No jail, no animal shelter of her own for woman who ran rat-overrun Critter …

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Oct 25, 2015 in Rat News | Subscribe

MUSKEGON, MI – She wasn’t happy with it, but Christine Lea Bishop, who ran the once rat-overrun Critter Café Rescue, stuck with a criminal-plea agreement that bars her from running her own animal-rescue service for two years.

If she sticks to that and all other terms of her probation, Bishop’s felony animal-neglect conviction will be reduced to a misdemeanor at the end of that time.

Bishop, 54, was sentenced Monday, Oct. 19, for one count of “animals-abandoning or cruelty to 10 or more,” a felony. The accusation is not that she was intentionally cruel but that she neglected animals because she became overwhelmed by the number of them she rescued or accepted and kept.

Prosecutors alleged, based on an evaluation by a local veterinarian, that many of the animals found in her possession were neglected.

She pleaded guilty to that charge Sept. 9. In a plea agreement, the Muskegon County Prosecutor’s Office agreed that the conviction will become a misdemeanor if she does not violate any terms of her probation.

Separately, prosecutors conveyed to Muskegon County Circuit Judge Timothy G. Hicks — without taking a position on it — a recommendation by Fruitport Township officials and law enforcement that Bishop get no additional jail time.

Hicks agreed to that, sentencing her to one day in jail, already served. He also ordered her to perform 100 hours of community service.

“I’m ordering you not to set up your own shelter,” the judge said. “If you work under somebody else, that’s OK with me.”

Bishop already is doing so, her attorney, Susan Knoll, said.

Hicks also ordered Bishop to continue with “personal growth counseling.” Knoll said Bishop already has begun that through Muskegon Family Center.

Bishop will be allowed to keep five “special needs” personal pets she cares for but cannot replace any of them or add to their number, Hicks said. Bishop said all five have been spayed or neutered.

“I think the whole situation got out of control,” Hicks said of the situation at Bishop’s Critter Café animal rescue center at her home at 5818 Airline Road, across from Fruitport Township Hall.

Authorities shut the center down in mid-May after it was overrun by more than 1,000 domestic rats. Bishop, who had rented the house, was barred from living there, and the animals were removed.

The rats were the offspring of pet rats an unidentified person dropped off outside her home without Bishop’s knowledge, she has said. Her supporters said she was overwhelmed by the number of animals at her home but that she does valuable animal-rescue work.

Before her sentencing, Hicks explained to Bishop that he doesn’t have the authority to simply wipe her record clean of any conviction at the end of her probation, as many supporters had requested, because that’s not part of her plea deal with prosecutors.

Bishop wasn’t happy with that. She said she had believed she had a promise from Fruitport Township officials of no criminal charges in exchange for turning over all of the rescue animals she was caring for, which she did.

Matt Roberts, chief trial attorney for the prosecutor’s office, responded that prosecutors had no part of any such deal, but that his interpretation of that Fruitport Township promise was that Bishop would not be charged with “abandonment” as a result of giving up those animals. She was not charged for that, he said.

Roberts said prosecutors don’t believe Bishop deliberately neglected the animals in her care, only that she’s incapable of saying “no” to animals given her, or of turning away any animals left with her, and became overwhelmed.

Bishop did not seek to withdraw her guilty plea, and the sentencing proceeded.

John S. Hausman covers courts, prisons, the environment and local government for MLive/Muskegon Chronicle. Email him at  and follow him on Twitter.

Tags: , , , , ,

Copyright © 2020 RatChatter All rights reserved.
RatChatter v1.0 theme from