Who, age What Where When Last Known Address
Penny Horak, 69(1) improper care to animals at Pet Rescue

Bloomingdale, IL

Dupage County

July 10, 2008 Winfield, IL
Dale Armon, 74(2) improper care to animals at Pet Rescue

Bloomingdale, IL

Dupage County

July 10, 2008 Berkeley, IL
Dorothy Redinger, 46(3) stole a 9-month-old white Pappillon pup after being upset at the conditions at Pet Rescue

Bloomingdale, IL

Dupage County

July 11, 2008 Carol Stream, IL
Type of Crime Other Crimes #/Type of animal(s) involved Case Status Next Court Date /Courthouse
Misdemeanor   149 cats, 29 dogs, doves, guinea pigs, rabbits, 12 sheep & goats, 2 Arabian horses, 4 donkeys, several chickens, 1 miniature potbelly pig & and a Brown Swiss steer





An arrest warrant was issued for the director of the often-controversial Pet Rescue in Bloomingdale, Penny Horak, who is charged with failing to provide humane care for a sick cat.

The animal, taken from the premises by a volunteer worried about its health in July, ultimately was euthanized.

But Bloomingdale police ordered a necropsy, or animal autopsy, be performed. Authorities then worked with officials from the Illinois Department of Agriculture on a joint investigation.

The result was one misdemeanor charge and a state-imposed fine linked to a second case.

Horak, said only that she did not know details of the case before hanging up on a reporter.

State officials, though, are quite familiar with Pet Rescue, as it's been the subject of numerous investigations and court proceedings over the years.

"It's been a chronic problem. We've had investigators in and out of the facility for quite some time," said Jeff Squibb, the department of agriculture spokesman.

   (Photo's courtesy of Bev Horne/Daily Herald )

The current situation involves two separate episodes in July, explained animal law attorney Cherie Travis, who was asked by volunteers to get involved in the case.

The one in which Bloomingdale police filed charges relates to a cat named Mia, who had been at the shelter for more than a year. A volunteer who repeatedly pointed out that the animal needed medical care felt the cat was so sick on July 13 that she took her to a veterinarian, Travis said.

The veterinarian subsequently called Horak and Pet Rescue founder Dale Harmon, recommending the cat be euthanized because of its condition, Travis explained.   Horak refused, but Harmon conceded.

After an investigation, including the results of the necropsy, Bloomingdale Police charged Horak with one count of violating the Illinois Humane Care of Animals Act. It is a Class B misdemeanor.

Also Pet Rescue was fined $200 in connection with a second case in July.

Pet Rescue adopted two cats on July 12 that the new owner subsequently took the cats for a veterinary inspection, Travis said. Between them they had conjunctivitis, severe upper respiratory infections, pus coming out of their ears and a 104-degree temperature.

Squibb said the fine, related to the adoptions of those two cats, was imposed under a state law requiring that all animals be healthy when they are sold.

In the past, there were no penalties for infractions other than a lengthy battle to pull an operating license. But under a revision to the law that went into effect June 1, fines are progressive. The first violation is $200, the second is $500 and the third within a three-year span is $1,000.

Squibb said state officials have referred the case involving the two sick cats to DuPage County State's Attorney Joseph Birkett, urging consideration for possible criminal charges.

(Photo courtesy of Operation Mia - May 2008: Volunteers reported that 2-3 volunteers per night were given 45 minutes to walk 40-50 dogs and care for 160 cats. Whether dogs have been walked, cats’ litter boxes cleaned, and fresh water & food supplied to all is irrelevant. At 9 PM, volunteers are forced to leave for the day. This leaves many animals to go hungry every night, dogs not to be let out of their cages, and for litter boxes and dog crates to accumulate waste day after day)

"The important thing here is everybody is held to the law with regard to the treatment of animals," Travis said.

Update 10/29/08:  The controversy surrounding Pet Rescue continues to swirl as a second shelter official is accused of providing improper care to sick animals.

