Fur Keeps Animal Rescue at Center of Controversy

Supporters and detractors of Barrington Hills shelter have their say on petitionsite.

An online petition demanding an investigation of Fur Keeps Animal Rescue in Barrington Hills has been countered by a petition asking supporters of Fur Keeps to share their success stories.

The petition demanding an investigation of Fur Keeps was edging towards 1000 signatures, Saturday morning. After just one day, the Help Fur Keeps petition had nearly 400 signatures. With both of the petitions on the Care2 petitionsite, most of the signatures were not local, and many were from people overseas.

The petition to investigate Fur Keeps was started by former Fur Keeps volunteer Anna Drechsler of Wheeling. Drechsler worked as a volunteer at the shelter from January through March of this year.

“I started looking for a rescue where I could volunteer and they had a wonderful website. My idea was to just walk the dogs and take them to adoption shows,” Drechsler said.

“My first impression was awful. The more I started to take the dogs out, the more heartbroken I was,” Drechsler said. Drechsler maintains that the dogs are crowded in horse stalls and she believes they aren’t taken out regularly. She also claims that they are not properly cared for. While volunteering at Fur Keeps, Drechsler took photos and posted them as part of the petition.

“The stench in the barn was so strong with urine and feces and no fresh air,” she said.

Dr. Debra Rykoff, a veterinarian, and her partner, John Breseman, who run Fur Keeps refute the claims and believe they are being targeted because they put up the bail money for Diane Eldrup. Eldrup goes to trial this month on felony charges for allegedly starving to death 19 dogs at the Muddy Paws rescue site in Deer Park.

Rykoff said she had lost contact with Eldrup and didn’t know the situation, but posted bond out of concern for Eldrup’s 9-year-old son.

Rykoff also said she is considering a lawsuit against Drechsler for defamation of character.

“You can’t just say anything on the Internet. You don’t have the right to try to ruin somebody else’s life,” Rykoff said.

Rykoff said the photos were not a fair representation of Fur Keeps. The dog photographed was suffering from mange, and was being treated, she said. Breseman added that the photos were taken in the morning, when the facility is at its worse, before it is cleaned.

Fur Keeps has its detractors and its supporters.

Mary Ann Hetreed, a rescue worker who transports dogs from kill shelters to no-kill rescues, said she has asked rescue organizations not to send animals to Fur Keeps.

She said she transported dogs to Fur Keeps in January and February of 2008.

 “The barn stalls were loaded with dogs. It was crowded, dark and damp,” Hetreed said. Since then, Hetreed started sending emails telling rescue organizations not to send animals to Fur Keeps.

Volunteer foster for Fur Keeps Mary Ann Wilkens believes the criticism of Fur Keeps is “crazy.”

“Dr. Rykoff is awesome. She’s a good vet. She takes in a lot of animals that other places won’t take in. At other shelters, they’d be put to sleep,” Wilkens said.

Breseman said Fur Keeps takes in many special needs dogs and dogs in need of veterinary care.

Volunteers and supporters of Fur Keeps have been posting photos on the Fur Keeps Facebook page and words of support.

In response to the first petition, the Illinois Dept. of Agriculture planned to send an investigator to Fur Keeps.

“Yes, we are going to send an animal investigator. As a matter of policy, we investigate all complaints. We have opened a docket and, if an investigator hasn’t already been there, they will be there soon,” said Jeff Squibb, spokesperson for the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

Squibb said, as of last week, the department had not received a formal complaint regarding animal welfare at Fur Keeps. He said he received an email from a colleague with a link to the Care2 Petitionsite, and he referred the matter to investigations.

Rykoff said the Dept. of Agriculture has inspected Fur Keeps in the past and the facility has always passed inspection.

Drechsler said she has also asked the Illinois Attorney General to investigate charitable contributions collected by Rykoff for Fur Keeps. Natalie Bauer, communications director for the Illinois Attorney General, said the office does not confirm whether or not they are performing an investigation.

Rykoff said those claims are unfounded as she regularly contributes personal funds to keep the rescue going. She said she recently took out a $140,000 personal loan to fund the rescue.

Sandy Wisniewski, founder of Animal Education and Rescue (AEAR) based in Libertyville, said she believes Fur Keeps should be investigated, based on the pictures on the petitionsite and reports from people she knows who have visited Fur Keeps.

Wisniewski teaches a class on how to conduct humane investigations.

“She’s in over her head. She doesn’t have to take in all the animals. That’s a choice,” Wisniewski said.

She said rescues have to follow successful business models.

“As your business grows, you need to grow with it, you need to get more volunteers. You can’t keep taking in more and more animals without having the systems in place to adopt out,” she said.

“I can understand it can be overwhelming,” Wisniewski said. She said AEAR stopped taking long-distance animals in 2005.

“I used to get pleas from all over the Midwest. I love animals and you can get caught up in it. You have to start thinking with your head or you could be in trouble,” Wisniewski said.

Rykoff said she had hopes to build a new, self-supporting facility that would combine dog day care with rehabilitation. “Instead, I’ll be spending the money on legal fees,” she said.

Breseman said visitors are welcome at Fur Keeps.

“If anybody has questions, come here and ask the questions. We’re not hiding anything,” he said.





kelly betts April 30, 2011 at 04:54 PM
I have been a volunteer for nearly 6 years, so for Anna to come and pass judgment after a couple of months is ridiculous. We are constantly raising money through fundraising and donations to keep the rescue doors open and to find furever homes for these animals. It is very hard work to run a rescue, and it is even harder to get enough volunteers, our volunteers also have responsibilities of their own and can't always help. Perhaps if Anna had spent less time on a witch hunt, she could have actually picked up a shovel and cleaned some poop, walked a dog, cleaned a litter, done something! No one is saying this rescue is perfect, but Anna and her cult followers are way off base. The rescue is always looking for foster homes, perhaps you know someone who would be willing to open their home and hearts to help. If you yourself have doubts, please come out to the rescue and see things for yourself. Who knows, maybe you will fall in love and find unconditional love in a new family member.
kelly betts April 30, 2011 at 05:05 PM
Please also visit Fur Keeps Animal Rescue site on Facebook and see all the people coming out in Dr. Rykoff's support. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Fur-Keeps-Animal-Rescue-Inc/134945447543#!/pages/Fur-Keeps-Animal-Rescue-Inc/134945447543 Thank you! Also, if you are an attorney, or know of an attorney that could help the rescue fight this ugly battle, it would be most appreciated!
kelly betts April 30, 2011 at 05:30 PM
There are plenty of local posters on the Help Fur Keeps Animal Rescue set the record straight, and the Facebook page is all local people, people who volunteer, work, have adopted, or use Dr. Rykoff's veterinary services.
Susan Dames May 01, 2011 at 01:41 AM
I adopted my dogs from this rescue and was very impressed with the caring loving people volunteer there....Dr. Rykoff spoke to me on the phone several times as i was anxious about my adoptees. . she always had time for me and alnswered all my questions...I love this rescue and plan to start donating pon a monthly basis to keep them open.....love u guys Susan Dames
Janice Robinson May 02, 2011 at 05:01 PM
"Rykoff said the Dept. of Agriculture has inspected Fur Keeps in the past and the facility has always passed inspection." Big deal. Puppy mills also pass USDA inspections.
Regina May 02, 2011 at 07:30 PM
I think someone needs to investigate that place. I called Fur Keeps 5 times about a dog looking for a foster parent. I wanted to take the dog but no one would return my calls. I called and called only to get nowhere. I also know people that went there and they have complained about the condition of the facility. I personally have been at that facility three years ago and thought it was too small for as many animals as they bring in. I have not seen bad cases at the time but thought the place was over crowded. Also I looked at the petition and majority of signatures are from IL, which is where Fur Keeps is located. I don't know what Dr. Rykoff is talking bout, the signatures being out of Country. I have not seen one that was outside of the US unless I missed a few.
Janice Robinson May 02, 2011 at 07:35 PM
the pictures with this show show how filthy the stalls are.
kelly betts May 03, 2011 at 01:06 PM
The petition supporting Fur Keeps has a lot in state signatures, the petition that is against Fur keeps has a lot of out of state signatures. I apologize to the person who was interested in fostering, a lot has changed at th rescue over the past 3 years, one being much more reliable employees and volunteers. If you are still interested in fostering, please message me on Facebook and I will send you my personel cell number to get a home check set up. Thank you! Kelly Betts
kelly betts May 03, 2011 at 01:08 PM
I have personally been there when inspections have been done, there wasn't one corner of the facility that wasn't inspected. For someone to comment, from out of state, who has never even seen the facility is silly.
Regina May 03, 2011 at 02:17 PM
