33 crosses, sign mark anniversary of fatal kennel fire near Carol Stream

  • Thirty-three white crosses were placed for the dogs that died in a fire in a former dog kennel near Carol Stream one year ago Tuesday.

      Thirty-three white crosses were placed for the dogs that died in a fire in a former dog kennel near Carol Stream one year ago Tuesday. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Lori Shilling of Carol Stream places a flower near a sign and white crosses marking the anniversary of a fire that killed 29 dogs in a former dog kennel near Carol Stream. Shilling said she had planned to bring the flower Tuesday but was surprised to find the crosses. "It's so nice that someone was able to do this," she said.

      Lori Shilling of Carol Stream places a flower near a sign and white crosses marking the anniversary of a fire that killed 29 dogs in a former dog kennel near Carol Stream. Shilling said she had planned to bring the flower Tuesday but was surprised to find the crosses. "It's so nice that someone was able to do this," she said. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Lori Shilling of Carol Stream counts the crosses that someone placed for the dogs that died in a fire in a former dog kennel near Carol Stream one year ago Tuesday.

      Lori Shilling of Carol Stream counts the crosses that someone placed for the dogs that died in a fire in a former dog kennel near Carol Stream one year ago Tuesday. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Crosses were placed at the site of a former dog kennel near Carol Stream, where a fire killed 29 dogs a year ago Tuesday.

      Crosses were placed at the site of a former dog kennel near Carol Stream, where a fire killed 29 dogs a year ago Tuesday. Rick West | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 1/14/2020 5:19 PM

The anniversary of a fire at a kennel near Carol Stream and the lives of the dogs that died there was marked with 33 white crosses and a sign with a rainbow emerging from a cloud that read "You Are Loved."

The Jan. 14, 2019, fire exposed what DuPage County prosecutors called "cruel and inhumane conditions" inside the kennel that housed 58 dogs near North Avenue and County Farm Road. The fire killed 29 dogs and several others were unaccounted for.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

A name was handwritten on each cross, including Koko, a dog found beneath a pile of debris, tethered to a bar in a second-floor bathtub after the fire.

Many of the charges against the operator, Garrett Mercado, are related to Koko. Mercado has pleaded not guilty to 28 misdemeanors -- 14 counts of animal cruelty and 14 counts of violation of owner's duties.

Mercado is set to appear in court for a status hearing Jan. 23, when his attorney, Harry Smith, is expected to give prosecutors a list of expert witnesses who could be called should the case go to trial.

Lori Shilling of Carol Stream stopped by the former kennel to place a flower at the site only to find the crosses there already.

"It's so nice that someone was able to do this," Shilling said. She said she used to board her dog there in the 1980s but had used other boarders in the years since. "I felt so badly when it happened, even just for living nearby," she said.

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