Olde English Bulldogge owners and their children RAIDED for Christmas in undercover rescue sting operation, breeder arrested, priceless litter confiscated.
DOG RESCUE GONE WRONG
Report by Donna Joyce, photos courtesy Mrs. John Bass
In the quiet evening of December 23, 2014, John Bass and his family were preparing for a Christmas celebration at their Waukegan, Illinois home. The children were looking forward to opening their presents and the refrigerator held delicious holiday foods.
Their Olde English Bulldogge Lola was sleeping peacefully, surrounded by 10 healthy puppies she had birthed 6 weeks ago.
This was the Bass’s only litter of 2014. Earlier that afternoon, they had taken all ten puppies to the vet for their certifications of health and first shots. The vet had pronounced them all very healthy, and even stated that two could go to their new homes that day.
Shortly after the New Year, the remaining puppies would be leaving. One little girl had yet to find her new family.
Possibly, that might change soon, Mr. Bass thought. He was downstairs waiting for a prospective buyer named Alyssa Finkel. She was very eager to buy the remaining pup and had insisted on coming over that evening.
He picked up the sale contract he required puppy buyers to sign and placed it next to copies of the puppy’s veterinary health certificate and proof of vaccination. All buyers were expected to submit to a thorough verification process and a home visit, to ensure that they would be worthy homes. He waited, idly petting Lola and her pups.
The doorbell rang upstairs. Mrs. Bass opened the door. Two women entered.
Two hours later Mr. Bass was at the Lake County Jail. Lola, left alone at home, bewildered by the presence of so many loud strangers in her home, was fretting nervously about the sudden disappearance of her 8 puppies. She was not confiscated along with her puppies only because “there was no legal way to impound the adult dog,” according to Waukegan Police Sgt. Cory Kelly, who engineered the raid.
While the Bass family agonized at the jail, their confiscated/stolen puppies were on a 70 mile journey three counties south, where a year-old Joliet-based rescue group called Wags 2 Wishes (W2W) quickly offered them for sale at $400 on their website and Facebook page as “saved from a breeder.”
The W2W rescue group also asked for donations for veterinary care for the pups. They were either unaware of, or ignoring the fact that the pups had been pronounced very healthy by the Bass’s vet earlier that same day. Dozens of prospective buyers quickly responded. One caller reported the price had increased to $600.
How could this deceitful home intrusion and seizure happen to a retired Marine and his law-abiding family?
Ms. Finkel was not a real buyer. She is a volunteer with W2W who, searching Craigslist, had found Mr. Bass’s ad offering puppies for sale. She posed as an interested buyer in order to entrap him, and then contacted the Waukegan police. Sgt. Kelly took over Finkel’s online identity and continued the correspondence with Mr. Bass. She then set up a sting for the evening of December 23rd.
When Mrs. Bass answered her door, there were two women, both dressed in regular clothes. She asked Sgt. Kelly, “Who are you?” Kelly replied “I’m Alyssa.” Finkel herself said nothing. Mrs. Bass locked the front door, showed the two women into her home and took them downstairs, where Mr. Bass, Lola and the puppies were waiting.
“Alyssa” flung seven $100 bills on the table and asked if they would accept that amount for the puppy. Mr. Bass ignored the money. He replied that first, they needed to discuss the breed and go over the terms of the contract together. He explained to “Alyssa” that placing a deposit would only reserve the puppy conditionally but it did not guarantee that she would be approved because her references and employment had to be checked, along with a home visit.
At that point “Alyssa” said impatiently, “This is the deal, I'm an under-cover Animal Control Officer and you're under arrest." She did not state the charges until later.
Two uniformed police officers materialized, despite the locked front door. They came down the steps and arrested Mr. Bass in front of his horrified wife and children. Mr. Bass was charged with 8 counts of impoundment, 1 charge of violating Waukegan City ordinance 4-67 (failure to buy a $25 breeding license) and one count of violating Waukegan City Ordinance 4-68 (offering dogs for sale).
The police and W2W Rescue claim that Mr. Bass signed over ownership of the puppies to the police. Bass states that he only signed the impoundment and violation tickets. The legal definition of “impound” means to enter something into the custody of the law or of a court, until a dispute involving it can be decided. It does not mean permanent surrender of ownership.
"Sec. 4-16. - Impoundment.
A police officer or animal control officer shall have the authority to obtain the necessary legal process to allow him or her to enter or cause to have entered a building or premises in order to seize and impound at the city police animal control, and have examined by a licensed veterinarian…An animal so impounded may not be redeemed by the owner. Additionally, such owner may be liable for impoundment costs and other reasonable costs incurred in the care and maintenance of the animal. Such owner may also be liable for veterinary expenses, if applicable.
