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Crime & Courts

Spring Grove landlord in Great Danes case wants his house

WOODSTOCK – The owner of a Spring Grove home where 17 mistreated Great Danes were seized has filed court documents saying he wants the dog breeder couple out of his home.

The tenants of Rick Sperando – Sal and Patricia Messina – are charged with abusing the dogs.

The documents Sperando filed this week in McHenry County Circuit Court request judgment against the Messinas, which could give him back possession of the property at 7206 S. Solon Road, and $8,000 in unpaid rent.

The Messinas were charged with 17 misdemeanor counts of violating the Humane Care for Animals Act after the animals were taken from the home Sept. 27. Documents with descriptions of the dogs cited “sores on front legs from elbows to paws” and “sores on all four feet.”

The husband and wife were under a lease to rent the home for $2,500 a month from July 16, 2010, through July 1, 2011, according to the complaint. They hadn’t paid rent the past six months.

Sperando estimates between $200,000 and $300,000 in damage was done to the home, based on pictures and accounts by police and McHenry County Animal Control officials who were there when the dogs were seized.

He is unsure whether the Messinas have vacated the home based on the fact that the locks have been changed, said Steven English, Sperando’s attorney. The Messinas were served with a five-day notice Oct. 16, but haven’t responded and “refuse to pay rent.”

According to court documents, the cost to care for the dogs at Animal Control was more than $5,000 through Oct. 9.

The reasonable expenses to care for the dogs the following 30 days are estimated at more than $8,500.

Before the dogs were taken from the home, Woodstock-based Great Dane Rescue Midwest took control of nine other female Great Danes. It also is unknown whether six more emaciated Great Danes found running n Walworth County, Wis., in late September were from the home.

Prosecutors also have filed a petition for security to recoup the state’s costs of caring for the dogs and determine the dogs’ “interested persons.”

An interested person differs from an owner in that they can be co-owners or own only a percentage of the animal by law, whereas an owner might be anyone caring for, in custody of or in control of the animal.

“This is about protecting these animals,” Judge Robert Wilbrandt said during a petition hearing Thursday. “The court’s first interest is taking care of these dogs in a humane manner.”

There are at least three possible interested persons identified so far, according to court documents. They include a breeder from Pennsylvania who is trying to stake claim to four of the dogs, and two other parties, a woman from California and one from Michigan.

The security hearing could lead to those who are deemed interested persons being asked to pay for the running costs of the dogs’ care; the dogs could be turned over to the interested persons; or the dogs could be forfeited to the state and go up for adoption.

The petition hearing has been scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Monday. The start of the Messinas’ criminal trial is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Nov. 20.

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