Evanger’s Dog and Cat Food Co. ongoing legal drama continued Thursday when the Illinois pet food manufacturer filed a complaint over their objection to paying a fine they received for violating local public nuisance and zoning laws for the putrid stench emanating from their troubled pet food plant in Wheeling.
Remarkably, instead of quietly paying the measly $1,050 fine for grossing out the Village of Wheeling, who testified about the ongoing odoriferous effusion wafting from the pet food plant, Evanger’s is asking a Cook County judge to throw the fine out instead, according to the lawsuit filed.
Foul and offensive odors
Evanger’s was cited September 1, 2012 when Wheeling village health officials claimed “foul and offensive odors” from the business had spread to neighboring properties, causing a public nuisance.
Incredibly, Evanger’s blames their problem is not the stench of their pet food, but on vague zoning and public nuisance laws. Evanger’s claims that they should be let off the hook because, “witnesses didn’t identify the source of the odor or explain how they were injured or inconvenienced by the smell.” In the lawsuit Evanger’s claims, they were given a larger fine for contesting the ticket.
Fined for rancid odors
According to documents, several grossed-out neighboring business owners and employees complained about “very offensive” and “rancid” odors coming from the pet food company on numerous occasions. Despite the disturbing question that still lingers, which is why Evanger’s pet food plant smells so putrid, Evanger’s agreed to pay a one-day $75 fine, but the village wanted to send a message to Evanger’s: because the smell occurred for seven days, they asked for a $150 fine per day. Eventually, Evanger’s was ordered to pay $1050 fine.
The Village v. Evanger’s
The Village of Wheeling (the Village) and Evanger’s have had what can best be described as an acrimonious relationship. Starting in 2006 villagers began complaining of the rotten smell that ruining the air around Wheeling, while pointing the finger firmly at the most likely, actually the only, suspect in the village: Evanger’s.
What a dump!
The Village issued citations to Evanger’s that same year for violating several ordinances: failure to provide tight-fitting garbage can lids – containers of food waste not covered with tight-fitting lids; failure to provide approved containers – food waste held in unapproved containers; failure to remove refuse – accumulation of refuse stored on exterior property; and failure to abate stagnant water – accumulated stagnant water on exterior property. In short, not only did Evanger’s stink to high Heaven, but it was also a dump.
A no show
Evanger’s didn’t even bother to show up for court, so by default, the Village won the first round. Evanger’s was fined $168,000. Two years later, the fine still not paid, the Village claimed that Evanger’s never cleaned up their act and “had permitted waste materials to accumulate on the property.” Villagers complained the place still smelled like a dead animal, children’s events had to be relocated, and that outdoor concerts were ruined.
Toss up: A sewer or a dead animal
A water operator said there was a “red liquid that looked like blood being drained into the storm sewer from a semi-trailer” that smelled like “a sewer or dead animal smell to it.” He noticed that the grease traps needed to be cleaned and that totes containing “raw material or trash” did not have lids.
Thousands of maggots
Finally, after numerous complaints a village health official visited the plant first in 2006 and was shocked to find the place was littered with “open containers of chicken, flies, maggots, refuse, and unsanitary conditions” on the property. When she inspected the grease interceptors, they were “heavily full of grease and there were maggots inside.” Disgusted, she also could not help but notice “a strong rotting meat smell.”
Following more complaints, the same health official visited the Evanger’s plant again in 2007, when she observed: “thousands of maggots on rotten decaying animal parts; flies all over the property and open and exposed rotting animal parts; flies and maggots over unknown rotting substances.”
Each time the health official visited Evanger’s, several times in 2008, every time she observed, “open containers of food and the same rotting meat smell.” She saw plastic crates without tight-fitting lids and, “flies and maggots around the crates.” There were “maggots in the grease interceptors,” which meant that they were not well maintained. And the last time she went to Evanger’s in 2008, there were a “few bins of chicken that were left open.”
The court found Evanger’s had violated the Village’s ordinances for 633 days, from June 19, 2006, to March 14, 2008, a fine that totaled $316,500.
Evanger’s balks over fines
Since that time, Evanger’s busy fighting the case, filed an appeal of the court’s decision on September 19, 2011. On appeal, Evanger’s contended that summary judgment was improper and alleged numerous errors relating to the court’s judgment.
On November 26, 2012, the appellate court of Illinois upheld its decision, citing that the “judgment was proper where there were no genuine issues of material fact that defendant violated the plaintiff’s ordinances and the trial court’s judgment was not erroneous.”
Evanger’s still under investigation
As for Evanger’s pet food problems with the FDA last year, according to Susan Thixton of Truth About Pet Food, in a recent article describing Evanger’s legal woes writes, “Laura Alvey of FDA told me the FDA is still investigating and can make no further comment on the Warning Letter issued May 5, 2011“.
Evanger’s has also been accused of patent infringement, selling Kosherpet’s pet food illegally, stealing nearly $2 million worth of gas and electricity utilities, having metal ID tags in their food, of selling mislabeled pet food (AKA food fraud), and failure to pay its employees overtime. And that’s just in recent memory.
Despite all of Evanger’s problems, they insist they have done nothing wrong.
And their pet food is still sold across America.