Delavan woman arrested on Illinois animal cruelty charges

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Andrea Anderson
March 19, 2015

ELKHORN—A Delavan woman faces animal cruelty charges in Stephenson County, Illinois, after authorities found 150 animals, 66 of them dead, in a rural Illinois home.

Tina McKinnon, 45, was renting the home where 30 cats and 36 dogs were found dead Monday, Elise Bowling, Stephenson County prosecutor, said.

Town of Linn police arrested McKinnon at 6:40 a.m. Thursday.

Cole Eshleman, who owns the rural Illinois house, found the animals when he was visiting the property at 1358 N. Heitter Road, Freeport.

Eshleman heard dogs barking while he was in the machine shed tinkering on a truck. He couldn't see any dogs outside but continued to hear barking and realized it was coming from the house, he said.

A door to the home was cracked open, Eshleman pushed it open, and “about 40 dogs ran out,” he said.

Eshleman went inside the house and found it destroyed.

“Dogs were jumping up on the walls,” Eshleman said. “There are feces up four feet of every wall. Urine is half-an-inch deep on the floor.”

About six inches of feces covered the floor, he said.

There were dogs in closets and in the duct work, according to the Associated Press.

Eshleman didn't see any dead animals, but some were "pretty skinny,” he said.

McKinnon is charged with two felony counts of aggravated cruelty to animals, two misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals and misdemeanor violation of owner's duties, Bowling said.

A warrant for McKinnon's arrest and charges against McKinnon were filed Wednesday.

McKinnon's most recent address is listed as 411 S. 3rd St., Delavan, according to Wisconsin online court records. It is the same address listed in other court documents going back decades.

McKinnon began renting the two-story home after Christmas, Eshleman said.

When McKinnon moved in, she told Eshleman she had two Chihuahuas.

McKinnon cleaned houses in Chicago suburbs and took pets owner's didn't want, Eshleman said.

When she couldn't take care of the animals, she took them to the Friends Forever Humane Society in Freeport, Eshleman said based off information from humane society workers.

Humane society workers told Eshleman that McKinnon was living in her car, not the home, Eshleman said. Workers at the humane society were looking into McKinnon but didn't know where she lived, he said.

Kristin Laue, Stephenson County Animal Control warden, helped remove the animals from the home Monday and said McKinnon contacted animal control and animal rescue in recent weeks, according to the Associated Press.

McKinnon told representatives of the agencies she rescued animals and needed help.

"We tried to help her, but she never took us up on it," Laue said. "It was just a matter of time before something happened where we found out where she was."

Bowling could not say how long McKinnon has lived in Illinois or Wisconsin.

Animal control and humane society workers spent six to seven hours Monday taking out the animals and taking them to surrounding animal shelters and Freeport Animal Hospital, where they are being cared for, Bowling and Eshleman said.

McKinnon is being held at the Walworth County Jail pending decisions on extradition to Stephenson County, Bowling said.

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