Crime & Courts

Woodridge man found guilty of animal cruelty in connection with kennel fire

A Woodridge man was found guilty Friday of multiple counts of animal cruelty in connection with a kennel he operated that claimed the lives of 29 dogs.

Garrett Mercado, 32, of the 2300 block of Cambridge Lane, was found guilty of three counts of animal cruelty and six counts of violation of owner’s duties, according to a DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office news release.

DuPage County Judge Robert Miller issued his ruling following a five-day-long bench trial where Mercado faced more than two dozen charges as a result of a 2019 fire at an unincorporated West Chicago kennel he operated that claimed the lives of 29 dogs.

On July 10, 2019, Mercado, who operated the former D and D Kennel, located at 2N441 North County Farm Road, was arrested on a $50,000 arrest warrant. The following day he posted the necessary 10%, or $5,000, and was released from custody.

On January 14, 2019, at approximately 5:20 a.m., a DuPage County Sheriff ‘s Deputy saw the kennel on fire. An investigation found the cause of the fire to be undetermined. The investigation also found that 29 dogs died in the blaze as a result of Mercado’s leaving the kennel for approximately five hours at which time a fire broke out on the premises, the release stated.

The investigation further revealed that numerous dogs were mistreated, suffering puncture wounds, lacerations, abrasions, weight loss, muscle wasting and dehydration. Additionally, the kennel runs were not sanitary; dogs were kept in cages stacked upon one another; dogs were placed in cages or crates too small for them; dogs were inappropriately tethered and one dog was tethered to a bar in a bathtub in a fashion that would restrict or prevent movement, according to the release.

“Judge Miller’s ruling verifies what we have said all along, that Garrett Mercado completely disregarded the health and safety of numerous dogs in his care,” DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin said in the release. “The fire that raged through the kennel that morning during Mr. Mercado’s five-hour absence and resulted in the death of 29 dogs left in his care is a heartbreaking tragedy for not only the owners of those dogs that perished, but also for the entire community.”

Garrett’s next court appearance is scheduled for Oct.22 for sentencing.