Thibodaux, La. - In a story the FOX 8 Defenders have followed since last year, we've learned the Lafourche Parish veterinarian has made a recommendation to the court that a Thibodaux man get rid of more than 100 dogs on his property.
It comes one month after Chris Michot was convicted of 32 counts of failure to vaccinate animals, one count of animal cruelty and five counts of violating the animal noise code.
Judge Hugh LaRose of the 17th Judicial District Court ordered the vet's report after the two-day trial in May that followed a series of FOX 8 Defenders reports. Those reports first exposed in November animals on Michot's Little Choupic property that appeared to be chained with no food or water nearby and dirty and crowded kennels. Our camera also captured one dog getting sick and struggling to limp away as flies swarmed his body.
"We can't do no kind of activity outside because they bark the whole time," explained Michot's neighbor, Vivian Sanchez, in November 2012.
Sanchez and her husband Joey told FOX 8 the dozens of barking dogs made them sick. "Every time we come out, they disturb us... in the middle of the night, can't sleep, can't concentrate," said Joey Sanchez.
The Sanchezs filed more than 30 complaints against Michot with the Lafourche Parish Sheriff's Office.
Besides reports that documented violations of the parish's animal noise code, one sheriff deputy's report last August revealed dogs "were also laying in feces and appeared very dirty."
A deputy report from December 2011 stated, "He's running a business... Briarbrash Brittanys...an animal management facility... since 1979." However, in November when we checked with parish government, FOX 8 confirmed Michot never had an occupational license. It wasn't until after our report that he secured one.
Lafourche Parish veterinarian Lonnie de la Houssaye was ordered by the court to determine the number of dogs on Michot's property and evaluate their welfare and environment.
"The first thing that struck me was the number of animals on the property and the conditions of the housing... based off of what I estimated and what he told me... probably anywhere from 120 to 140... all Brittany Spaniels," explained Dr. de la Houssaye.
In a detailed report, de la Houssaye noted Michot's kennels were "stacked on top of each other."
"Definitely there were kennels that had up to 13 or 14 dogs," he said. In his opinion, Michot should only have four or five dogs to a kennel.
De la Houssaye documented "areas of standing water adjacent to the kennel area," which he says could be a breeding ground for mosquitoes and lead to heartworms.
"I find it very difficult that you're going to be able to manage heartworms in 120, 140 dogs. You know, it's just impossible," said de la Houssaye.
In the report, it's also noted "there was a long row of feces along the fence line." Dr. de la Houssaye points out "there were only four, 50-pound bags of dog food on the premises," and in his opinion, Michot had a brand of dog food with the poorest quality on the market.
In his report, de la Houssaye wrote, "It looks odd to me he has so many dogs on a very poor diet... but appear to be well fed, fat, or at least not thin." De la Houssaye says that leads him to question in the report whether steroids are being used.
"Didn't see it... have no proof that any of that was taking place... not implying anything... but that is a concern because of the quality of food that was being used. There's a lot of filler in that food so the waste that the dog produces is a lot more than a higher quality of food, which means they go through that bag a lot quicker... they're not keeping the nutrition in their body," explained de la Houssaye.
He also pointed out dogs with skin issues and questions what measures Michot is taking to avoid breeding those dogs. De la Houssaye noted that when he asked Michot how he keeps males and females separate, Michot responded that he lets them out at separate times.
Yet in the report, de la Houssaye writes, "While explaining this to me, a male dog right next to us is trying to mount a female!" He went on to note that he "can only suspect, a large amount of in-breeding is taking place."
De la Houssaye also wrote, "These dogs don't see anyone but Mr. Michot 24-7."
He told FOX 8 they need to go. "He's over his head. There's just no way a person can handle 120-plus dogs and do it correctly, period. They need to leave the premises," said de la Houssaye.
"The Humane Society has gotten the Brittany Spaniels Foundation people together. They are ready to go in and grab the dogs... and he said, the judge said he didn't care what organization Michot chose to take the animals, but they had to be re-homed," said Pamela George, president of the Humane Society, Lafourche Chapter.
Meantime, the Sanchezs couldn't wait any longer. They say they've moved out of Lafourche Parish and have put their home on the market, and they're not alone.
"All kinds of people came over and checked it out... nobody gave us any answers ... it was never taken care of," said Linda Thibodaux. She used to live next door to Michot, but says she moved away because of the same concerns the Sanchezs have, and she explained that that was the case for more than 30 years.
Chris Michot is due back in the Lafourche Parish courthouse July 24.