Owner Dale Armon, 74, of Berkeley, is facing 16 misdemeanor counts alleging animal cruelty and the violation of her duties for several cats and dogs, some of whom had to be euthanized. She is due in court Nov. 24.

Director Penny Horak, 69, of Winfield, was charged in August with similar misdemeanors.

The private no-kill shelter long has been the focus of civil state probes. Former workers, volunteers and clients picketed and lodged complaints urging its closing.

Pet Rescue lost its license Oct. 16 after state agriculture officials cited it for a fourth violation. The shelter's attorney, Rick Schoenfield, filed an emergency motion to lift the suspension, arguing they were denied a chance to respond.

"All of the charges allege that there was a lack of necessary veterinarian care," Schoenfield said. "Pet Rescue has veterinarians that it uses and gets the animals care as needed. We expect to be completely vindicated."

But one woman said she was so upset by what she saw at the shelter that she fled with a 9-month-old white Pappillon puppy July 11 after her attempt to adopt it was denied. Dorothy Redinger, 46, of Carol Stream, was charged with theft.

"The intent was to save the animal," her attorney Paul DeLuca said. "She said she couldn't leave this dog there one more minute."

Meanwhile, an estimated 100 animals remain at her shelter. Schoenfield said they are receiving proper care, but prosecutor Amanda Meindl asked a judge to allow licensed professionals to make unannounced visits. Until that issue is decided, she'll seek to bar the shelter from transferring the animals.

(Photo's courtesy of Operation Mia)

Update 11/13/08:  Under scrutiny by the state, and with protests mounting from former clients, workers and volunteers, the embattled Pet Rescue could be shut down by the village of Bloomingdale.

Village leaders will hold a public hearing next month to consider revoking Pet Rescue's special-use permit for the first time since the animal shelter opened its doors there three decades ago.

The move, in part, is in response to growing complaints of alleged inhumane care at the privately run, no-kill shelter. Two of its top officials also face criminal cruelty charges, and their state operating license is in jeopardy.

"This has been a problem for a number of years," Bloomingdale Village President Robert Iden said. "We can pull the special-use permit, but that can't be done overnight. We're not just going to put a padlock on the front door so that no one can get in or go out.

But, he added, "We want the right resolution sooner rather than later."

State officials confirmed the shelter at 151 N. Bloomingdale Road is housing 164 cats and 44 dogs, double an earlier estimate. An Illinois Department of Agriculture inspector is checking in on the animals once a week, to ensure they have adequate food, water, shelter and proper care.

The state department suspended Pet Rescue's operating license Oct. 16 after a fourth alleged violation, but it was reinstated last week pending an administrative hearing later this year.

"The most current report is that the animals are being cared for and that (Pet Rescue) is meeting the statutory requirements," said Jeff Squibb, a department spokesman. "It's my understanding this facility has been a chronic problem, but to say there has not been any inspections or attempt to discipline them, is not an accurate statement."

Critics, many of whom said they witnessed atrocities firsthand, argue local, county, and state officials have allowed the situation to fester too long.

They said Pet Rescue officials are "hoarders," who'd rather see an animal live its life in a cage devoid of human contact rather than be put up for adoption. They describe conditions so filthy, the animals have red eyes due to the overpowering ammonia smell of urine and languish in feces-laden cages.

One volunteer, Lori Chaussey of Addison, started a letter-writing campaign last summer.  "I continue to stay because of the animals," she said in one letter to DuPage County prosecutors. "Believe me, it is easier to walk away and not be continually reminded of the neglect."  Afterward, Chaussey said, Pet Rescue officials let her go.

  (Photo courtesy of Operation Mia - The Rottweiler who lived in this cage had to be euthanized.  He had open sores on his body from being forced to lay in his own waste for days on end)

Police also are investigating whether a Pet Rescue worker should face criminal charges for denying proper veterinarian care to a male pitbull-mix dog who suffered multiple bites and a large cut during a dogfight at the shelter. Hours later, another worker rushed him to the Bloomingdale Animal Hospital for surgery.

