Payment Delay Sparks Battle Over Cattle

Nursing a herd of sick cattle back to health is proving costly for a Will County animal rescue group, especially when the local government which placed the animals in the non-profit’s care has yet to pay for five months-worth of food, shelter and veterinary care as of late October.

But it appears the payment hold-up will soon be resolved, according to a Cook County spokesperson.

Illinois Horse Rescue of Will County assisted Cook County animal control officers in the rescue of nineteen undernourished cattle last May. According to the Cook County Sheriff’s incident report, the cattle lived among broken-down trucks and carnival rides on a farm near Ford Heights. While the report notes the animal owners told responding officers the cattle were being cared for properly, investigators noted the food supply was moldy and two dead cattle were located in the animals’ water source.

“They were just neglected and undernourished and full of parasites,” said Tony Pecho, head of operations for the rescue group.

Cook County said it placed the animals with Illinois Horse Rescue of Will County while the case against the animals’ owner is pending.

However, Pecho said five months of providing care for the cattle, including expensive veterinarian visits and leasing farmland for grazing, have impacted his group’s other rescue efforts. Pecho’s family takes in unwanted horses from across the region. But he said horse adoptions and private donations are down. Pecho also said his rescue farm is running dangerously low on food for the animals.

“It has crippled us to where how many horses we can bring in, and actually we’re worried about if we can take care of the ones we have,” Pecho said.

NBC 5 Investigates obtained an email that shows the county appeared to be preparing payment in June. A county spokesperson would not comment on the email.

But after NBC 5 Investigates started asking questions, Cook County announced it was moving ahead with a $72,274.98 purchase order to pay the rescue group. And as a second step, the county said it will establish a contract with the rescue for the ongoing care of the remaining animals.

The county earlier said it issued tickets to Charlene Briggs and said it would pursue reimbursement. According to the county spokesperson, the case against Briggs is proceeding under alleged violations of the animal control ordinance. Briggs’ attorney declined to comment at this time.

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