NewsRegionLivingston County

Investigation underway after 64 animals are seized from sanctuary director who kept them on vacant land

Posted at 6:27 PM, Jan 19, 2024

TYRONE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WXYZ) — Often alone and in the woods is where the pigs, donkeys, sheep, goats, llamas, and alpaca lived on vacant land. And that's where Livingston County Sheriff's deputies found the 64 animals, sparking an investigation into their care and well-being.

The animals belong to The Devoted Barn, a reported animal sanctuary that was evicted out from an Oakland County property last year.

The director of The Devoted Barn, Melissa Borden, has come under scrutiny from animal care advocates and former volunteers of The Devoted Barn.

The sheriff's office said they were acting on numerous complaints and were met by a representative of the animal sanctuary when they arrived around 10 AM Thursday.

People who live close to the area where the animals had been kept said they would see people coming to care for the animals but the only shelter they could see was one or two tents.

Photos of the site, posted on the Facebook page Not Devoted- Blogging About The Devoted Barn, show what appears to be squalor, with pigs deep in mud that touches their bellies.

"These animals are suffering," said Anna Peterson, who said she volunteered at The Devoted Barn when they were based in Newport but left because of the lack of care and poor conditions of the animals. "It's just wild to me that it's taken this long for something to happen.

"It's just astonishing at what she (Borden) would call living their best lives or their happy place," said Peterson who is now relieved that the animals seized from the vacant land in Livingston County are being seen by a veterinarian.

Peterson is one of many people who, for years, have tried to get authorities to investigate the care of the animals at the various properties they've been moved to around Southeast Michigan.

"It's been so difficult. There are so many agencies that have dragged their feet and have not taken swift action," she said.

7 Action News reached out to Melissa Borden for comment. She has not returned our messages.

Tom Mullen is another former volunteer. Mullen said he cried when he heard the animals that Borden had been keeping on the vacant land in Livingston County have been seized.

"I cried because I know the conditions those animals have lived in for many, many years, and it hasn't been good all the way back to Newport," Mullen told 7 Action News. "They have not had sanctuary living."

Mullen is also particularly concerned about the dogs that have been under Borden's care for years.

"The volunteers are forking money out of their pockets because she keeps saying we have no money and we don't know where it went," Mullen said regarding donations that have been made to The Devoted Barn.

It's unclear what, if any, charges could result from the seizure of the animals. Undersheriff Jason Pless said it's an ongoing investigation and declined to say who could be at the center of it.

"This isn't the end of it," said Peterson. "There are dozens and dozens of more animals out there that still need agencies to do their job to protect."