A former worker, Victoria Cortez, of Streamwood, said the poor conditions have existed as far back as the 1990s when she worked for Pet Rescue as a veterinary technician for three months before she quit in disgust.  "Their idea of a 'no kill' shelter is abominable," Cortez said. "I remember a male gray tabby kitten with distemper who had a 106-degree temperature and was vomiting and had diarrhea. You couldn't pick it up because it was in so much pain. I was told, 'We don't kill here. Let God takes its course.' I watched that cat suffer for three days until it died."

If state agriculture officials suspend Pet Rescue's operating license, the shelter may reapply one year later. If Bloomingdale leaders revoke the special-use permit, which involves zoning issues, the shelter can no longer operate at the site. Neither public hearing date has been set yet, but both are expected next month.

Many authorities expressed frustration at the situation, which they blame a poorly written state animal welfare law for allowing to exist. They are strategizing possible options to best protect the animals, which are viewed under the law as Pet Rescue's private property unless ownership is relinquished or otherwise forfeited.

Meanwhile, Armon and Horak are back in court Nov. 24, when prosecutors will ask a judge to grant unannounced inspections with a licensed veterinarian. Both pleaded not guilty.

Update 11/7/08:  Pet Rescue has had its license reinstated pending a hearing to protest alleged violations.

Attorney Rick Schoenfield filed an emergency motion to lift the suspension, arguing the shelter was denied a fair chance to respond. An administrative law judge overseeing the state agriculture department suspension agreed.

"We expect that the claims will be rejected at the next hearing," Schoenfield said. "This will allow Pet Rescue to focus on caring for its animals."

Prosecutors also will ask a judge to force shelter officials to allow an independent official such as a DuPage County animal control officer to come in with a licensed veterinarian to check on the animals, mostly cats and dogs.

The state agriculture violations allege Pet Rescue lacked a pressurized water source or handwashing facility in its annex building. Earlier violations involved two adopted cats that had conjunctivitis, severe upper respiratory infections, pus coming out of their ears and a 104-degree temperature. A third sick cat named Mia had to be euthanized.

Update 12/10/08:  A veterinarian will now accompany Illinois Department of Agriculture inspectors during visits to the embattled Pet Rescue animal shelter in Bloomingdale.

A DuPage County judge ordered the veterinarian inspections during a brief hearing where prosecutors and lawyers for the owners of the animal shelter worked out a deal to allow the visits up to once a week during operating hours. The veterinarian will report his findings to the state inspector, which has been making weekly visits to ensure the 164 cats and 44 dogs are being properly cared for.

(Photo courtesy of Operation Mia - May 2008: Venus has had chronic upper respiratory infections and diarrhea for at least one year, yet continues to be denied veterinary care. Note diarrhea encrusted tail)

Lawyers for the shelter's owners said the veterinarian order was superfluous, but didn't find a reason to fight the request.  "We simply agreed to something we don't believe is necessary," said attorney Rick Schoenfield. "The vet is not going to do a physical examination of each and every animal, and the inspector is trained to look for animals that are sick."

The shelter at 151 N. Bloomingdale Road is operating under a special-use permit, which Bloomingdale officials are looking into revoking because of the ongoing allegations of abuse and mistreatment of the animals. That hearing was originally slated for this month, but village officials pushed it back to January at the earliest. The village's plan commission will hear the case first and then a recommendation will be passed on to the village board for a final decision.

Update 4/10/09:  Bloomingdale's beleaguered Pet Rescue is facing more state scrutiny.  The Illinois Department of Agriculture is seeking to revoke the no-kill animal shelter's license and impose a fine after state officials filed 22 new violations.

The privately run shelter is accused of failing to provide records for 21 cats and 1 dog, named Mickey Blue Eyes, that state officials requested. A May 19 hearing is set in Springfield.

"It is a record-keeping matter, but it's a basic requirement under the statute," said Jeff Squibb, the agriculture department's spokesman. "We believe it's critical on behalf of the care of animals."

This is the second time state officials tried to shut down Pet Rescue in recent months.

