New state animal control consortium raises questions

The Rock River Times received a press release announcing the formation of a new state organization called County Animal Controls of Illinois. The release was published in the online version of the Jan. 18-24, 2006 issue, but minimal information was available. The organization was formed in October 2005, and Winnebago County Animal Services (WCAS) Director Gary Longanecker is the treasurer. The press release came from his office.

The Rock River Times sent a list of questions to Longanecker. Who are the board of directors? What is the purpose of the organization? Where is it located? Who pays for the positions? Is it financed by tax money? The press release said, “Membership is approaching 60 percent”—60 percent of what? How many members are there right now? How often does this group meet?

Longanecker did not respond to our phone calls or e-mail, but administrators at several other animal control facilities around the state were able to supply some information.

William Condie, DVM, administrator at Stephenson County Animal Control, said he had received some information about CACI but did not pursue it. “It directly affects us, and we need to get some input,” he said. “These state legislators have no clue as to what they are doing.” [The press release said this organization was formed “as the result of a revised version of the Illinois Animal Control Act, which lacked statewide input from animal control agencies and administrators.”] “By state law, there is a veterinarian in charge of each county. There has been some leeway; if there is no veterinarian, they can get someone else to do it. Basically, a couple of the smaller counties down south might share someone. But each county has an animal control superintendent or division, and what he talks about is the 60 percent of counties because there would be one from each county.”

As for the original legislation, Condie said: “It was a very, very poor piece of legislation. The last two years, they have passed new ones, and some very specific lobbyists are trying to get the county to do what they want done. County animal control, at least by statute, is paid completely by dog registration fees and/or fees associated with animal pickup and that sort of thing. There is no taxpayer money going into any of these. So it’s a tax increase without being called a tax increase. We’re sending money to Springfield. And Winnebago County might not because they have very specific criteria where they can set up their own programming.

“Our dog owners in Stephenson County, when they register their dogs, we have to send money down to the state. When they get the money, it goes to wherever they want it to go. They don’t give us any choice. They are destroying our budget … We have two things that may happen: either the people can’t afford to reclaim their dogs—we only charge $20 plus board, but now we have to charge $50 on top of that to send to the state. If they [dog owners] don’t reclaim it, then there is a cost to put them [dogs] to sleep and dispose of them. The year before, they passed a law that they have to be microchipped. That is another $15, so now we are approaching $100 to pick up the dogs if people can afford it.”

Condie suggested we talk to Laurie Kinnear, administrator of Jo Daviess County Animal Control, who had actually attended the CACI meeting. “All the counties have their own agenda,” Kinner said. “We have only met once in Champaign. Their intentions are to have meetings throughout the year in different areas.” She said the members are not being paid per diem. “We do have annual dues of $25 per year, which each animal control department handles from each department budget,” she said. A regular meeting schedule has not been set. Kinnear was also able to supply a list of board members. Greg Largen, director at Sangamon County, is president; Lauren Malmberg, director at Peoria Animal Welfare, is vice president; Buzie Bertagnolli, affiliated with Macoupin County, is secretary; and Gary Longanecker, director of WCAS, is treasurer.

The Rock River Times also asked Kinnear how many animals were euthanized per year. She said: “We have a unique situation here in Jo Daviess County. We have no humane society. We lease from the Dubuque Humane Society,” and suggested we talk to them. Jo Daviess County has a population of 22,594 as of 2004.

Jane McCall of the Dubuque Humane Society said: “In 2005, we took in 3,688 animals—dogs and cats combined. About 314 of those came in for cremation, and those were already dead. The actual figure is 3,374—we took in 1,497 dogs, and we adopted 738; we euthanized 270. Those were mostly for aggression or illness. We took in a total of 1,891 cats, and we adopted 562; we euthanized 1,146, and we transferred 11 dogs and 23 cats to rescue groups. We also took in others, which included rabbits, ferrets, hamsters, guinea pigs, etc. We took in 298 of those. This accounts for the extra numbers. Yes, we do work with rescue groups and other shelters. But cats and kittens are just a huge problem. We have over 250 a month coming in. About half are turned in by owners who don’t want them; the rest are strays.”

Bill Clark, animal control center member at McLean County, said: “We are working with several rescue groups. We network with our humane society and other rescue groups.”

Greg Largen of the Sangamon County Department of Public Health—Animal Control in Springfield, also shared some information. In addition to the CACI officers named above, he said there are representatives from Cook, Kirkland, Knox, Lake, Macoupin, McLean, Peoria and Rock Island counties.

Sangamon County has a population of 114,738 people [2004 figures]. Largen informed TRRT, “In 2004, we euthanized 3,173 dogs, cats and other animals,” he said. A specific breakdown was not available. In 2003, he said, 3,383 were euthanized, and in 2002, the number was 3,620. As for rescue groups, he said: “We certainly do work with them. We love rescue groups! We’re trying to build relationships with as many as we can…we look for reputable organizations. We try to find and do as much locally as possible, but we send animals toward St. Louis or out of state. We have quite a bit of success with the rescue groups, and we work with local shelters as well. There are three in the area, what would be considered no-kill shelters. We are young, in our infancy, but having tremendous success.”

Lauren Malmberg, director of Peoria Animal Welfare Shelter, gave us a little information about CACI. “We are still in the process of incorporating,” she said. “It will be incorporated in Springfield with the Secretary of State of Illinois.”

TRRT: “Have they established a mission statement?”

Malmberg: “Yes, along with bylaws.”

She added these would be available once the group is incorporated. Peoria County has a population of 112,720 [2004]. She gave us the following statistics: “In 2004, we handled 8,173 animals (dogs and cats combined with wildlife) and euthanized 5,301. We received 3,201 dogs and 4,018 cats, but I can’t tell you individually what the breakdown was. We are in the process of computerizing.

“The problem is that…most of them [statistics] don’t consider the animals, or ones those animals have bitten, or the owners requested it. We have hundreds of animals brought to us by their owners that request euthanasia. [Statistics] don’t tell us how many are euthanized for cause and how many are unwanted. It’s hard to know that from straight euthanasia compilation. That’s one of the problems. There is a movement now in the field to classify animals as adoptable or unadoptable. If you classify it as unadoptable, it doesn’t count against you. We don’t classify our animals that way. We do evaluations, but we don’t break out the euthanasia numbers, which animals didn’t pass the temperament evaluations. They still have to be euthanized. It’s hard to compare statistics from community to community, and depending on what their mission is. We have to take everything that comes through
our doors.

“Yes, we work with all the rescue groups we can find. Right now, we are trying to place a Jack Russell Terrier. We get large numbers of problem animals—we accept everything that comes through our doors. The other issue is that when you are a shelter as large as ours, we get animals from all counties. We don’t just service Peoria County… We are more of a regional center. It’s hard to say what spaying and neutering animals did. We have two spaying and neutering programs, low-cost, low-income, spay/neuter; they are filled to capacity. We do advertise for it all year long and make it as easy as possible.”

From the March 8-14, 2006, issue

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