Animal shelter owner guilty of abuse lashes out at critics
BY STEVE METSCH firstname.lastname@example.org September 15, 2012 9:04PM
Dawn Hamill. | File photo
Updated: October 17, 2012 6:49AM
Dawn Hamill, the owner of an animal shelter near Tinley Park who was found guilty on eight of 10 misdemeanor charges of mistreating animals at the shelter, lashed out at her critics Saturday.
She noted that her animal shelter has never been shut down by the state. And she blamed a former employee for past trangressions.
“As an owner, I hired the wrong employee. I fired her before I was even arrested. (She was) the worst employee I could have ever hired,” Hamill said. “The backlash comes down on me as the owner of the company. All these animals are happy and healthy.”
Despite a Cook County jury finding her guilty on Friday night, the owner of the Dazzle’s Painted Pasture Rescue and Sanctuary, 5555 W. 175th St., Bremen Township, “looks at the glass half-full.”
“The end result is beautiful. I can’t complain. I’ve never lost my license. I’ve never turned away an animal. To me, this is a great outcome. I’ve never been shut down, even for one day. I’m ecstatic,” Hamill said.
Sentencing is slated for Sept. 25 at the Markham courthouse.
Hamill noted that the day of the raid, Feb. 11, 2011, “when everyone left here, I was left with 112 animals on my property.”
“I’m happy. Animals keep you happy. Every time I see a crippled animal come here, I know he or she will be loved for the rest of their life. I know what I do, deep in my heart,” she said.
Hamill, however, still is angry that during her trial an assistant state’s attorney called her “Dazzle Dawn” and criticized her for having manicured fingernails.
“No one has ever called me ‘Dazzle Dawn.’ Beautiful nails can do concrete work, dig in dirt, shovel horse stalls and pick up animals. He said ‘Dawn Hamill does nothing at all.’ That’s not true,” she said.
Jurors at the courthouse in Markham deliberated for nearly five hours before convicting Hamill.
Her attorney, Purav Bhatt, said Friday he was “disappointed with the verdict because the evidence pointed to her being found not guilty.”
Bhatt said he also was disappointed at not being able to call as a witness former Cook County sheriff’s police Animal Crimes Unit investigator Larry Draus, who originally was to be a key state witness but was not called by prosecutors after he was indicted on federal extortion charges for trafficking cigarettes in an unrelated case.
Hamill was also frustrated by that, saying, “I did not get to face my accuser.”
Hamill’s shelter, which still is operating, was raided by the animal crimes unit, which removed more than 100 animals, mostly dogs and cats, along with a dead miniature horse and dead cat. The horse, Hamill said, came to the shelter in poor health and had lived “three happy years” there.
Hamill said she is prepared “to pay any fine, or do community service” she may be sentenced to.
“To go to jail for being a bad owner, meaning I didn’t hire the right person? Do you know how many CEOs of companies would be in jail with me? Everybody makes mistakes in hiring. Look at these guys who ‘go postal.’ Do you think that’s the fault of the person who hired them?” she said.
She’s not worried about the guilty verdict hurting her business.
“I had an adoption, a Boston terrier, an hour and a half ago. You know what? The real peple of this world find out the facts.If we were so horrible, why would a Cook County (deputy), the one who drove me to the precinct when I was arrested, bring me a dog seven days after the raid, a stray black Lab? If I was so bad, why did he do that?” Hamill said.
Contributing: Thomas Finn, Casey Toner