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Dogfighting alleged at Chicago-area day-care center

Authorities say that nine rescued animals required surgery and that children were playing just 10 feet away from a vicious fighting dog. Three men were arrested.

September 24, 2009|Lauren Harrison and Ofelia Casillas

CHICAGO — Authorities on Wednesday raided a dogfighting operation that was being run out of a suburban Chicago day-care facility, arresting three people and seizing nine dogs that required surgery, authorities said.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said children "were playing on a swing set just 10 feet away from a vicious fighting dog and blood-stained floors. . . . To be engaged in this sort of activity is disturbing enough, but to take a chance with anybody's children is reprehensible."

Dart said one dog was missing an eye and another had had its genitals nearly severed.

The day-care operator, whom police did not identify, insisted she was not involved in the activity and maintained children were never allowed near the dogs.

When sheriff's officials arrived at the home in the western suburb of Maywood, 10 children were present. In a garage behind the house, police said, they found "a very aggressive" pit bull and blood on the floor and along the sides of a car.

"Also in the garage were syringes, medication, bite sticks and harnesses used in dog fights," the sheriff's office said in a statement. "The chest of the dog found in that garage was shredded from a recent fight."

Charles Sutton, 42, whose wife operated the day-care facility, was charged with felony dogfighting. So was Lance Webb, 27, who the sheriff's office said owned the injured animals.

According to investigators, the dogs were kept at the nearby home of Martez Anderson, who charged $60 a month to house them.

Anderson, who has a prior drug conviction, was cited for being a felon in possession of an unneutered or unspayed dog.

In the garage at Anderson's home, police said they found an 18-month-old pit bull with three 4-week-old puppies. They were in a wire cage soaked in feces and urine, with no signs of food or water, Dart said.

"All were severely emaciated," his office said. Police believe the puppies were being used in fights, possibly as "bait dogs." One puppy's eye was missing; there were several puncture wounds on its face.

In a shed, a 1-year-old pit bull was found "extremely scarred," with its leg maimed. Police said they found another pit bull that could barely stand.

"What was done to these dogs is inexcusable," Dart said. "This was done in the name of gambling and greed, and no area seems to be immune from its influence -- we see it in rural farm areas and inner cities. Unfortunately, we're also seeing more and more kids exposed to this kind of lifestyle."

All dogs rescued in the raid were being cared for by the Animal Welfare League in suburban Chicago Ridge, Ill.

"They would take the dogs in the garage during the day, and you could hear them fighting," said Guadalupe Castro, 40, who lives down the block from the day-care facility.

"I was scared because sometimes the dogs would get loose and run down the street," Castro said. "I'm glad they got them [dogs] out of here."

Another neighbor, who declined to identify herself for fear of retribution, said she would often call the village of Maywood about the dogs. She said the dogs would be tied up to a pole and would bark and try to attack one another.

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lharrison@tribune.com

ocasillas@tribune.com

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