Pet Rescue paid a $200 fine for one violation. In a March 3 ruling, administrative law judge John Shull allowed the shelter to remain open when he dismissed two other violations but upheld one regarding the water source. Pet Rescue is appealing the $500 fine.

Armon and Horak maintain their innocence. A March 23 trial was postponed.

 (Photo courtesy of Operation Mia - 6/4/08: A dead mouse is found next to food and utensils)

Defense attorney Rick Schoenfield argues the state animal welfare law is unconstitutional. Lawyers may argue before DuPage Associate Judge Ronald Sutter during an April 16 court hearing.

Schoenfield said he feels so passionately about the shelter's importance, he is working for free.  "My reason for doing so is my belief that Pet Rescue saves hundreds of animals a year that would otherwise be on the street or be killed," he said.

Meanwhile, Bloomingdale officials said they are holding off on a hearing to review Pet Rescue's special-use permit until the court and state agriculture proceedings conclude. The issue is on the village board's agenda for its next meeting.

Update 4/16/09:  A DuPage County judge upheld the state animal welfare law, clearing the way for a summer trial.

Judge Ronald Sutter denied a defense request to declare the law unconstitutional, which allows misdemeanor charges to stand against two of the no-kill animal shelter's operators.

The judge also set an Aug. 10 trial date.

  (Photo courtesy of Operation Mia - May 2008: Sick since September 2007, Zeus has never been treated by a veterinarian)

Update 6/17/09:  Dorothy E. Redinger insists she isn't one to break the law.  Still, after her adoption of a white Pappillon puppy at Bloomingdale's Pet Rescue was denied, Redinger said she was so frightened for its safety she became desperate.

"The dog was clutching me," Redinger said through tears. "I don't know what I was thinking. I just basically thought no one was going to help this dog. She has no voice. So, I put her in my car and I left. I just wanted to get her out of there and to a vet."

The 47-year-old Carol Stream woman pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct for fleeing July 11 with the female 9-month-old pooch, named Riley, after her adoption fell through at the beleaguered animal shelter without explanation despite weeks of paperwork, interviews and payment.

Prosecutors originally charged Redinger with theft, which carries up to a one-year jail term. Instead, she was sentenced to six months' court supervision for disorderly conduct in a plea deal her attorney, Paul DeLuca, worked out after citing the facts of the case and Redinger's lawful past.

Redinger, who endured months of court appearances and the legal expense, the animal lover said she doesn't regret trying to help Riley.  "I'm not one to break the law," she said, "and I really wouldn't do it again. I can't say I wouldn't go to bat again for an animal that is suffering like that. If you think I'm being overly dramatic, go there and see for yourself.  "The saddest part of this is that the dog is still there."

Update 11/15/09:  Pet Rescue lost its license, effectively shutting down the controversial site at least until it goes through an appeal process.

Pet Rescue Inc. now has 30 days to appeal the administrative law judge's ruling, which said the shelter failed to provide timely records to the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

"It's a good start," said Cherie Travis, an attorney who has represented a group trying to shut down the shelter. "But I think it's taken way too long."

In a report filed as evidence at an August hearing, the department of agriculture said the shelter denied or ignored several requests for records concerning four animals. The shelter took up to nine months to provide records for another 18 animals.

Illinois Department of Agriculture Spokesman Jeff Squibb said the department has worked with local authorities to push the case forward. The revocation means the shelter cannot operate in Bloomingdale based on a zoning ordinance that requires a license.

"Our position is that Pet Rescue is no longer a licensed facility and, therefore, cannot adopt out or transfer its animals," he said.

Pet Rescue Director Penny Horak has said any denial or failed compliance was done in error.

 (Photo courtesy of Operation Mia - These birds live in a filthy, mouse-infested bathroom

Update 1/9/10:  Scores of animals being held at Pet Rescue Inc. could be relocated soon to new shelters.

A DuPage County judge ordered the operators of Pet Rescue to return Jan. 19 with an agreement to find new shelters for the animals being kept there.

