Some sad this NEVER happened cause no news story about it.. Claiming I made it up.
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March 8, 2009
BY DONNA VICKROY, Staff writer
In summer 2007, South Holland became the site of the biggest dogfighting bust in Illinois to date. During that mid-July raid, Cook County Sheriff's police rescued 36 pit bulls and one giant Caucasian Ovcharka, also known as a Russian mountain dog.
Despite its bear-like head and ski-glove-sized paws, the mountain dog that was kept alone in the cellar was likely destined to become bait for the fighting dogs that were stacked in cages facing the walls inside the 95-degree barn.
» Click to enlarge image
Cook County sheriff's investigator Larry Draus walks with his adopted dog, Max, a Russian mountain dog that was rescued from a dogfighting operation.
(Joseph P. Meier/SouthtownStar)
Man's best friend's best friends
But Larry Draus, one of the investigators who served the warrant, didn't know that at the time. He admits he was apprehensive about retrieving the animal.
"We kind of bent down and peeked," Draus said. "We were very cautious about going down there - we weren't sure what he was."
When police realized the beast was in a cage, "We were like, 'whew," Draus said.
After the raid, rescuers took the mountain dog to PAWS in Tinley Park, where vets checked him out and cleaned him up. Later, when Draus entered the shelter, the dog spied him, walked right up to him and sat down.
"I said, 'Ohhh, man.'" Draus ended up adopting the dog and renaming him Max.
"I'm a softy," he said. "Plus, how many people are gonna bring a dog like that home?"
Recognition and support
Max is one of more than 600 animals – dogs, cats, snakes, even a monitor lizard – that have been saved from a life of torture and/or neglect by the Cook County Sheriff's Animal Crime Unit since it was formed after the South Holland case.
Earlier this month, the Humane Society of the United States presented Draus and his partner, T. Brown, with the Spotlight Humane Chicago Award for their efforts to combat dogfighting in Cook County.
"It's a great honor to be recognized," Brown said.
"Yeah," added Draus, "We're just doing our job, but it's nice to be appreciated."
More rewarding, he said, is that the courts are starting to prosecute and punish the people who find it entertaining or profitable to turn dogs on each other. Kevin Taylor, the alleged leader of the South Holland ring, has been charged with 75 felonies. That case, however, is still pending.
As a charter member of the unit, Draus has seen all kinds of abuse, from the notorious gambler who bets on an animal's head to the compulsive hoarder who takes in more animals than he can possibly care for.
Draus had known Brown for about seven years. Eight months ago, he requested him as a partner.
"We trust each other," Draus said. "We know we're there for each other."
The two have worked all over the county, making more than 70 arrests and amassing all kinds of horror stories.
Sometimes when they show up to serve a warrant, dogs are running loose, making the scene very chaotic. In many cases, dogs have been trained to respond only to their owners, making it difficult for police to confiscate or control them.
With the support of local humane groups, such as the Animal Welfare League in Chicago Ridge and the South Suburban Humane Society in Chicago Heights, Draus and Brown have rescued animals that were starved, scarred, bloody. They can't always be saved but many, like Max, have gone on to be rehabilitated and placed in new homes.
The scenes they come upon can turn a person's stomach. Recently, they found a dog that had been tethered to a fence with an electrical cord. It had four or five other cords already imbedded in its neck.
"He was all infected and maggoty," Brown said.
Once, in Ford Heights, they found a toddler home alone with a monitor lizard.
"It could have taken his finger off," Draus said.
In November, acting on a tip, Draus and Brown, along with Chicago police, busted their first dogfight in progress in the city's Englewood community, resulting in the arrest of more than 50 people.
"Animal abuse happens everywhere ---South Side, West Side, suburbs," Draus said. "We've seized dogs and arrested people from everywhere."
Some rings are so organized they have animals flown into O'Hare from South America with the express purpose of either fighting them or using them as bait.
It takes all kinds
Draus said there are three kinds of dogfighters:
• The Michael Vicks or upper echelon people who have unlimited funds.
• The smaller-budgeted yet highly organized fighters.
• And the street guys who on the spur of a moment decide to get up a dogfight.
"We've cut dogfighting down 20 to 25 percent in Cook County in the last year," Draus said.
He credits many Chicago-area humane groups with helping with the cause.
"We couldn't do this without the help and the support of the humane organizations," Draus said.
Linda Estrada, executive director of the Animal Welfare League, said, "I can't say enough about Larry (Draus). He's a true animal advocate. You can call him for anything, at any time. Even at 3 in the morning, which we've had to do."
Phyllis Piunti, lead humane investigator with the South Suburban Humane Society in Chicago Heights, said her pleas for help for some abused horses in incorporated Lynwood went ignored until Draus was assigned to the animal crimes force.
But, Draus admitted, all the dedication in the world isn't likely to wipe out animal abuse.
"All we can do is control it," he said. "It's like gambling, once it's in their blood, it never goes away."
Does that shake his faith, or his determination?
"Nah," he said. "There are a lot of good people working to help animals, too."
He said there is a link between animal abuse and criminal activity.
"Almost all the people we arrest for animal crimes have lengthy criminal records for narcotics, weapon offenses or domestic violence," Draus said. "When you see people treat animals like this, you know they treat their families the same way."
Draus worked as an investigator assigned to the States Attorney's office at 26th Street and California Avenue for six years before being transferred to special operations. He worked undercover in narcotics, prostitution and call-girl operations, as well as trademark violations and gambling.
In July 2007 he was asked to investigate the possible dogfighting operation in South Holland, baptizing him into a new field of law enforcement.
In addition to the dogs, police found all kinds of dogfighting paraphernalia - treadmills, steroids, antibiotics - during the raid.
That case prompted Sheriff Tom Dart to establish the county's animal crimes task force, which recently started working with the Chicago police animal crimes unit and the United States Department of Agriculture. The collaboration also receives assistance from the United States Humane Society.
That first case also brought Max and Draus together.
"He's just a big baby," Draus said.
He admits Max had a few issues when he first brought him home.
"He was aggressive. He had to be caged at first. After a few days with me he got the drift of how good he had it. He's a very intelligent dog," Draus said.
It's not all fun and games, though.
"You should see the way he sheds," Draus laughs. "And when I give him a bath it takes about four days for him to dry."
Donna Vickroy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (708) 633-5982.
Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster. You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together.... Author unknown...
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