By Alexandrea Dahlstrom
Six emaciated Great Danes entered the Lakeland Animal Shelter on Sept. 22. According to shelter officials, the dogs were found running at large on Sheridan Springs Road in the Town of Lyons. A resident called the shelter for help and rescue workers and shelter staff were able to get the Danes into vehicles. Kristen Perry, who is executive director of the shelter on Highway 67 south of Elkhorn, said the Danes are doing much better and have gained at least 18 pounds since they entered the shelter. She said when they first arrived they were terrified and “afraid of their own shadows.” The dogs were covered in fecal matter and had some kind of skin infection later to be identified as staph. All the dogs tested positive for the intestinal parasite, Giardia. Perry said the dogs still have a long road to recovery but are showing significant signs of improvement. The dogs are now coming up to people and the staff is able to walk them on a leash. The Danes were so under-socialized, Perry said, that the staff had to carry them everywhere. Perry said they have received over 80 adoption profiles for the dogs. The future owners will have to have experience with the breed and understand the special needs the dogs will have. The dogs will have to stay on a high-quality dog food and be monitored for other medical conditions that could arise from their neglect.
Ties to Illinois case?
The local shelter is not the only animal organization to recently take in neglected Great Danes. There are currently some questions as to whether the discovery of the dogs in Lyons has any connection to an alleged large-scale animal neglect case in Northern Illinois. McHenry County (Ill.) Sheriff Keith Nygren announced Sept. 27 in a press release that McHenry County Animal Control seized 17 Great Danes from the home of Sal C. Messina, 40, and Patricia C. Messina, 43, 7206 Solon Rd., Spring Grove. “The house was filthy. Feces everywhere,” Nygren said in a phone interview Oct. 1. Nygren said the sheriff’s department received a complaint about “numerous dogs in the home and a smell.” Upon investigation, the McHenry Animal Control was called and removed 17 Great Danes from the Messina home in various stages of neglect. “Officers and McHenry staff had to wear protective suits, masks, goggles and gloves,” said Nygren. The Messinas were arrested on the scene on outstanding Dupont County warrants and additional charges were filed according to Nygren. The Messinas are charged with 17 misdemeanor counts of violating owner’s duties. They appeared in McHenry County Court on Oct. 16 and entered a plea of not guilty according to Karen O’Brien from the McHenry County District Attorney’s office. O’Brien filed a petition for security prior to trial which is set for Oct. 25.
Still more Great Danes
Prior to the seizure of dogs at the Messina home, Scott Rood, founder of the Great Dane Rescue Midwest, received a call from Patricia Messina asking if he could take some of her dogs. “She claimed they were in need of medical attention and she could not care for them,” Rood said. Rood was not sure how he was going to find room for an additional nine Great Danes but could not turn them away. He agreed to take them on Sept. 20. The “girls” as Rood refers to the Danes, are doing better but still have a ways to go. “They are gaining weight and being playful,” he said.
The Danes all tested positive for Giardia, a parasite, he added. Rood also sat outside the courthouse at the Messina’s hearing with one of the pups to get the word out about the Danes. “We would like to see the Messina’s charged for the additional nine dogs at the rescue.” Rood said. The McHenry District Attorney’s office had “no comment” on the nine dogs at the rescue. Rood said he felt the current charges are a “slap on the wrist” considering the dogs’ conditions. As far as a connection between the six Great Danes at Lakeland Animal Shelter and the 26 Great Danes from the Messina home, there is no definitive correlation, according to Perry. Perry said, “In spite of the circumstantial evidence, there is no confirmed link between our six stray Danes and the Messina’s or any other alleged owner.” According to Perry the only way to make a definitive link between Lakeland’s Great Danes and the Messina’s is doing DNA blood tests. This would confirm that the local Danes are “genetically linked to any of the 26 Danes removed from the Messina residence for neglect. Another way to connect the dogs would be eyewitness evidence or confession that the Danes were in fact in the Messina’s care up until Sept. 22 and then were abandoned by the Messinas or someone who received a request to abandon them for the Messinas.” According to Rood, a source has come forward who claims to have seen one of the “Wisconsin Six” in the Messina’s care while they were looking for a Dane to adopt. Rood also said the Messinas are not claiming ownership of the dogs found in Wisconsin. No more information or confirmation has been released. Calls to the Messina’s attorney, Brian K. Wright, were not returned.
Dogs’ health is concern
Perry said that although the shelter would like to see someone be held responsible for letting the Great Danes “degrade to the condition in which they arrived in our county,” her staff’s top priority is and has been to care for the dogs in the best possible manner in order to return them to the appropriate condition as quickly as possible. Though these dogs will find homes, Perry said this type of situation is becoming all too common. “When we would see a case of neglect like this once a year, we are now seeing it once a month.” Perry said. “While animal abuse is still an issue we see far more cases of neglect. People that are doing nothing to care for their pets.” Since the Great Danes have been in the shelter’s care, Perry said they have improved greatly. Perry attributes this transformation to the community support and donations from individuals and businesses. “That is the true success story here and cannot be minimized even if there are no legal consequences for the person or persons who caused our Danes to suffer needlessly,” she added.
WAYS TO HELP
The Lakeland Animal Shelter still needs support from the community. The care for the Great Danes puts a strain on other resources, according to shelter officials. People can call (262) 723-1000 or visit www.lakelandanimalshelter.org for information on how to donate. The shelter said current needs are Kuronda dog beds, Kong toys and cat food. The Bark Market, 5540 Highway 50, Delavan, is doing a “matching food drive” throughout November. For each bag of Fromm Dog Food purchased for the Danes, Fromm will match a bag. To help support the nine dogs at the Great Dane Rescue Midwest visit their facebook page at www.facebook.com/pages/Great-Dane-Rescue-Midwest/122844931100604?fref=ts or call 815-814-4130. For more information about the 17 Great Danes seized by McHenry Animal Control, call (815) 459-6222.