17 ill Great Danes rescued in Spring Grove

SPRING GROVE – A Spring Grove couple who tout their ability to breed Great Danes with “great pride” were charged Thursday with animal cruelty after police found 17 of the giant dogs malnourished inside their home.

Husband and wife Sal C. Messina, 40, and Patricia C. Messina, 43, were arrested and charged with 17 counts of violating owner’s duties, a class B misdemeanor, the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office announced Friday.

Of the 17 rescued dogs, nine tested positive for Giardia, authorities said. Giardia is a parasite that causes diarrhea and can be passed to humans.

Faced with large amounts of animal feces, authorities donned special suits, glasses, masks and gloves to search the couple’s home at 7206 S. Solon Road, Undersheriff Andrew Zinke said.

“It’s a tragic circumstance that dogs were living in those types of conditions,” he said. “Hopefully, they can now get the care they need.”

McHenry County Animal Control is treating the Great Danes for parasites and malnutrition.

Officials there could not be reached for comment late Friday, and it was unclear how officials came to launch the investigation led by Animal Control. The sheriff’s office and Spring Grove Police Department also were involved.

The Messinas also were arrested on outstanding DuPage County warrants, Zinke said. He said he couldn’t remember what the warrants are for, but that they are unrelated to animal cruelty.

The Messinas each posted a $1,500 bond and were released from jail, with a court appearance scheduled for Oct. 16.

The animal cruelty investigation is ongoing and additonal charges are expected, Zinke said.

The Messinas operate Sabra’s Danes, a Great Dane breeding business that, according to its website, takes “great pride in the Danes and our families that own them.” The website features numerous pictures of Great Danes and advertises the expected arrival of litters in 2013.

But a Pennsylvania dog breeder told the Northwest Herald on Friday that she and a breeder in California are waiting for Great Danes owed to them by Sabra’s Danes. Susan Fioravanti-Weaver of Erie, Pa., said she and Los Angeles breeder Pam Burton paid the Messinas for puppies last summer but never received them.

Fioravanti-Weaver said she and Burton do know whether their puppies were among the ones rescued Thursday.

“I can’t believe it,” Fioravanti-Weaver said. “This is just horrible.”

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