Tinley Park woman ordered to surrender most animals at her shelter
BY CASEY TONER firstname.lastname@example.org October 2, 2012 12:00PM
Updated: November 4, 2012 6:16AM
The evidence against a Tinley Park woman convicted of mistreating animals at her rescue and sanctuary left little doubt the animals were being neglected, a Cook County judge said Tuesday at the woman’s sentencing hearing.
Judge Anna H. Demacopoulos also questioned Dawn Hamill’s behavior during her trial and the sentencing, noting Hamill cried whenever she testified.
“Something is happening that is not indicative of someone who is stable,” Demacopoulos said, also pointing out that Hamill showed up at the Markham courthouse sporting two new studded piercings near the top of her breastbone.
Telling Hamill she met the state definition of an animal hoarder because of the conditions at Dazzle’s Painted Pastures Rescue and Sanctuary near Tinley Park, Demacopoulos ordered her to surrender all of the animals at the shelter except five of own.
Hamill also was sentenced to one year probation, an $8,000 fine, 30 days in the Cook County sheriff’s work alternative program, and was ordered to undergo a mental health evaluation.
Meanwhile, the shelter property is the subject of foreclosure proceedings, the SouthtownStar has learned.
“Almost everybody that went to Painted Pastures knew that it was not right how the animals were being treated,” Demacopoulos said.
As she read her judgment, Hamill’s family members and friends sitting in the courtroom’s front row wept, with one of them exclaiming, “Oh, God!”
Hamill’s shelter was raided in February 2011 by a Cook County sheriff’s department animal crimes unit. More than 100 animals were removed from the shelter, including a dead cat and a dead miniature horse.
Demacopoulos said video footage from the raid showed 30 to 40 animals were kept in one small room.
“Those animals are right on top of each other,” Demacopoulos said.
She said that Illinois Department of Agriculture inspections of the shelter in June and August 2010 showed there wasn’t proper drainage, dogs were sleeping on gravel, and proper adoption records weren’t being kept.
Hamill was convicted last month of eight misdemeanor counts of violation of owner’s duties.
“It’s an unfair verdict,” Hamill said after the sentencing. “I’m kind to my animals.”
Hamill also took offense at Demacopoulos’ analysis of her piercings.
“What does it matter if I have a piercing in my chest or not?” Hamill said. “You know, people have piercings and tattoos.”
Dazzle’s Painted Pastures, at 5555 W. 175th St. in Bremen Township, had its license renewed by the Illinois Department of Agriculture and has continued to operate this year. But now Hamill will have to surrender all the animals except five of her own, and she will not be allowed to take in any more.
Hamill said she had four horses of her own and four others; five of her own dogs, and 15 to 20 others; and three llamas.
Hamill’s attorney, Purav Bhatt, said there also are wolves on the property.
Hamill said anyone interested in adopting any of the animals should call the shelter at (708) 633-8649.
Bhatt said the sentencing terms related to operating the shelter could change pending the outcome of Hamill’s mental health evaluation, the results of which are scheduled to be presented to the court on Nov. 8.
“I think the sentence was harsh considering the fact that she doesn’t have any criminal background,” Bhatt said.
Like the operation, the status of the shelter property apparently is in question. A foreclosure filing by First American Bank late last month against Patrick and Dawn Hamill claims the bank is owed almost $431,000 on the three-acre farm, according to public records. The original mortgage, taken out in February 2006, was for $440,000, records show.
Hamill and Bhatt could not immediately be reached for comment about the foreclosure.
Before the sentence came down, Hamill pleaded her case in a letter read by Bhatt, in which she urged the judge to consider her good work.
“My hands look manicured. Turn them over and my callouses tell the real story,” the letter said.
Hamill was crying and was unable to read the letter herself. According to the letter, more than 950 animals have been adopted through the shelter since it opened in 2006.
After the letter was read, prosecuting attorney Richard Stake Jr. said, “She’s blaming other people for what occurred and she isn’t taking personal responsibility for what happened.”
The state’s attorney’s office had asked the court to fine Hamill $1,500 for each offense, but Demacopoulos reduced that to $1,000 for each of the eight counts.
The judge also was given letters supportive of Hamill, including one from an Oak Lawn police officer.
In her letter to the court, Hamill also said, “My life’s dream was to own and operate an animal rescue.”
The Cook County prosecutor who helped win the conviction of Hamill was not present at the sentencing.
Sarah Naughton, 31, of Chicago, was put on administrative duty after allegedly biting a man in the leg during a scuffle outside a lingerie shop Sept. 22 in Chicago. She was charged with misdemeanor battery and trespassing and won’t be allowed to litigate while her case is pending, authorities said.
Contributing: Mike Nolan, Sun-Times Media