The women, Pet Rescue President Dale Armon and director Penny Horak, are facing a series of lawsuits, including one filed by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. Madigan sued Armon in September after accusing her of spending at least $70,000 of the nonprofit group's funds for personal use since 2007.

Dale Armon's Tax Returns courtesy of Operation Mia

Year ------------> Income

1992 ------------> $465,145
1993 ------------> $322,183
1994 ------------> $337,188
1995 ------------> $345,570
1996 ------------> $471,336
1997 ------------> $359,333
1998 ------------> $446,219
1999 ------------> $627,429
2000 ------------> $330,811
2001 ------------> $513,476
2002 ------------> $1,056,614
2003 ------------> $381,326
2004 ------------> $541,470
2005 ------------> $330,218

For example, the lawsuit alleges, Armon paid her Cook County property tax bill for a house in Berkeley in 2008 with shelter assets. Authorities accused her of improperly spending more funds at restaurants, stores and motels in the Hebron, Woodstock and Lake Geneva areas.

Armon, also lives rent free in a Pet Rescue-owned home in Hebron, the suit states.

The shelter is also facing having its special-use permit revoked by Bloomingdale. A plan commission hearing is also scheduled for the evening of Jan. 19. Village Administrator Dan Wennerholm said now that the shelter no longer has a state license it is in violation of the permit.

Update 1/12/10:  The operators at Pet Rescue are giving up custody of farm animals they own and keep in upstate Hebron.

Donna Ewing, founder of the Hooved Animal Rescue and Protection Society (www.harpsonline.org/), said her group is picking up the farm animals.  Ewing said owner Armon, agreed to give up custody of the farm animals on a temporary basis.  "She can take them back if she can pay for all the vet bills and feed bills," Ewing said.

Ewing's group has been caring for the animals for about a month, she said. They are all in "decent condition" considering they were found in "desperate need of water," she said.

The animals include 12 sheep and goats, two Arabian horses, four donkeys, several chickens, a miniature potbelly pig and a "huge Brown Swiss steer."

Armon and Horak are also on the verge of giving up custody of the animals being housed at the Bloomingdale shelter. A DuPage County judge has set a Jan. 19 deadline to come up with a relocation plan. That same day, the village's plan commission will discuss revoking the shelter's special-use permit now that it is no longer licensed by the state.

Update 1/19/10:  A DuPage County judge ordered Armon & Horak to begin transferring the nearly 200 animals being housed there immediately to other Illinois shelters.

Judge Ronald Sutter denied requests by the attorney for the operators of Pet Rescue to allow the two women who run the shelter to transfer the animals to facilities in Wisconsin.

Sutter sided with Assistant State's Attorney Mandy Meindl, who provided shelter attorney Rick Schoenfield with a list of state-licensed operations where the animals could be transferred.

Sutter didn't specify a timeline for the transfer of the animals from Pet Rescue. When the animals are transferred, the operators have to alert the state's attorney's office within five days with the animal's name, microchip data and shelter information.

At last count, Meindl said there were 149 cats, 29 dogs and a small number of doves, guinea pigs and rabbits all being housed at the Pet Rescue shelter. Meindl's list includes only "no kill" shelters like Pet Rescue purports to be.

Armon and Horak were not in court for the orders, but they are expected back Feb. 26 for a hearing on pretrial motions in relation to the animal cruelty case against them, Sutter said.

Update 3/20/10:  The Bloomingdale village board is now consider whether to revoke the permit for Pet Rescue.

After listening to hours of public testimony at three monthly meetings this year, the village's plan commission already voted on March 2 to recommend revocation.

Village Administrator Dan Wennerholm said if Bloomingdale officials ultimately revoke the permit, that would mean the end of Pet Rescue's operations in the village. But, he added, the meeting is just another step in the process and won't lead to any immediate change.

"There are no final decisions at this first board meeting," said Wennerholm. "If the board knows where it wants to go, it could direct the village attorney to prepare an ordinance that outlines those objectives. That ordinance would then come back at a future meeting."

DuPage County State's Attorney officials said nearly half the animals have already been transferred to other state-licensed shelters.

If Bloomingdale ultimately revokes Pet Rescue's license in a future meeting, Wennerholm said, it would "effectively mean they are done here."

"If an ordinance is passed, they would be given time to comply with respect to moving out," Wennerholm said. "But they would have to cease their operations within some given time frame."

Update 4/2/10:  A noble venture that went bad.  That's how a DuPage County judge described the long saga of a Bloomingdale no-kill animal shelter whose two operators long were accused of hoarding animals and providing improper care.

Horak, plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of violating her duties while managing Pet Rescue. She was sentenced to two years' court supervision and barred from ever again running another animal facility in Illinois.

   (Photo of Penny Horak, courtesy of the Daily Herald)

Prosecutor Amanda Meindl told DuPage Judge Ronald Sutter that Horak turned a blind eye and deaf ear to the problems.

"Animals were covered in feces," Meindl said, while showing the judge photos. "There was a strong smell of urine. Mucus from sick animals was caked on the walls. There were mice infestations. These were daily conditions."

Horak apologized and said she tried her best. This marked her first arrest. In exchange for her admission of guilt, prosecutors dropped misdemeanor animal cruelty allegations.

Horak could have been sentenced to up to six months in jail and a $1,500 fine.

"My primary concern was the animals," Sutter said. "It is my understanding that all of the animals have either been adopted out or transferred to other no-kill shelters."

He continued: "What may have started out as a noble venture as an organization to care for homeless animals, after many years, for whatever reason, it went bad. There was never any allegation of beating or intentional cruelty but, on the other hand, I believe the level of neglect has been severe."

Pet Rescue owner Dale Armon faces similar misdemeanors. She opened the shelter in 1973. The 75-year-old woman is fighting the charges. She is due back in court April 27.

  (Photo of Dale Armon, courtesy of the Daily Herald)

Defense attorney Rick Schoenfield denied shelter conditions rose to a level that supports criminal allegations. He said finding sick animals in a no-kill shelter is the same as sick people in a hospital. He noted Horak's age, medical issues, clean criminal record and letters of support from some of those with whom she's worked.

"She never did this for anything other than altruistic reasons and a love of animals," Schoenfield said. "Whatever happened, her motives were always good."

Update 4/11/10:  As Peggy Sue wags her tail and offers kisses, she appears happy and healthy, though she's more than a tad gray in the whiskers.  But deep scars on the old pit bull's face reveal her painful past.

For 12 years, she lived in a cage with minimal human contact or outdoor runs; she sometimes fought with other dogs. Instead of a blanket, newspaper lined her cage, which for several years was kept in a damp basement. She often slept in feces.

Peggy Sue is one of several dozen dogs and cats being rehabilitated after surviving neglect at the now-closed Pet Rescue.

Since February, as many as 200 animals were adopted out or transferred to other shelters.  Tails Humane Society in DeKalb (www.tailshumanesociety.org/) took in 127 cats, 17 dogs, 15 doves and 1 bunny. Executive Director Beth Drake said most won't be ready for adoption for a long time. They'll receive intensive therapy and training, through positive reinforcement, aimed at making them gentle, loyal pets. Some may never heal from their traumatic pasts.

"It takes a long time to make them this way, but it also takes a long time to get them back to a point where they will make a good companion," Drake said. "I do think there's a lot of potential for these guys. They need a lot of patience."

Nearly two dozen dogs and cats that Drake identified as needing the most special attention went to Save-A-Pet Adoption Center (www.saveapetil.org) near Grayslake, which has large indoor/outdoor kennels and yards sprawled across 5 acres.

The dogs include Angel, Bosco, Licorice, Serena, Job, Woody and Peggy Sue.


Woody            Boscoe            Angel


Serena          Peggy Sue           Licorice

  (Photo's courtesy of Bob Chwedyk/Daily Herald )

(Peggy Sue, who lived in a cage for 12 years - Job, a black and white lab/pit mix, she is rehabilitating after he was kept caged - Woody, a shepherd/husky, spent nine years caged in the basement with minimal human contact)

In 1973, Dale Armon opened Pet Rescue with dreams of replicating similar no-kill sanctuaries across the country where homeless animals would be rescued, neutered and placed in loving homes.

