MUSKEGON, Mich. — Further investigation into Lisa Cober and Cober's Canine Rescue has unveiled several details in the days following her arrest, including that she had partnered with a local PetSmart store to adopt her dogs from there on the weekends.
On Thursday, 13 ON YOUR SIDE spoke to an employee of the PetSmart store on Sherman Boulevard who said store management knew for years that Lisa Cober was a problem, but failed to take enough action.
The employee, who asked to remain anonymous, said Lisa Cober had been adopting her dogs out of that store for years, and in that time, they got hundreds of complaints about her from customers and store employees.
"Mostly I'm upset that we've had complaints for three years," the employee said. "Not just one or two. This was excessive, and all the time."
"It's upsetting that something wasn't done about it," they added.
The employee explained that Lisa Cober was one of their 'adoption partners' through PetSmart Charities, which helps local rescues adopt out their animals. Cober would be there every Friday and Saturday with her dogs, which she did charge several hundred dollars for.
"Her dogs would be skinny, and were just not well looking," the employee said. "They would be very stinky, and the cages were full of feces."
"Sometimes the dogs would go to the bathroom in their cage, and then just walk around in it. She would never clean it, she'd just leave it that way," they said. "Employees would complain about it, and so would customers, saying that Lisa's dogs are unsanitary."
Lisa Cober was arrested this week and arraigned on multiple charges of animal neglect after 78 dogs were seized from her Norton Shores home. They were found living in deplorable conditions and taken to several local animal shelters.
The employee said Cober's arrest should have come a long time ago, and that during the three years she partnered with PetSmart Charities, the store recieved hundreds of complaints about her, average one to two per week.
"It's not right, and it's definitely something that would have been preventable if they (PetSmart) would've taken the complaints seriously," said the employee.
"People would call in and say that she lied about the dog's vet records, and that the vet records she gave out were not legitimate," they added. "People would call and say that their dog had worms, or parvo."
"We also had people complain that they saw her (Lisa) picking up her little dogs by the collar in the parking lot. She never took responsibility for anything."
The employee said it was frustrating that customers would call their store to complain, even though they had nothing to do with the dogs or their adoption, they were merely a pick-up location.
"I care about the company because at our store, we care about the animals," said the employee. "We take care of our them, and we care about the homes that they go to."
When the store would approach Lisa about the complaints, the employee said she would never take responsibility for anything.
The employee said that many employees and customers reported concerns to the PetSmart store's leader and to corporate. A year and a half ago, the employee said PetSmart Charities investigated Lisa Cober, but weeks later she was back at the store.
"To me that should've been enough, the multiple complaints," the employee said. "She should have been cut off and not allowed to continue for three years."
The employee added that Cober never did background or vet checks on the people adopting her dogs, and that the lack of care for her dogs she brought into the store put the community at risk.
"She recently adopted three dogs out of our store that had distemper," said the employee.
"I never pet her dogs, even as much as I wanted to, because I didn't want to bring home anything on my clothes that could get my own pets sick," they said. "I just feel like something could have been done about it before, instead of allowing parvo to come into the community, into our store, and put our pets, and our customer's pet in jeopardy."
The employee said Cober also received donations from the store and the community all the time for things like dog food, toys and even leashes and harnesses.
"We just gave her a bunch of Christmas toys and stuff for the dogs, so it just angers me," said the employee. "People in the community were doing this for her and trusting that she was doing the right thing and she took advantage of that."
"To it just seemed like all money to her," they said. "I think she's an 'animal flipper' that basically just wants to make money off of the dogs, and unfortunately that's not someone who operates a legitimate rescue operation."
On Wednesday, PetSmart Charities sent a statement to 13 ON YOUR SIDE that said the following:
"We do not tolerate the mistreatment of pets under any circumstances. We immediately suspended our relationship with Cober's Canine Rescue as soon as we learned of these allegations. We have launched our own internal investigation and will take further action based on our findings."
13 ON YOUR SIDE contacted PetSmart Charities again on Thursday after learning that they had investigated Lisa Cober more than a year ago and allowed her to return as a partner.
The PetSmart employee said either way, it's too little too late.
"It should have never been shoved under the rug, because this is what it came to," they said.
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