Citizen loses dogs in county animal control system

Slothower, a homeowner in unincorporated Winnebago County, is still trying to find out her legal status. Both the Health Department and Winnebago County Animal Services showed up at her place Friday, Oct. 21, and demanded entrance.

The Winnebago County Health Department went to Slothower’s residence in response to a complaint. Her home was condemned, and Winnebago County Animal Services later removed approximately 50 dogs from her place, as well as some cats. According to WCAS investigator David Mace, the cats all had upper respiratory infections, and after being checked by the county’s veterinarian, all were euthanized. Animal Services says they still have Slothower’s dogs in custody.

The source of the original complaint is unknown. Sue Fuller, Community Relations coordinator at the Winnebago County Health Department, said: “When we get a complaint, it is kept confidential… we have the name of the person who filed the complaint, but that is not public information. We went out to the house, and the house was condemned and will stay vacant until the code violations are brought up to standard.”

According to Health Dept. Inspector Dave Dominguez’s report dated 10/19/05, he “saw an open window with a screen on it. I used a stool to stand on & raise the window, after I removed the screen, which was bent… By my count, there were 13 dogs in that room. The smell was strong coming from the house…” A dispatcher at the 911 center informed him that Animal Control and Sheriff’s police were at the house then, having responded to an anonymous complaint. On Oct. 21, he says, Health Department personnel met at the West State Farm & Fleet and proceeded to the Slothower residence at 601 S. Memorial. They met Terri Slothower at the door, and she brought out all the dogs for Animal Control. “When the house was clear of dogs, I did my inspection… Kitchen was filthy. The stove had a door missing from a broiler and oven. Papers were stacked on top of it. A freezer had what appeared to be a trash container on top of it. Kitchen sink was filthy… Bedroom: bed had a blanket, mattress had tears caused by dogs. Dog kennel held puppies… 2nd floor had cats. There were cages filled with cat feces on the floor. Cat litter boxes filled with feces. Flooring appeared to be damp, probably because of cat urine. There were feces on the floors throughout the second floor. There was a strong odor of urine & feces in this area. The bathroom was dirty… tub was filthy.”

He also reported that the WCAS was called on 10/19 “because a neighbor reported dogs fighting in the back yard. When the units arrived, they did see dogs in the back yard fighting. They took one smaller dog out of the yard and transported it to Animal Services where it was euthanized because it was badly mauled, in shock, pupils not responding to light. Its gums were pale, all signs of impending death.”

Slothower said her neighbors noticed some activity around her place earlier Friday. “A couple neighbors said when they drove by on Friday morning (Oct. 21), there were one or two vans that said ‘Dixon Animal Control’ on them. I just talked to the director of the shelter. She said they don’t have any vans. All they have is a little red pickup with a top on it,” she recalled.

Conrad Hicks, a neighbor, corroborated her story. He said he was driving through on Friday morning when Animal Services was there. “There was two vans there, and they was [sic] from Dixon,” he said. “It had an emblem, and it said, ‘Dixon Animal Control.’ What I can’t understand is what I told the reporters (from Channel 17-WTVO) that this lady here [Slothower] cares for all the animals that nobody wants, and these people out here are giving her a hard time. I tried to talk to the reporters and officers, and they told me to get the h— out of there.”

Break-in noted earlier

Slothower said her home had been broken into earlier. An the Administrative Search Warrant “was issued Wednesday at 4:15 p.m. by Judge Nash… after they had been at my house. They broke into my house on Wednesday. I found that out from my neighbors, too. They went in through my bedroom window, which is on the street side. They broke the screen and opened the window. I have a window guard on the inside. They shoved that in; it has 3- to 4-inch screws.

“I said, ‘Are you guys the ones that broke into my house?’ The first time… [investigator] Dominguez said, ‘No, we didn’t break into your house.’ Later in the conversation, I said, ‘Whoever broke in busted the window and shoved in the window guard and 4-inch screws.’ He said, ‘Well, a screen window was broke. I couldn’t get it open.’ So that’s when I found out he did it.

“He said, ‘I just pushed it in.’” Slothower also recalls him saying, “‘There were some dogs laying on your bed.’” Then, she said, “he handed me this piece of paper, and he read it to me real fast. I said, ‘Wait a minute—slow down.’”

Slothower took it and started reading it. “Before I got to the bottom with the time and date,” she said, “[WCAS Director Gary] Longanecker said, ‘Well, we’re going in now, Terri. We’re getting all those animals out of there.’

Removing the dogs

“I said, ‘Wait a minute. I want to know what’s going on.’ He said, ‘We’re taking them out of here.’ I said, ‘Why are you doing that?’ I handed him my rabies shot records, and he said, ‘I don’t want those.’

“I said, ‘Don’t you want to see the vaccinations?’ He said, ‘No. That’s not what I’m here for.’ Then I was really confused. I set the paperwork on top of the truck, and they never looked at it or nothing. Then [Dominguez] said, ‘Well, can you contain the dogs so we can go into the house?’”

Slothower requested permission to put some in the back yard or close them off in the utility room. She said she did this because the dogs were frightened, and she didn’t want anyone to get hurt. “I said, ‘They can do what they’ve got to do, but I don’t want you here on my property. You step back and stay away from me.’ That’s when [Dominguez] said, ‘OK, Terri. If you want to do that, you go and do it.’ I went in to get the dogs on the porch, and the next thing I know, they’re knocking on the door.

“I said, ‘Hold on. I’ve almost got them.’ I went to the door, and that’s when David Mace, who was with Animal Control, came in. His card said, ‘Winnebago County Animal Services. He said, ‘No, they have to all come out.’ Then I said I would bring them out… I started bringing them. While we were bringing out the little ones (puppies), that’s when Dominguez walked out and said, ‘We’re going into the house.’ I said, ‘No, you’re not. You’re not going into my house without me going in with you.’ He was very cooperative and said, ‘OK, we’ll wait.’”

Slothower said she was trying to get some dogs out. “Then they came in through the gate which I opened up. I was going to bring them [officers] into the utility room. But they came through. I said, ‘No, don’t bring that in here (the snare).’ He was just swinging it around like a (lasso). I said, ‘You’re not bringing that in here. You’re going to scare them enough.’”

Referring to the female officer, Slothower said, “She can come in here—at least it’s a female.” Slothower recalled, “She was very nice, pleasant and helpful. She followed my instructions and kept offering help when I had trouble picking them up. She supervised and stood there most of the time and asked me if I needed help. I said, ‘No, just stand here. I’ll let you know.’”

A full day’s work

Slothower recalled that the WCAS people arrived before 9 a.m. “I had just got home around 8:30 from work,” she said. “I had worked the night before. I was so tired. They were there from around 9 to between 3 and 3:30 in the afternoon. They took a break. They said, ] ]>

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