Lipinski questions ‘substandard’ conditions at Animal Welfare League

CHICAGO RIDGE, Ill. — Months after disturbing images prompted protests at the Animal Welfare League in Chicago Ridge, U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL) sent a letter Thursday to the head of the Illinois Department of Agriculture citing vast discrepancies between the department's investigation and local reports.

Chicago Ridge officials found fire, safety and building code violations; unsanitary conditions including long-term rodent infestations; and potentially serious breaches in medical practices in the treatment of animals. The state's report, meanwhile, cited no major findings.

Lipinski is urging the state to take action to address ongoing concerns about what he calls "substandard facility conditions" at the shelter at 10305 SW Hwy. in Chicago Ridge. He wants all parties involved to get together for a meeting as soon as possible.

The Animal Welfare League did not respond to requests for comment. Its longtime director, Linda Estrada, resigned in May.

The DEA and Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation are said to be investigating.

Morgan Booth, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Agriculture, said in a statement that her agency has not yet received a hard copy of Lipinski's letter or any additional documentation. She noted that state law only allows the department to investigate "a limited number of violations" and that some of Lipinski's concerns (e.g. building code violations) fall outside the department's jurisdiction.

She continued: "The welfare and humane care for animals continues to remain a top priority for the Illinois Department of Agriculture. We have conducted a number of unannounced inspections at this site. We take all inspection findings into consideration when determining possible enforcement actions."

Lipinski also sent state officials a letter in March urging action to address concerns at the shelter.

Read Lipinski's full letter: