The owner of a suburban kennel is facing multiple charges of animal cruelty after a fatal fire killed 29 dogs earlier this year.
On Thursday, Bully Life Animal Services operator Garrett Mercado was arrested and charged with multiple counts of cruelty to animals in connection with the fire, which occurred on Jan. 14 in unincorporated DuPage County.
Authorities allege that the kennel was operating under dangerous and filthy conditions, and that the owner had no fire prevention measures in place. The indictment also alleges that crates of dogs were stacked on top of one another on the day of the fatal fire.
“(There were) 58 dogs in those conditions. There’s no way this kennel should have been operating,” DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin said. “These dogs were in crates that were stacked, and it was meant for long-term use.”
Authorities say the business had passed a recent inspection by the Department of Agriculture prior to the fire. At the time of the inspection, there were 35 dogs on the premises. When the fire took place, there were 58 dogs in the facility.
Mercado was released on bond after the hearing Thursday. If convicted of all charges, he could face up to a year in prison.
Mercado lived in the building where the kennel was housed, but was not home when the fire broke out. He returned while the fire was going on, and he told NBC 5 that he “rushed in to try to put it out.”
A DuPage County sheriff’s deputy ran into the burning building, helping to save numerous dogs.
“His quickness, I believe, saved most of the dogs that did survive,” Sheriff James Medrick said.