Winnebago County Animal Services explains procedures and programs

In previous articles, The Rock River Times reported about the actions taken by Winnebago County Animal Services (WCAS) in one particular case, that of Terri Slothower. In attempting to reclaim her animals, Slothower ran up against some of the agency’s policies that would be standard, applicable to everyone. WCAS Director Gary Longanecker clarified one of these policies.

“She came out here and asked if she could go back and see the animals, and we do not allow [it for] animals that are being confined and there is pending court action,” said Longanecker. “She [Slothower] became very [upset], and she wanted to see them. There was a statement that she was followed to the front door and ordered off the premises. That is not true.”

Longanecker insisted they did not order her to leave. “We simply said, ‘No, you cannot see the animals.’ Obviously, what the lady did not want to hear. That is our policy that no owner can see the animal if it is here under confinement. We do not allow that particular person to come back and view the animals. It proves nothing.”

He also addressed a point of contention in the article that appeared in the Nov. 16-22, 2005, issue of The Rock River Times. “It was reported in the earlier story that there were vehicles here from Lee County [Dixon]. The neighbor is dead wrong. The lady who is the director down there, named Duffy, said they don’t even have vehicles of the description [mentioned] by that individual. I was there from the start to the finish, and Dixon did not send any vehicles down there. They only have one pickup truck. I was there along with the [agents], and there was no other agency there that day.”

Slothower maintains that two neighbors insist they saw the vehicles, but since no one obtained a license number, there is no way to verify their origin or why someone might try to misrepresent another agency.

TRRT: WCAS held a Spay/Neuter Day on Saturday, March 19, 2005. But 40 percent of the people who have vouchers for spaying and neutering at the clinic did not follow through. They took the shots but did not do the altering. Why are your staff not calling these people and reminding them that they are supposed to get their animals neutered?

Longanecker: “We did make some follow-up telephone calls, but there is nothing in the law that allows us to follow through. We can’t get the spay/neuter vouchers back. We cannot force them by court order to get the animals done. There is no way we can enforce it. They promise that within 30 days, they will get the animals done. It became somewhat evident to us that the concern with some of the people is, they were interested in the low-cost shots… [but] we have no recourse; there is nothing legal we can do. We have been meeting over the last several months with the Veterinarians Association. We need to find a more effective way to get animals spayed and neutered. Sixty percent of those people [who came out to Spay/Neuter Day] did follow through; we had over 280 people that came once and used those services and never followed through with spay and neuter.”

Transportation problems

Earlier, on Nov. 23, 2005, TRRT talked to Jaime Ferguson, operations manager at Petsmart in Machesney Park. “We were hoping we could get Winnebago County Animal Services out here a month ago to adopt some dogs out, maybe two or three, not any big ones. But people do come in looking to adopt. We have to give names of organizations that they can go to.”

She had previously talked to WCAS personnel. “We talked to Donna Apgar, and she had said that they were going to try to coordinate it, but they don’t have the staff to bring the dogs out and bring them back to the kennels.”

She noted that Adopt Shelter Animals Please (ASAP) had volunteered to transport the dogs. “But WCAS said it had to be somebody from the facility. They did not give any specific reasons. We even had associates here on down time who were willing to go and get them. They said it had to be somebody at Winnebago County who had been through their training program. I worked at the other store on East State Street,” she added, “and we had a hard time. I worked there for nine years. We haven’t been able to get them to come out for a long time. They don’t have the staff.”

TRRT: WCAS says it would need a $100,000 trailer to transport the dogs to your facility—funded by taxpayers.

Ferguson: “If that’s the case, Petsmart Charities will offer them the money. They could apply for a grant. They are familiar with it because they applied for a grant for the other store—I don’t know what it was for. If that’s what’s holding them back, it could be done. People come in and inquire about dogs at Animal Services. They have a list of adoptable dogs at the store. They update it every so often.”

TRRT questioned Longanecker about this. “You said the County would need a $100,000 trailer to transport dogs to a site. Why haven’t you applied for a grant from Petsmart to finance the trailer to transport dogs?”

Longanecker: “I’m not aware of any plan at this point of purchasing a $100,000 trailer. I have no plan to apply for it.”

TRRT: What about the 19 volunteers in the Auxiliary who are willing to go and transport the dogs?

Longanecker: “We’ve been through this before with ASAP complaining, this transporting animals business. It has nothing to do with the Auxiliary. It is not the purpose of the Auxiliary. We are currently taking animals to two off-site adoption sites at Petsmart. You can get all that information. We have adopted approximately 800 animals so far this year—cats, not dogs. It’s a totally different issue. On any given Saturday, about 150 people may come through here. We have to keep all our animals here for viewing. We have had less inventory of dogs; it varies by season. In the winter months, we tend to have less dogs available for adoption, and we need to keep our inventory here.”

TRRT: How much money is in the Winnebago County Animal Services Volunteer Auxiliary Fund?

Longanecker: “Donna Apgar has that information. All monies were held by the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois.”

The Rock River Times spoke with Donna Apgar on Jan. 16.

TRRT: How much money is in the Volunteer Auxiliary Fund, and what is it used for?