Kelly, I was trying to foster a dog last year sometime around October/November. They had a blind assie that I wanted to foster and maybe even adopt if he did ok with my other dogs. I called and spoke to someone three times and was told that Dr. Rykoff was going to call me back. I never got a call from her. I even called to check if the dog was still there and was told that he was. I think its bad business when someone is interested in taking or fostering a dog that can be in a nice clean home with a soft bad and a good meal only to be turned away. I even explained that I have someone who knows how to work with a blind dog that would help me but once again I never got a call back. I think for someone who has so many animals and runs a rescue should be interested in having people like me come forward to foster and/or adopt a pet. Based on the pictures that I saw these dogs are stuck in 10x10 stall with no soft beds, no water, and standing in their own urine. I am sorry but I didn't find those pictures to be sanitary and/or a good place for dogs to spend their time. BTW. I did adopt a dog with one eye from Human Society of Delta in AK. This could have been a dog from Fur Keeps but they made it difficult for me to deal with them. Apparently they don’t value someone who wants to give a good home to a dog.
Regina May 03, 2011 at 02:22 PM
Let me just say that the owner of Humane Society of Delta delivered the dog to my door. This dog came to us all the way from AK. Now, that's what I call a service and someone who wants people like myself to adopt. Also the dog came to us in excellent condition with vet documentation and a bag of dog food. Since I have adopted this dog from HSD I have donated money as well as had the company I work for donate to them. Once again, this could have been Fur Keeps.
kelly betts May 03, 2011 at 02:38 PM
I can't offer an explanantion as to why or how this happened with the dog you were interested in, but I can say that not everyone is 100% happy with every place that they interact with. That being said, the dogs do have beds, and they do not stand in their own urine and feces, if you actually were out at the facility you would see the truth. It is very easy to snap a few pictures in the morning before the volunteers and workers have been through to clean. If you saw the food bill every month you would know that these dogs, cats and horses are not going without food and water. Plenty of volunteers come and go, and there are those that do not realize the hard work that is needed to run a rescue. It isn't just about walking dogs or petting a cat, there is major cleaning to be done. Fur Keeps would invite anyone out to help, and that means get down and dirty. Please, before passing such a harsh judgment, come and tour the facility and see all that is involved. Dr. Rykoff doesn't have days off, she isn't closed on holidays, this is a 24 hour, 365 day a year operation. If employees or volunteers don't show up it's all on her shoulders.
Janice Robinson May 03, 2011 at 03:39 PM
Kelly, big deal that you were there when the place was inspected. As I stated before, the USDA inspectors also check puppy mills. As long as animals have food and water, they DON'T CARE that the animals are crowded and living in filth. What was the physical condition of the 9 dogs that Rykoff took back from Diane Eldrup/Muddy Paws in November? I find it hard to believe that those 9 dogs were in good physical shape while the 30 others in that place were being starved to death. Why didn't Rykoff do something about Muddy Paws?
Janice Robinson May 03, 2011 at 03:49 PM
As a long time rescue volunteer (for a 501c non profit that covers most of the U. S.), I know that hard, difficult choices must often be made in rescue. The rescue I worked with for many years turned down dogs every single day because there were so many more than we could handle. We did not "warehouse" dogs; every single dog that we took in went to a pre-approved foster home. All of the volunteers had limits on how many fosters they could take.....that was not because we didn't want to take in every single dog who needed us, but because we knew our limits as to how many dogs we could give personal individual attention to, provide vet care for, and do any training necessary. Almost all of us volunteers raised our limit due to need, but we were never allowed to go over the limit of what we could handle. My personal limit for fosters was 4 because I already had 2 dogs. I couldn't handle more than 6 dogs at a time and I knew it, my area coordinator knew it, and the board of our rescue knew it. Some volunteers could take more fosters, some could only take less. It's the most painful awful thing in the world to have to refuse to take in a dog, but it's necessary to ensure the survival of the rescue itself AND for the good of the dogs already in the rescue. Again, I emphasize, dogs should not be warehoused! They need loving foster homes where they can recover from the trauma of abuse and neglect.
Janice Robinson May 03, 2011 at 03:54 PM
Perhaps what Fur Keeps needs to do is to take in fewer dogs and do a better job with their care. The dogs they cannot take in can often be passed on to breed-specific rescues. There are many difficult decisions in the world of rescue. No one wants to have to make them, but, those decisions must be made. You simply cannot keep taking in every single animal that needs rescue. That's what Diane Eldrup did, and look what happened there...nothing but suffering and death. Many of you are going to vehemently disagree with me, and that's fine, it's a free country, but I have to suggest that it would have been better and more humane for the dogs who died a horrible death at Muddy Paws to have been humanely euthanized before they went to Muddy Paws and suffered and died a slow agonizing death. Their deaths were not just horrible physically, but mentally as well. We ALL have to educate educate educate so that there are not so many unwanted animals in the world.
Regina May 03, 2011 at 04:03 PM
They also need to call people interested in fostering or adopting animals. At least they could have done is call me back and said that the dog is already being adopted or whatever the case maybe. I was very taken by the fact that no one called me back, not even so much to ask if maybe I am interested fostering or adopting another dog if this one was no longer available. This just left a bad taste in my throat. Let me also say that years ago I took my dogs to this doctor and thought she was good at what she did but after her divorce she was changing and I took my dogs to another vet.
kelly betts May 03, 2011 at 05:33 PM
Dr. Rykoff has been turning away dogs unless she does have a guaranteed foster, I just personally went through that. I will no longer respond to Janice, she is pointing the finger at Dr. Rykoff for what another person did; Fur Keeps is not Muddy Paws. Regina, as I said, I will personally offer you my number, if you are interested in fostering I will personally take care of facilitating that. I will do the home check, go over the foster agreement with you, and deliver the dog. We are now entering puppy/kitten season, so we will take any and all help we can get. Perhaps we could even meet out at the rescue so you could get a first hand look at the facility. I really want you to give Fur Keeps another chance. Please message me on Facebook if you are interested.
Janice Robinson May 03, 2011 at 06:05 PM
Kelly, I am not "pointing the finger at Dr. Rykoff for what another person did". In no way have I ever done that. Slow down a minute, and READ what I've written before jumping to false conclusions. No one from Fur Keeps has yet answered my question of "What condition were those 9 dogs in when they were retrieved from Muddy Paws?" Why won't anyone speak up and answer this question? I am well aware that Fur Keeps is not Muddy Paws. I knew Diane, and I visited Muddy Paws in person in March 2008. Everything was spotless, clean, and well kept then. I did not know that Diane was sliding down into darkness....I live 8 hours away from Chicago, in southwestern Minnesota. If I had had even the smallest clue that something was wrong at Muddy Paws, I would have been there immediately to help. Please, just answer the question: In what condition were the 9 dogs that Rykoff removed from Muddy Paws in November 2010?
kelly betts May 03, 2011 at 07:49 PM
That is not for me to answer, and quite frankly, Dr. Rykoff doesn't have to answer that. What I do know is that all the dogs at Fur Keeps are healthy and well taken care of. If there are health issues with any animal taken in to Fur Keeps it is immediatly dealt with.
Regina Roland May 04, 2011 at 01:26 AM
In response to Anna's accusation about the high cost of veterinary servces.....I have worked with other organizations who are much smaller than Fur Keeps and their costs are well over 100K annually....I think Fur Keeps is getting a good deal.........
Mary Ann Hetreed May 12, 2011 at 12:02 AM
I wish the reporter had contacted me before publishing this article. The statement "Since then, Hetreed started sending emails to rescue organizations not to send animals to Fur Keeps" is not true. The petition was forwarded to me when it had about 400 signatures. I signed it and forwarded it on to friends and only in that one email did I say I would not give any more rescue animals to Fur Keeps. Since being there in 2008, I have said I will not bring animals there again, but I have not told others not to supply her with rescue animals until the petition and pictures were distributed. My opinion was based on what I saw in 2008 and I clearly told the reporter.
Rebecca June 22, 2011 at 08:11 PM
I personally adopted the most amazing dog from fur keeps back in august of 2010. dr eulogy sent us home with a large bag of the highest quality dig food from flint river ranch. She could easily keep costs much lower by providing these animals with cheap food! She also is a vet that has to care for these animals so being busy must be an understatement. I cannot stand seeing digs living in any condition that any of these shelters provide because it is not a home! But they are being socialized by being with other dogs daily and are not living in small concrete cages, oh and they are alive which is kind of nice too!! (please note sarcasm here) I am a he animal lover and truly believe they care about their animals and r doing the best they can. I also had a hard time reaching them by phone but I also understood why, there are only 24 hours in a day and I wonder how many of those hours the good doctor gets to use sleeping??? )
Rebecca June 22, 2011 at 08:13 PM
Sorry for some of the errors my autofill is very UNUSEFUL at times
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