The owner of a suburban kennel that was found guilty of animal cruelty and other charges in connection with a Jan. 2019 fire that killed 29 dogs has been sentenced to 20 days in prison, far less than what prosecutors sought in the case.
Garrett Mercado, operator of the former D and D Kennel, was found guilty on three counts of animal cruelty and six counts of violation of owner's duties following a five-day bench trial before Judge Robert Miller earlier this year, according to the DuPage County State's Attorney's Office.
On Tuesday, Mercado was sentenced to 20 days in the DuPage County Jail. Prosecutors in the case had sought a six-month prison sentence.
According to authorities, a DuPge County Sheriff's deputy observed a fire at the dog kennel facility on Jan. 14, 2019. An investigation into the fire could not conclusively determine a cause of the blaze, but investigators say that 29 dogs died in the fire as a result of Mercado leaving the facility for approximately five hours.
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During the prosecution, lawyers said the investigation revealed that numerous dogs at the facility were mistreated, suffering puncture wounds, lacerations, abrasions, weigh loss, muscle-wasting and dehydration. Kennel runs were not kept in sanitary condition, and dogs were kept in cages stacked upon one another, according to prosecutors.
Some dogs were tethered in the facility, including one that was tethered to a bar in a bathtub that would "prevent or restrict movement," the state's attorney's office said.
The facility had no fire prevention protocols in place.
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 at the time he told NBC 5 that he “rushed in to try to put it out.”
"While the fire raged through the kennel, the man responsible for the health and safety of those dogs was nowhere to be found," State's Attorney Robert Berlin said in a statement. "This heart-breaking case has certainly touched many people's lives and it is my sincerest hope that those whose dogs perished in the fire under the care of Mr. Mercado will keep the fond memories of their companions close to their hearts."
Following the completion of his prison sentence, Mercado will only be allowed to own one dog, and will serve two years of probation and four years of conditional discharge.