The fire at the Bully Life Services Kennel in DuPage County on the outskirts of West Chicago was first spotted by patrolling deputy sheriff in the early morning of January 14, 2019. By the time the firefighters arrived, the two-storey building had already overrun with fire with the second floor windows shooting out flames.
The kennel houses around 50 Pitbull rescues at the time, and 29 other dogs in the main building died as they were trapped in cages. Around 20 dogs were rescued.
Mercado said at the time, “I was just opening as many doors as I could, hoping they would follow me out.” He also told reporters he suffered some burns on his hands on the hot metal cages as he was trying to free the dogs.
Kimberly Jenny, who had a Brindle Pitbull in the kennel, was thankful her dog was rescued, saying, “seeing him hurt breaks my heart and I am trying to be strong for him.” Her dog suffered burns and injuries from other dogs trying to escape.
Before the fire broke out, there were already several complaints filed against Mercado since 2017 ranging from mistreatment of animals to overcrowding. DuPage County Animal Control Officers found the kennel dark, foul-smelling, and filled with cages stacked on top of each other with dogs barking uncontrollably.
The kennel remained actively licensed by the state and passed an inspection before the fire. A former client commented, “if all the complaints and all the red flags were listened to, maybe we wouldn’t have the fire.”