Apgar: “It’s probably about—I don’t know the exact amount—around $50,000. We use it to spay and neuter adult cats and dogs that are up for adoption. It reduces the cost of their adoption because the adult cats don’t move as quickly. We also pay for medical treatments. We paid for a puppy in December that had been attacked by a dog. We paid for X-rays, stitches, and so on—different vet bills. Ordinarily, when animals come in, if they’re hurt or have a broken leg, they are not considered adoptable because Animal Services doesn’t have the funds. So the Auxiliary pays for some of these kinds of bills. We removed a few legs, fixed ears. We have even had some that had to have eyes removed. We pay for medical bills for animals that are adoptable. We fixed a cherry eye.

“We paid for the outdoor dog runs. We bought cages for people who want to foster. We’ve actually bought extra steel cages… These house additional cats, puppies and small dogs. We’ve paid for air cleaners for the cat room. We’ve bought raised beds for elderly or injured animals so they don’t have to lay on the cement. One time we bought dog collars and leashes for adoptable animals, so they went out with a real collar and leash.”

TRRT: How often do you get money from Petsmart?

Apgar: “Petsmart sends the money quarterly.”

The Rock River Times earlier spoke with Sue Della Maddalena, executive director of Petsmart Corporation at its corporate office in Phoenix, Ariz. She explained that Winnebago County Animal Services did not receive charitable donations from Petsmart. “Winnebago County Animal Services is an Adoption Partner,” she explained, “and they tak

e pets to several of our stores. For every pet they adopt, we give our Adoption Partners an adoption reward of $5. Looking at the adoption rewards they received last year, they received a little over $3,000 in adoption rewards. We don’t have any record of anyone from Winnebago County Animal Services Volunteer Auxiliary applying for a grant. We don’t have any history of a grant application for any amount. We don’t even have the Volunteer Auxiliary in our database. We have Winnebago County Animal Services in there, but no record of the Auxiliary.”

But when TRRT asked Donna Apgar whether the $3,000 goes to WCAS or the Auxiliary Fund, she replied, “It goes to the Auxiliary Fund.” To clear up the apparent discrepancy, TRRT asked Apgar to elaborate on the funds. She said: “The check is written to Animal Services, and they put it in the Auxiliary Fund. Otherwise it would go into the general County fund.”

Foster care program

When TRRT inquired about the foster care program mentioned on the WCAS Web site, Longanecker referred us to Sherry Stahl, kennel manager. She gave us the following information:

“We have 24 families doing foster care. You’ve heard of our volunteer group called the Auxiliary. They meet the first Tuesday of every month. Anybody who would like to be a volunteer meets with the Auxiliary group only because they decide what kind of volunteer things they want to do, [such as] be an adoption counselor… The foster people go through a training session. The group gives them a small session on fostering—two classes. Once that happens, they give the kennel manager (that’s me) their name and phone number. We call them and ask them if they can foster. They come out and get the animal, and it is checked by the veterinarian, who approves it. We set up their foster dates and have them take care of [the animal] for eight weeks until they are old enough to be adopted. By state law, they have to be eight weeks old. We also foster elderly or injured animals. We keep in contact with the foster people. They bring them in for shots, and it is determined whether the animal goes here or to Petsmart. At Petsmart, they don’t let us leave dogs on the site because they don’t have cages [for dogs]. We do something [events for dog adoption] on some weekends.” As for the Auxiliary membership, she said there is no fee involved.

A volunteer explains

Donna Apgar spoke with The Rock River Times. “I’ve been a volunteer at Animal Services for about 10 years,” she said. “I’ve been fostering about five to seven years.”

TRRT: What is the biggest problem in fostering animals?

Apgar: “A lot of the animals are off the streets, so they may get sick, and some of them have ‘fading kitten syndrome.’ Sometimes kittens might have something wrong. One minute they look fine, and the next thing, they’re gone. It usually happens when they’re really young. The hardest part, besides the fact they get sick, is the amount of time you put in. Also, having to part with them because you get attached to them. We actually have a cat rescue group that we work with. I think it’s in Kenosha (Wis.). One of our volunteers transports cats to this organization. There is another one that we recently started working with. Last week, we had over 40 cats and kittens up for adoption.”

Who gives rabies shots?

TRRT asked Longanecker whether people could bring dogs in to Petco for rabies shots. He replied, “The only person that can give a rabies shot is a licensed veterinarian. By state law, it has to be a licensed veterinarian. We can’t give them here unless the vet administers it. I’m sure Petco is not giving shots unless they have a veterinarian out there. They [dogs] have the heartworm shots and are completely ready to be adopted. If an animal is ill or sick at Petco, those animals are returned here, and our veterinarian treats them here. Once the animal is adopted, it is up to the folks who adopt for any subsequent vet care.”

On the day he spoke with us, he added, “If it gets to the point that we have so many dogs… in the last two days we have had 27 cats turned in for adoption and four dogs. So we have this whole situation. If you look at our figures, I did a report for the County Board committee about two weeks ago, and our population of available cats tends to continue to rise. Never once in my conversations with ASAP have they ever talked about cats—it’s always dogs. We have a tremendous problem in our county with a surplus of cats. Through the end of October, our euthanizations across the board in dogs and cats is down 389 animals, and our adoptions are up 45. The number of animals we’ve been able to return to their legal owners is up 169. So we know that the microchips are helping a lot.”

TRRT: People have told us that there are animals pictured on your Web site that have been there for a year. Someone said these dogs belonged to a kennel tech.

Longanecker: “The Auxiliary maintains the Web site.”

From the Jan. 25-31, 2006, issue

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