Trial begins for sanctuary owner accused of neglecting animals

SHARE Trial begins for sanctuary owner accused of neglecting animals
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Dawn Hamill (left) leaves the Cook County Courthouse in Markham Wednesday, March 7, 2012. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media

The barn at Dazzle’s Painted Pastures Rescue and Sanctuary was so freezing cold in the weeks after the monster blizzard in February 2011 that the water dishes for the animals living there had frozen solid, a former employee testified Wednesday.

Christine Kelly said the heater had run out of propane, leaving livestock in Dawn Hamill’s cold barn. And eight fat and healthy puppies Kelly had driven to the rescue sanctuary from Missouri on Hamill’s request in late January 2011 were living in a squalid, freezing garage, rolling around in their own feces.

Kelly said she quit after Hamill denied her request to call a vet to treat the puppies on suspicion of contagious parvovirus.

“She said it was not in the budget,” Kelly testified at the start of Hamill’s trial in the Cook County Circuit Courthouse in Markham.

Hamill, 42, the longtime owner of the sanctuary, is defending herself against 10 misdemeanor charges she neglected animals she was supposed to be caring for. Her trial began Wednesday morning.

She argued, through her attorney Purav Bhatt, that a former employee is to blame, first by bringing unauthorized animals to the property, 5555 W. 175th St., just outside of Tinley Park, and then by complaining to police while Hamill was taking steps to get help.

The animal sanctuary was raided on Feb. 11, 2011, by the Cook County Sheriff’s police animal crimes unit, which removed more than 100 animals, mostly dogs and cats, but also some larger livestock.

Photos from the raid show puppies with matted fur and feces in their paws; the carcass of a miniature horse, found dead in its stall in the back of one barn; and of a Himalayan cat dead in its cage in an adjoining tack room.

“They’ll tell a story none of these animals can tell,” Assistant State’s Attorney Sarah Naughton told the judge. “Judge, these conditions did not occur overnight.”

The trial is expected to conclude on March 19 with testimony for Hamill. Other cases on charges she administered rabies shots without a license still are pending.

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