The Bass puppies were not impounded at the city animal control facility. They were given to W2W Rescue group, a private entity. The Bass family was traumatized, their puppies were seized by strangers, and their Christmas was destroyed. The children now feared the police.
The City of Waukegan posted an article on their website about the raid. Sgt. Kelly had conducted a similar raid only hours earlier in Waukegan, resulting in the confiscation of a Chihuahua puppy which was also turned over to W2W. W2W rescue crowed about “saving puppies from a breeder” on their website.
The City of Waukegan website does not make it easy for someone to purchase a dog breeding license. http://www.waukeganweb.net/ Someone searching for the word “dog” would find 39 items, none of which are about license requirements for breeding. A search for the word “breeding” or “breed” returns 3 items, equally unrelated to a license requirement. One must go to the “site map”, locate “City of Waukegan Ordinance Book”---a separate website--- and search within it to find the ordinances with which Mr. Bass was charged:
"Sec. 4-67. - Animal breeding license requirement.
(a) License required. It shall be unlawful to act as an animal breeder in the city without a breeder's license for that animal issued pursuant to this section.” The fee is $25.00.
Sec. 4-68. - Retail sale of cats and dogs.
(a) Prohibition. No pet trader shall sell, deliver, offer for sale, barter, auction or otherwise transfer, for consideration other than nominal consideration, a dog or cat in the city.
On December 26, the Lake County News-Sun printed an article in its “Crime” section. It included the following statements by Sgt. Kelly: “You do the math… It’s really a money-making process. They were in this to make money. It’s running a business without regulations…They had no idea where the puppies were going. He made it seem like he was on the up and up.”
Such allegations defy reality. Mr. Bass required buyers to sign contracts and submit to verifications and a home visit. He and Mrs. Bass keep in touch with buyers over the course of their dogs’ lives, asking about the dogs, and answering any questions about their health, behavior, and well-being.
Noteworthy - the newspaper article also provided helpful information for readers: “The puppies were taken to the Joliet-based Wags 2 Wishes rescue group, which is accepting adoption applications at www.w2wrescue.com.” The reporter did not question why the puppies were taken so far away rather than taken to Waukegan Animal Control.
A firestorm erupted, the result of which is that the “rescue” deleted all photos of Mr. Bass’ puppies from their website and Facebook pages. They also hired an attorney. The Waukegan police refused further comment. The mayor of Waukegan allegedly placed Sgt. Kelly on administrative leave.
The rescue, W2W, subsequently denied having those puppies (copies of postings on file). The Waukegan Police deny having the puppies. This raises a legal question: where is the evidence? If the puppies were confiscated as “evidence” of a violation, why was that “evidence” was turned over to a private third party, especially one that the complainant belongs to and one that is beyond the jurisdiction of the City of Waukegan and Lake County?
All reports seem to indicate that John Bass was denied due process. He was given no opportunity to remedy his violation or to present his case in a court of law, yet his personal property was seized. The (local) ordinance that allowed this has come under legal scrutiny. Questions have also arisen about a pre-existing connection between Finkel and Sgt. Kelly. That has not yet been investigated.
Regarding the operating practices of W2W, it is run out of a modest home in Joliet by a woman named Terri Bingham Crotty. At the time of the incident, W2W had failed to file its annual report. After the story went viral, the group filed it. “Not good standing” means only that the annual report was not filed on time. On 12/29/14, their “good standing” status was restored.
In addition to selling dogs and soliciting donations via PayPal on their website, W2W had an online fundraising account which raised thousands. They removed it after the Bass Bulldogge controversy arose, stating that their ability to fundraise was hampered by all the negative attention, and that dogs would die because their operations were at a halt. Their website stated that they have rescued 400 dogs since May 2013, an astonishing number for a group so new. Their adoption fee was between $300 and $400. It also stated “If you would like to donate…we would be MOST grateful and happy to provide you with a tax deductible receipt,” but no records show them as an IRS 501©3 tax exempt entity.
This may be an innocent mistake. Crotty also sells dog-related merchandise online and on 12/9/14 thanked a donor for a vehicle which was sold for “a nice chunk of change,” according to her Facebook page. The financial and tax aspect of this story is significant. TheDogPlace.org will however, leave that to those qualified to engage in a factual examination.
On January 4, 2015, the January 5 court hearing was canceled, apparently because the Waukegan Police had not filed the necessary paperwork, the status of the January 14 hearing date was not determined and the puppies were still out there somewhere, their fate uncertain. However, on January 6, 2015, all 8 puppies were retrieved from W2W and returned to the Bass family. The puppies had been well cared for during their two week absence, and had not been spayed or neutered. At a Waukegan City Council meeting that evening, Alderman Harold Beadling stated that the ordinances involved in this case were intended for use against puppy mills and commercial breeding operations. He also hinted that they would be revised.