OPDYKE — An Opdyke woman was arrested Wednesday morning on a misdemeanor charge of cruelty to animals.
Bernadine Gargas, 46, of the 19000 block of Illinois Highway 142, was arrested at 9:39 a.m. Wednesday after someone reported a deceased dog was frozen to the ground. Gargas was transported to the Jefferson County Justice Center and posted $100 cash following her arrest.
Local officials are reviewing the case, but for now, she has been charged with a Class B misdemeanor for violation of an owner’s duties, which includes a lack of food, shelter, water, protection from weather, veterinary care and humane care and treatment. She could be sentenced up to six months in jail and/or a $2,500 fine.
There is a felony charge for cruelty to animals under Illinois State Statutes. State’s Attorney Doug Hoffman said the case is under review, and whether this case falls within those guidelines remains to be seen. Hoffman received a report of the incident on Thursday.
According to a Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office report, deputy Ryan Weeks observed a small black and brown beagle that was tied to a tree on the east side of the residence. The dog was lying at the entrance to
a dog house. The dog house had no insulation or bedding of any kind and his tether was tangled up in the fence row, the report stated.
When confronted by the deputy, Gargas confirmed she owned the dog and admitted knowing the dog was deceased. When the deputy advised Gargas the dog had no bedding and the extreme cold temperatures with no bedding would obviously create a situation that would likely cause death to the dog, Gargas stated she was sorry. She admitted the dog had been dead for a minimum of two days, when temperatures were in the single digits.
When asked why she had not provided bedding or appropriate shelter for the dog, Gargas said the dog would remove the bedding from the dog house. She had brought the dog inside the residence but he was restless so she tied him up outside. Her husband had planned on burying the dog, but had not done so, and was out of town when police received the report.
The Jefferson County Animal Control Officer took possession of the dead dog. The officer told the deputy that they had previously responded to the address for complaints and believed the owners had forfeited dogs to the shelter in the past, the report stated.
Gargas is scheduled for a first appearance hearing at 9 a.m. on Feb. 28, according to court records. Gargas has no pending cases in Jefferson County. She pleaded guilty to driving with no insurance in 2004 and a similar charge in 2010 was dismissed, according to an online court service.