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updated: 1/26/2011 1:43 PM

Muddy Paws shelter mess dates back to 2009

Records show another alert in 2009 to problems at animal shelter

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  • Muddy Paws Dog Rescue is on Rand Road in Deer Park.

      Muddy Paws Dog Rescue is on Rand Road in Deer Park.
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

  • Diane Eldrup

    Diane Eldrup


Muddy Paws Dog Rescue's main building in Deer Park had so much sewage and other problems that a Nicor Gas employee refused to check a meter and summoned authorities for a "hazardous situation" in July 2009, Kildeer police reports state.

The reports, obtained by the Daily Herald, show the responding officer told Muddy Paws operator Diane Eldrup the mess should be cleaned as soon as possible, but he didn't take further immediate action. The officer stated the report was forwarded to Deer Park village hall and two other agencies.

Deer Park contracts with Kildeer for police service. Deer Park Village Administrator Jim Connors said Tuesday he never received the police report, but it could have wound up with a private company that previously handled building and zoning matters.

Officials at the Illinois Department of Agriculture and Lake County Health Department said they received the police report. Kildeer Police Chief Louis Rossi didn't return calls seeking comment.

Although the reports show some problems at Muddy Paws were documented in 2009, Lake County prosecutors say they don't know when the situation began escalating to the point of finding dogs starving to death there.

Eldrup, 48, was arrested Dec. 17 after police found the corpses of 20 dogs, three birds and an opossum in the building on Rand Road. Lake County prosecutors accuse Eldrup of neglecting the animals and allowing them to starve to death.

Authorities said they found 5 to 10 tons of dog excrement in plastic bags in a garage next to the living quarters fronting Rand Road.

Kildeer police were periodic visitors to Muddy Paws from Feb. 9, 2009, until Eldrup's arrest, records show. Many police responses were for domestic-type calls involving Eldrup and her estranged husband.

On July 21, 2009, the Nicor employee made a service call to check a meter in Muddy Paws' basement, according to Kildeer police documents obtained by the Daily Herald through the Freedom of Information Act.

When he reached the basement, the Nicor worker claimed he found a backed-up sump pump and 1 to 2 inches of water near the gas meter.

"(The Nicor employee) also stated he observed mold, sewage, sludge in the basement, and due to the condition he refused the check the meter," the police report states. "(The worker) also stated he could smell the sewage inside the business, and a small child with dogs in cages were in the area."

Kildeer police were called by the Nicor employee for what the report labeled a "hazardous situation."

Dog urine and sewage odors in the business were noted in the responding officer's report. He also wrote that at least 2 inches of water and sewage were on the basement floor, and there was a strong mold odor.

Eldrup was informed by the officer that a hazard existed and the problems should be addressed "as soon as possible." The officer stated the report would be sent to Deer Park, Lake County and the state's agriculture department.

"I cleared, took no further action," the officer wrote.

Connors said the police report describing Muddy Paws would have been valuable information to Deer Park. He said it would have been proper for someone to check to see if he received the police document.

"Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up," Connors said. "That's what people expect."

Connors said Muddy Paws' situation has led to changes in Deer Park's annual business registration requirement. He said a new company hired for building and zoning issues will inspect a business as part of the $125 fee.

In addition, Connors said, Deer Park will verify if a business reports it is closed. He said Muddy Paws didn't have a valid registration since at least 2008, but no one checked when the building was later reported to be used only as a home.

Health department spokeswoman Leslie Piotrowski said the agency visited Muddy Paws on July 24, 2009, soon after receiving the Kildeer police report. Mark Pfister, director of population health services, said an inspection found no sewer backup but rather a sump pump problem.

Agriculture department spokesman Jeff Squibb said the Kildeer police report was received and led to an inspection. On Aug. 10, 2009, an inspector reported finding urine-soaked bedding and excessive dog feces at Muddy Paws.

Muddy Paws was cited for operating without a license and having "conditions that did not meet the standards of the animal welfare act," according to the agriculture department. Squibb said a follow-up inspection showed a cleanup had occurred and there were no problems on Aug. 17, 2009.

Officials said Muddy Paws' state license expired June 30, 2009. Squibb said officials dropped the case against Muddy Paws on May 21, 2010, after being informed the facility closed and had no animals.

Squibb said the agriculture department did all it could in the Muddy Paws case within the confines of the law.

"To suggest somehow any of this (animal abuse) can be prevented is absurd," Squibb said.

Pfister said the health department report noted flies in an area where pets were being groomed, which would have been three weeks after Muddy Paws' agriculture department license expired.

Free on bond, Eldrup pleaded not guilty to charges of animal torture and aggravated animal abuse in a Lake County court appearance Monday.

Authorities said Kurt Eldrup reported in December finding dead dogs at the Muddy Paws, where his estranged wife lived with the couple's 8-year-old son.