Cook County sheriff's police said they seized nine mutilated and abused dogs this week from a dogfighting ring operating out of a Maywood day care home.
Sheriff Tom Dart said his officers found a dog with its eye ripped out, a dog with a leg twisted backward and a dog with its lower extremities nearly ripped off its body in their raid Tuesday.
"All of the dogs that we got yesterday were in horrific condition," Dart said while cuddling a puppy taken during the raid. "The people who work on this have done this for years as you know and this is as bad as we've seen the animals."
In a news release Dart said the dogs and dogfighting equipment were located close to where the children were cared for in the day care area. "The very equipment used to train these dogs to kill was being kept in the garage right behind the house," Dart said.
The sheriff's office said the day care operator insisted she was not involved in dogfighting, and maintained children were never near the dogs or dogfighting equipment.
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, which licensed the day care home since 2004, had twice received complaints about dogs in recent years, according to Kendall Marlowe, DCFS spokesman.
Marlowe said child welfare officials made four visits to the home on the 2100 block of South Third Avenue since 2006 and found that there were no indications of the dogs in the day care area of the home. But after Tuesday's raid, the woman surrendered her license to run a day care, said Marlowe.
"This day care home operator complied with our request today to surrender her license with cause," he said. "This day care home is now closed, and we will monitor the home going forward to ensure that it does not reopen."
Dart said police arrived at the home, 2101 S. Third Ave. in the western suburb, on Tuesday and saw 10 children being watched at the house. In a garage behind the house, police said they found "a very aggressive" pit bull, with blood on the floor and along the sides of a car.
"Also in the garage were syringes, medication, bite sticks and harnesses used in dog fights," the sheriff's office said in a release. "The chest of the dog found in that garage was shredded from a recent fight and its penis was bitten almost completely off."
Investigators learned the dogs were housed nearby at 2025 S. Sixth Ave., home to an ex-con who charged $60 a month for dogs to be kept there, according to the sheriff's office. Martez Anderson, 38, was released from prison on a drug conviction in 2006 and was cited Tuesday for being a felon in possession of an unneutered or unspayed dog.
In the garage at Anderson's home, police said they found an 18-month-old pit bull with three 4-week old puppies. They were all kept in a wire cage soaked in feces and urine, with no signs of food or water for them, Dart said.
"All were severely emaciated," his office said in a release. Police said they believe the puppies were already being used in fights, possibly as "bait dogs." One puppy had its left eye ripped out and had several puncture wounds to its face.
In a shed behind that garage, a 1-year-old pit bull was found "extremely scarred" with its leg turned completely backward. In a crate behind that shed, police said they found another pit bull that could barely stand.
As police searched the property Tuesday, they noticed a large opening in a fence separating Anderson's yard from a neighbor's. In that yard, they saw a badly injured pit bull tied to a logging chain. The dog had fresh fighting wounds, possibly from a fight this week, Dart's office said.
The owner of that house, 2027 S. Sixth Ave., consented to a search of his home, he said. In a dilapidated garage there, police found a treadmill which had been altered specifically to train dogs to fight. Police also found another malnourished puppy locked in that garage, police said.
"What was done to these dogs is inexcusable," Dart said. "This was done in the name of gambling and greed and no area seems to be immune from its influence - we see it in rural farm areas and inner cities. Unfortunately, we're also seeing more and more kids exposed to this kind of lifestyle."
All dogs seized in the raid are at the Animal Welfare League in Chicago Ridge.
"They would take the dogs in the garage during the day and you could hear them fighting," said Guadalupe Castro, 40, who lives down the block from the disbanded dogfighting operation. "We would hear dogs barking and making fighting sounds."
She said she suspects two or three people attended the fights at a time. She noticed this all started by the beginning of the summer.
"I was scared because sometimes the dogs would get loose and run down the street," Castro said. "I'm glad they got them [dogs] out of here."
Another neighbor, who declined to identify herself for fear of retribution from anyone involved in the dogfighting operation, said she would call the village of Maywood often about the dogs. She said the dogs would be tied up to a pole and would bark and try to attack one another.
But some of those facing charges dismissed the seizure as a raid on "some Momma and the puppies."
"You got all kind of criminals running around Maywood and you would actually spend taxpayers' dollars to come to my house to get some Momma and the puppies?" said Martez Anderson, 38, accused of keeping fighting dogs in his home. "That's crazy. All the dogs that they took from here had the papers on them. I want to clarify that."
Four dogs were recovered from Anderson's home -- a mother and her three puppies, Anderson said. He said his his cousin, Lance Webb, charged with charged with felony dogfighting, was not involved in dogfighting.
Anderson said he was planning to sell the dogs later on and they were all in good condition except for one puppy that hurt its eye after a door fell on it.
"They probably could of did for a bath or so, but other than that, they wasn't like ate up like they're making it out to be," he said, adding that the dogs were not used for fighting.
Anderson said he didn't know the neighbors next door were involved in dogfighting.
Elizabeth Lyons -- owner of the home in the 2000 block of South Sixth Avenue that allegedly had a treadmill in a garage altered to train dogs to fight -- said the dog being kept in the garage was her grandson's puppy.
Lyons said she didn't know how long the puppy had been staying in the garage and didn't know its age, but said it didn't have any injuries.
"We didn't have no fighting dogs. ... We've had dogs all of my life. I don't go for that," she said. "I'm afraid of fighting dogs anyway. You hear about them all of the time turning against their owners," Lyons said, adding that she has a dog named Kisser.
A third man charged was Charles Sutton, 42, of Maywood -- whose wife operated the day care. He was charged with felony dogfighting.
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