Cause of dog kennel fire near West Chicago remains undetermined

  • Roughly 30 dogs were saved from a fire at a kennel near West Chicago Jan. 14, but nearly as many perished in the blaze.

      Roughly 30 dogs were saved from a fire at a kennel near West Chicago Jan. 14, but nearly as many perished in the blaze. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 1/25/2019 3:57 PM

The cause of the fire that swept through a kennel near West Chicago and killed roughly 30 dogs nearly two weeks ago remains undetermined, authorities said Friday.

The probe by the DuPage County Fire Investigation Task Force is not yet complete, DuPage County sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Robert Harris said. Harris said he could not comment further until the task force makes a final determination.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Addison Fire Protection District Deputy Chief Erik Kramer, a member of the task force, said investigators are trying to obtain consent from the property owner to get back inside the kennel near the northeast corner of North Avenue and County Farm Road. The landlord lives out of state.

Property tax bills on the kennel site were addressed in 2018 to Joanne Grossman, according to DuPage records. Grossman did not immediately return an email message seeking comment.

Firefighters have cautioned that the intensity of the blaze and the damage will make finding a specific cause difficult. First responders were able to save roughly 30 dogs after the fire broke out in the two-story building Jan. 14.

As the operator of the kennel, Garrett Mercado boarded and trained dogs for rescue groups in addition to housing his own animals.

In August, the state department of agriculture issued the kennel a license under a new name, The Bully Life Animal Services. The department's bureau of animal welfare conducted an initial licensing inspection that tallied 28 dogs at the site, or less than half the number at the time of the fire.

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The state inspector found the buildings, premises and sanitation levels were acceptable except in the attached dog runs, according to a report released under a Daily Herald public records request.

Sanitation in the dog runs was deemed unacceptable because concrete needed "to be filled in to prevent rat infestation," the records show.

The inspector determined the kennel was "OK to license" and listed the following required improvements: larger cages for bigger breeds and the concrete repairs to the dog runs.

The kennel passed its last routine inspection on Sept. 20. The kennel's south dog runs were not in use at the time. The inspector again called on the kennel to get larger cages for big breeds and to finish "cementing/filling in south kennels' corners." The appearance and health of the dogs were rated "good."

The kennel has fallen under scrutiny on social media, with critics raising questions about its cleanliness, staffing and the number of pets housed in the two-story building. Mercado, who began renting it last year, said he knew the kennel was a "fixer upper," but felt he could manage the operation with volunteers and had made plans with his landlord to complete improvements.

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