The 43 puppies rescued from in a van parked in the Little Villageneighborhood Tuesday morning were packed three-to-six animals per carrier and bound for pet stores in Chicago and New York, an animal control official said Wednesday.
The puppies, some as young as 6 to 8 weeks, vary in breed from boxers and huskies to Chihuahuas and Pekinese, said Cherie Travis, executive director of Chicago’s Department of Animal Care and Control. She said they came from a large-scale breeding operation in Iowa.
The department has taken custody of the puppies pending the results of a legal case against two men found in possession of the animals.
Travis Wester, 22, and Larry Subject, 49, both of Iowa, were each charged with misdemeanor failing to meet animal owner duties and cruelty to animals, according to a statement from Chicago police News Affairs. They were each ordered held in lieu of $10,000 bail in a hearing before Cook County Judge Gloria Chevere today, said Andy Conklin, a spokesman for the Cook County state's attorney's office.
About 7 a.m. Tuesday, police noticed a van parked in the 2500 block of West Cermak Road, prosecutors said Wednesday. Officers saw two men, later identified as Wester and Subject, sleeping in the van.
An officer also heard loud barking coming from the vehicle’s rear and when police checked, they found 43 animals in cramped containers, without adequate food or water, according to police. The animals were in about 10 cages, all of them dirty and filled with urine and feces, prosecutors said.
Officers found that Wester and Subject, both of Britt in north-central Iowa, had driven seven hours to Chicago with the puppies, from an Iowa puppy mill, prosecutors said.
Today, Travis could not comment on the puppies’ condition, but said they are currently in quarantine at the shelter because of their age and to protect their health. She described the carriers in which the animals were found as being the type typically used by pet owners to transport one animal to the veterinarian. Some containers were stacked, she said, while others were placed in a row.
Animal Care and Control has had no previous contact with the two individuals arrested, she said. And while she has not personally seen the transportation of this many puppies in her two years with the department, she speculated the incident is not the first time breeders have come to Chicago.
“Sometimes we see a breeding operation,” she said. “This is the first time we’ve seen the transport side.”
Travis credited police with being “alert and astute” to notice the puppies in the vehicle.
“This was really good police work,” she said.
Wester and Subject were scheduled to appear in Misdemeanor Court Branch 43 again on Feb. 16, for both a hearing on their criminal case and on a petition of forfeiture to have the puppies confiscated, Conklin said.
Although Animal Care is caring for the puppies, they would not become available for adoption until ownership of the animals is handed over to the city by a court, officials said. Anyone wishing to donate items to assist animals at Animal Care's shelter can visit the agency's website, or drop off donations at its office at 2741 S. Western Ave.
Tribune reporters Rosemary Sobol and Liam Ford contributed