. I met with our local animal shelter director on what we can do locally to make sure this does not happen again. I spoke with Jackie Osgood from Mason County PAWS and I also spoke with the founder of Community Cats TNR about different programs that they have in their area that may be something that our community needs to look into adopting. Below are a Facebook page and some of the websites I was given on where to start looking at creating a program in our area to help with the growing issue with free-roaming (feral) cats. My suggestion to those who are understandably outraged by what happened is that they get together and work with their local animal shelters to start a program in our communities that addresses these issues.
This is the final decision by my office regarding charges and no further statements will be made."
Below are the websites Beebe mentioned: