Problems at Muddy Paws Dog Rescue in Deer Park date to 2009, when Illinois Department of Agriculture inspectors found what they described as excessive feces and urine-soaked bedding on the property, records show.
Muddy Paws' condition, as described in the agriculture reports from more than a year ago, is similar to what Lake County prosecutors say was found at the no-kill shelter off Rand Road last month.
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However, the state withdrew its case against Muddy Paws last May when the facility claimed to be closed, according to the agriculture department.
"It's very disturbing," agriculture department spokesman Jeff Squibb said Monday.
Lake County Assistant State's Attorney Mike Mermel said a final count shows the bodies of 19 dogs, three birds and an opossum were recovered last Thursday at Muddy Paws. The dogs and birds died from neglect and starvation, he said.
Shelter operator Diane Eldrup, 48, is charged with 32 counts of animal cruelty. She was freed from the Lake County jail on 10 percent of a $250,000 bond, but her whereabouts have not been made public.
At least 5 tons to 10 tons of dog excrement was found in plastic bags in a garage fronting Rand Road during last week's investigation. Mermel said Monday investigators did not find additional dog carcasses in a sampling of 10 bags and will not search through the rest of the feces.
Illinois' agriculture department licenses and inspects pet kennels and shelters. Squibb said a routine annual inspection was performed at Muddy Paws on Aug. 10, 2009, which led to the issuance of two citations about two weeks later.
Squibb said the first violation for "conditions that did not meet standards of the animal welfare act" resulted from what inspectors wrote was "excessive feces throughout the facility" and urine-soaked bedding.
Another citation was written to Muddy Paws for inadequate record keeping. Specifically, the agriculture department stated the former boarding operation did not have names, addresses or telephone numbers for owners of dogs on the property.
Inspectors issued a citation to Muddy Paws on Sept. 17, 2009, for operating without a license. Squibb said Muddy Paws' state license, which costs $25 annually, expired June 30, 2009.
An agriculture department inspector visited Muddy Paws on Dec. 9, 2009, but no one answered the door, Squibb said. Reports show a state inspector was refused entry the following day.
Squibb said the second of two warning letters was sent to Muddy Paws in January 2010, stating a collection agency would be contacted if the facility did not formally appeal the citations or pay $1,700 in fines.
On May 3, a state agriculture department inspector visited Muddy Paws and was told the facility had closed, records show. Squibb said the state withdrew its complaint about Muddy Paws' lack of a license and ended the case May 21.
In Deer Park, Village Administrator Jim Connors said Muddy Paws did not have a valid business registration "for at least the last two years." He said every business in the village, regardless of its type, is supposed to have an annual registration.
Connors said he was informed Muddy Paws was no longer operating and the property was being used for residential purposes only. He said the village never received evidence or reports to the contrary.
Listings in the current edition of a Chicago-area pet magazine include Muddy Paws as one of 94 viable animal shelters and rescue groups. Muddy Paws was promoted as a drop-off site for a pet food drive to benefit local pantries in November 2009.
Kildeer police, who patrol Deer Park, arrested Eldrup on Dec. 17 after her estranged husband reported he found dead dogs on the property where she lived with the couple's 8-year-old son. It's not known when the neglect started, authorities said.
Authorities said Kurt Eldrup had been barred from the Deer Park property by an order of protection. He received court permission to retrieve some belongings from Muddy Paws' living quarters last month.
Meanwhile, Lake County Health Department spokeswoman Leslie Piotrowski said four dogs found alive at Muddy Paws are eating well and have doubled their weight since they were brought to the agency's animal control facility near Mundelein.
Piotrowski said one dog looked like "walking bones" when it was recovered. She said two cats seized from Muddy Paws were in good health.
Three of the animals have microchips linked to animal rescue groups, Piotrowski said. She said formal proceedings must occur in Lake County court before the dogs and cats are released from animal control's possession.
Piotrowski said while the animal control division doesn't oversee kennels or shelters, a warden visited Muddy Paws after a complaint was received in November. She said the animal warden didn't notice anything unusual from the outside and would have needed a judge to issue a search warrant for entry.
• Daily Herald staff writer Eric Peterson contributed to this report.