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Pet Rescue loses license, director charged with animal cruelty
By Christy Gutowski | Daily Herald Staff

A sign outside of Pet Rescue, Inc in Bloomingdale indicates the facility has been closed.


Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

Pet Rescue, Inc Sanctuary in Bloomingdale.


Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

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Published: 10/23/2008 12:05 AM | Updated: 10/23/2008 2:50 PM

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After years of complaints, state officials for the first time have suspended the license of a controversial Bloomingdale animal shelter as its director faces criminal charges.

Pet Rescue lost its license Oct. 16 after the Illinois Department of Agriculture cited it for a fourth violation. The shelter must wait one year before applying for a new license.

Authorities have not attempted to seize the roughly 100 animals they believe are kept at the shelter. But on Friday, prosecutors will ask DuPage Associate Judge Ronald Sutter to allow either a state official, police or animal control officer to make unannounced visits with a licensed veterinarian to ensure the animals have the necessary food, water, shelter and care.

Prosecutors also are seeking to bar Pet Rescue officials from moving any of the animals to their McHenry County farm in Hebron.

The judge may grant the requests as a condition of Director Penny I. Horak's bond on misdemeanor charges alleging cruel treatment to animals and violation of owner's duties. The criminal allegations stem from a sick cat named Mia, who had to be euthanized, as well as complaints involving more cats and dogs.

Horak, 69, of Winfield, faces a possible one-year jail term and $2,500 fine.

Pet Rescue, a nonprofit, no-kill shelter, has been the focus of several state investigations and civil court proceedings for years. Former volunteers and clients who adopted sick animals have picketed, filed complaints and even launched an Internet site.

Last summer, some volunteers worked undercover to secretly collect evidence. They also enlisted the help of Cherie Travis, the assistant director of the Center for Animal Law at DePaul University College of Law.

"It's frustrating that the case is moving slowly for the animals that have suffered for years," she said. "The number one concern of the former volunteers who brought countless allegations of abuse and neglect is that the animals receive immediate care."

The latest state agriculture violation alleges Pet Rescue lacked a pressurized water source or handwashing facility in its annex building. Earlier violations involved two adopted cats that had conjunctivitis, severe upper respiratory infections, pus coming out of their ears and a 104-degree temperature.

The shelter's operator, Dale Armon, has not been charged with any criminal wrongdoing.