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Article updated: 12/26/2012 2:48 PM

DuPage animal stories made big news in 2012


It was a ruff year for animals in DuPage County.

Everywhere you turned it seemed fur was flying and feathers were being ruffled. Everybody's bite was worse than their bark.

There was the guy in Aurora who pretty much turned his townhouse over to hundreds of birds who made such a mess that when cleanup crews finally arrived, they had to wear hazmat suits.

Coyotes attacked dogs in Wheaton and Warrenville. A swan attack led to the drowning death of a Villa Park man. A St. Charles man pleaded guilty to beating his girlfriend's cat and an Aurora man was sentenced for breaking a dog's teeth.

A woman in Addison claimed she was out walking her pooch when somebody shot it in the head. Naperville police found a Canada goose that was struck with an arrow. A Villa Park pit bull killed another dog in front of some young children and Roselle police used a stun gun to subdue another pit bull.

Happily, not every animal story this year had a sad ending. A snowy owl that was struck by a SUV was safely returned to the wild. In Lombard, two unusual creatures -- a tortoise and a skateboarding cockatiel -- got lost but found their way back to their families in ways that would make the Disney people blush.

And, oh yeah, a Glen Ellyn couple found a blue bullfrog. No kidding.

Second chance for snowy owl: The snowy owl was barely a year old when she was struck by a SUV near Hampshire and became stuck in the vehicle's grill. She was rescued and taken to Willowbrook Wildlife Center in Glen Ellyn where DuPage County Forest Preserve District staff members nursed her back to health and then set her free in late January in Pratt's Wayne Woods.

Man pleads guilty to beating cat: A St. Charles man, David Potts, pleaded guilty in January to beating his Wheaton girlfriend's cat so badly it had to be euthanized. Prosecutors said the woman found Patches covered in blood, missing teeth and with a "swollen, disfigured head."

Eating like, well, horses: Several dozen volunteers at the DuPage Forest Preserve District's Danada Equestrian Center raised questions about the care and possible abuse of roughly 25 horses kept at the Wheaton facility. But an independent vet brought in to examine the herd said care for the horses was generally good and there were no obvious signs of abuse. The biggest problems? Several of the horses were too fat and several others needed some help with their teeth.

Swan attack leads to death: An attack by an aggressive swan contributed to the April drowning of a Villa Park man in the pond of a Des Plaines-area condominium complex. Cook County sheriff's police said. Anthony Hensley, 37, was working for a company that deploys swans to keep geese away when one of the birds attacked the kayak he was riding in, knocking Hensley into the water.

Police dog has his last day: Kairo, the Naperville Police Department's longest-serving police dog, worked his last day in late April. He retired to take on the full-time role of family pet with his handler, Eddie Corneliusen. The pair worked together since 2000. "I don't know which of us will have the tougher time," Corneliusen said. "He doesn't have the same spring in his step and agility he did as a puppy, but every day when I get ready for work and put the uniform on, his head stands a little higher, a little more proud, and he gets excited to go to work."

Aurora man bitten by coyote: Aurora police were cautioning residents to take special care around coyotes in early May after a resident said he was attacked by one of the animals in his yard.

Cops use stun gun on pit bull: A 2-year-old pit bull named Chooch died in May when Roselle police used a stun gun to subdue the dog after he bit a family member. Chooch's owners said police used excessive force to get the roughly 50-pound pit bull under control.

Slings and arrows: Naperville police cautioned residents in May that while Canada geese can be a pain in the neck, it doesn't give people the right to kill them. The warning came after police found a goose shot with an arrow at Century Farm Park -- the second such incident of the year.

Dog shot during walk: Addison police investigated a report in May from a woman who said she was walking her Yorkshire terrier near the Cricket Creek Forest Preserve when her dog apparently was shot in the head. The pooch had to be euthanized and was cremated before forest preserve police turned the case over to Addison authorities.

Smallmouth bass map success: Roughly 100 smallmouth bass swam into new homes at two DuPage County forest preserves along the West Branch of the DuPage River. The 7-year-old fish, each about 20 inches long and weighing between 4 and 6 pounds, were expected to fan out and help environmentalists map the success of restoration work that began in 2005 along eight miles of the river.