Those deemed unadoptable would be moved to rural farms, where they'd be cared for until death. The young widow also wanted to create her own line of pet food. In almost a foreshadowing of things to come, Armon had 22 cats and a couple dogs in her Chicago apartment in the first two months before the shelter at 151 Bloomingdale Road opened.

More than three decades later, the 75-year-old Armon tearfully defended herself during an April 2 DuPage County court hearing against allegations the animals were often in overcrowded, filthy conditions without adequate medical care.  "These animals are my life," she said, seated in a wheelchair. "I am devoted to Pet Rescue."  Armon continues to fight misdemeanor charges.

DuPage Judge Ronald Sutter said the animals, though not physically abused, suffered "severe" neglect.

But, for more than a decade, many former clients, volunteers and workers accused authorities of turning a blind eye as animals suffered in silence. The critics said the operators hoarded animals, often denying suitable adoptions. Workers said they had to sign confidentiality agreements and were fired when they complained.

Ethel Lillis of Elgin said she volunteered there on and off for 15 years.

"It got progressively worse," she said. "I saw some horrible things, but I kept my mouth shut. Like other volunteers, I was there out of love for the animals."

Former volunteers Kris Nesheim and Mary Huspen in July 2008 formed "Operation Mia," (http://closepetrescue.blogspot.com/) named after a sick cat that had to be euthanized. Members documented shelter conditions, hired their own attorney, picketed, badgered public officials and set up an Internet site urging its closure.

  (Photo courtesy of Operation Mia - Mia is one of many animals who died from long-term neglect at Pet Rescue. The Pet Rescue volunteer who rushed Mia to a veterinarian for emergency care was fired for doing so)

"At least the animals are in good shelters and have a second chance," said Nesheim, of Bloomingdale, who helped gather evidence used to prosecute the women. "But shame on everyone that overlooked the situation for so many years. It shouldn't have taken this long."

Drake from Tails Humane Society and Dana Deutsch, Save-A-Pet's manager, said most cats they're treating were sick and malnourished. The dogs were in decent physical shape, though, the women agreed, but behavioral challenges ranging from anxiety to aggression will require months of intensive therapy.  Those deemed unsuitable for adoption may have to be euthanized.

Each dog's personality is being evaluated. For example, Peggy Sue is afraid of men. Woody isn't used to being touched, but the tidy pooch will crouch down on his front legs in a play bow. Job, who came to Pet Rescue after he was abandoned in Naperville, is skittish but gaining confidence. Licorice is starved for affection, and isn't shy about letting it be known.

"These dogs have lived in really bad circumstances," Deutsch said. "Some can open up immediately, and some will take a lot longer to let their walls down and trust. Here, they're getting attention and love. Even given what these dogs have been through, they're amazing. It just shows you the resilience of an animal."

She said one cat who lived at Pet Rescue for two years was adopted within one day. A dog, Ella, at Pet Rescue since 1999, also found a home. Lillis' daughter, Susan, took her home after falling for her two years earlier while a shelter volunteer.

  (Photo courtesy of Brian Hill/Daily Herald - Susan Lillis of Elgin waited more than two years to rescue Ella from Pet Rescue)

Ella enjoys at least six walks a day, playing with her two new feline friends and sleeping on a special orthopedic dog bed to help her arthritis.

"This is a dog they thought wasn't adoptable," Susan Lillis said. "She's the gentlest, sweetest, happiest dog. There's no reason why she shouldn't have had this love years ago."

Then there's Peggy Sue, who Deutsch said covers her in kisses upon sight and has made other strides, too. The two became fast friends. In fact, she is Deutsch's favorite.  "She is a special girl, and I think that face will just melt people's hearts," Deutsch said.

Peggy Sue, as it turns out, may just end up being one of the lucky ones after all.


The Daily Herald

Operation Mia