WCAS release and financial policy explained

The Rock River Times (TRRT) received a report about a new policy at Winnebago County Animal Services (WCAS) that supposedly required people surrendering an animal to sign a euthanization release, show an ID card and meet low-income guidelines. TRRT sent an inquiry to WCAS Director Gary Longanecker, and he promptly clarified the question for us.

“That is not true,” he said, noting that the complaint was in reference to a pet owner who came in and insisted that WCAS staff take a cat. Neither he nor an investigator was present at the time. “In November,” said Longanecker, “the County passed an ordinance that [affects] people who come to our facility requesting that an animal be euthanized—this is only those that come in and request that their animal be euthanized. Last year, we had 414 people come in and ask us to euthanize their animals. We had a number of people come from other counties—Boone, Ogle, Stephenson—asking that their animals be euthanized for reasons of age or whatever. But the issue is that we continue to be criticized for the number of animals that we euthanize, and I think that is a separate issue…

“The other issue is that 414 animals were brought in from people asking that we euthanize their animals. The County Board has passed an ordinance that says that if you are a resident of Winnebago County and do not have the financial resources to have an animal euthanized for legitimate reasons—medical, age or whatever—we will continue to euthanize those animals if requested. But if the person has the resources and lives out of the county, we will no longer take the requests for euthanization. The issue is that if we have the financial resources, and the animals need to be euthanized—in all other instances, we will refuse unless it’s an issue of financial ability. We are encouraging these people to take the animals to their own veterinarian or to a veterinary clinic to have the animals put down.

“We typically charge $35 to put an animal down. If you bring in an animal of average size to be put down, our fee is $35. We take any and all animals that come through the front door. We presume they [pet owners] have an established relationship with their veterinarian and have the financial means to take it to a veterinary clinic. We suspect that some of this is motivated by finances because we charge significantly less than some of the clinics in the area to do that service. At the end of the year, we report our euthanasia figures, and each year it seems there are more people coming out here that want their animals euthanized, and they could afford to do it at their own vets. It becomes a dollar issue. Secondly, every animal that is euthanized goes into the dog or cat category.”

The resolution, number 2005 CR 270, states, in part: “… that it is the policy of the County of Winnebago that the Animal Services facility shall not accept from an owner an animal brought to the facility for euthanasia, unless the owner submits sufficient proof that he/she is indigent and cannot afford the cost of euthanasia by his/her veterinarian.

“BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that it is the policy of the County of Winnebago that all services provided are intended for residents of Winnebago County, and that the Animal Services facility shall not accept from an out-of-county owner an animal brought to the facility, commonly referred to as ‘owner release.’

“BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that this Resolution shall be in full force and effect immediately upon its adoption.”

The resolution was adopted Nov. 22, 2005, and signed by Winnebago County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen.

From the May 3-9, 2006, issue

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