Sick puppy leads to lawsuit: A Woodridge woman who bought a Havanese puppy online wound up joining the U.S. Humane Society and 49 other unhappy customers of Purebred Breeders in a lawsuit alleging the seller supports so-called "puppy mills" and frequently delivers sick or injured pets. The suit began in Dade County, Fla., and by early June had grown to 50 plaintiffs across the country.

Jail time for animal abuser: An Aurora man who served jail time in the 1990s for killing his dog by running it over was sentenced in late May to a year in prison for breaking five teeth on another dog in November 2010. Phillip Rinn, 43, had faced anywhere from probation to three years in prison after pleading guilty to felony aggravated animal cruelty in Kane County court.

Turtle caught in carp barrier: The DuPage County Forest Preserve District in June began monitoring a barrier along the south bank of the Des Plaines River meant to deter destructive Asian carp, after a snapping turtle was found caught in the fence. A person using Centennial Trail in Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve near Darien noticed the turtle with a claw caught, but it was released with minor injuries.

Tortoise goes missing: Susan and Andy Lechner's pets were a storybook pair: the tortoise and the hare ... until their 45-pound, 44-year-old African spurred tortoise, Lance, went missing June 17. Lance was grazing while the Lombard couple had Father's Day dinner, but couldn't be found after dessert. The story had a happy ending: Lance was found safe and sound about a week later in St. Charles where he was living in an empty swimming pool.

It isn't easy being blue: A Glen Ellyn couple that has spent decades monitoring animal life in DuPage County forest preserves and the Morton Arboretum came upon something they'd never seen before in July: a rare blue bullfrog at Hidden Lake Forest Preserve near Downers Grove. Experts say blue bullfrogs are about one in a million.

Man charged in dog death: A Glendale Heights man was charged in July with beating his girlfriend's Chihuahua to death after the couple had an argument. Michael Chacon was charged with aggravated cruelty to animals.

All it's quacked up to be: Robert Duck -- he promises it's his real name -- brought his Great American Duck Race back to the DuPage County Fair in July. He travels the U.S. racing ducks at county fairs and boat shows. "Life just throws you some interesting curve balls and you've got to make the best of what you're given," he said.

Pit bull kills dog: The owner of a pit bull in Villa Park was cited in late July after authorities said his dog jumped a fence and killed a 3-year-old bichon frise-poodle mix named Daisy that was playing with several children. Oscar D. Munez was cited for several violations, including harboring a vicious dog and allowing it to attack a person and/or animal.

Coyote attacks near Wheaton: Two coyote attacks against small dogs were reported in less than a week near Wheaton, including one in which a small dog was killed. In one case, a single coyote jumped over a 5-foot fence to attack a dog; in another, a pack of coyotes injured one small dog and killed another.

Rusty's legend grows: After years running loose in Oak Brook, a dog now known as Rusty Redd, wound up in a home in Utah with former Lake Zurich resident Kristine Kowal and her other dog, Maddy. But wouldn't you know it, the three were out hunting lizards (this is Utah, after all) when Rusty got bitten by a rattlesnake. The story has a happy ending, though: Rusty recovered.

It takes two to Tango: Tango, a skateboarding cockatiel, flew away from his Lombard owners on Thanksgiving morning, got stuck in a bunch of trees, was chased by a hawk and braved temperatures much colder than ideal before being warmed and cared for by a woman from Minneapolis staying at Lombard's Westin Hotel. Tango eventually was reunited with his owners, Frank and Kim Alonso. "It was a lot of one-in-a-million shots bundled into one," Frank Alonso said of the circumstances that allowed the couple to see their bird again. "When we got him back, it was like seeing a ghost."

Strictly for the birds: Dave Skeberdis says it started seven years ago when he rescued a wild parakeet and decided to care for it inside his Aurora townhouse. By October, his residence was filled with hundreds of birds of many species -- many living but some dead -- and mounds of garbage. The discovery led the city to get a court order to clean up the mess that had become so bad crews were required to wear hazmat suits as they removed 325 living birds and about 120 dead ones from the residence. "It got out of control," Skeberdis said. "I realize that now."

Puppy love prescribed: After his little brother and dog were among those killed in a horrific knife attack, Matt Plackowski found a reason to smile in a chocolate dapple dachshund named Tootsie. Petland Naperville donated the pooch to Plackowski in December to brighten his spirits. The Naperville man quickly settled on the name Tootsie as a tribute to his last dog, a dachshund that went by the same name. "We're going to give her all the love she needs," he said.

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