RIVER ROUGE, Mich. (AP) – A Detroit-area dog rescue is fighting to stay open after its founders say they were recently cited by authorities.

The independent shelter Pit Stop For Change Rescue & Rehabilitation has operated for more than three years out of the River Rouge home of David McMurtrie and Kayli Sparks. The couple lives in a multiunit house with sections for the dogs, Sparks said.

McMurtrie said his mission to help homeless dogs started with a relationship with a pit bull named Odin when he got out of prison in 2007. He said that he’s a “walking billboard for the American pit bull terrier.”

“I am proof that karma exists,” he said. “Dogs were the first things I ever encountered that I was capable of giving to, of caring about,” McMurtrie said.

But after a friendly relationship with River Rouge authorities, McMurtrie and Sparks say they were cited for failing to have a kennel license and not registering dogs with the city. They care for nearly 40 dogs.

“We want to make the community a better place,” Sparks told The Detroit News. “We aren’t sure why they decided to charge us with misdemeanor counts when we’re not hurting anyone. We’re helping people.”

To resolve their case, the group’s attorney, Tracy Thomas, said the rescue is working to relocate to an appropriate area. They have also launched a GoFundMe page to seek donations, and they’re pursuing nonprofit status.

Mayor Michael Bowdler said the group has helped River Rouge and other communities, and that the city isn’t out to target them. He believes the misdemeanors stem from a resident’s complaint.

Bowdler said other officials back McMurtrie’s efforts “as long as he has it in the right area.”

“We’ve got people rooting for him throughout this community and Downriver,” Bowdler said.

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