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Reprieve for dogs and cats at animal control facility? : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Reprieve for dogs and cats at animal control facility?
Proposed new rules would extend time strays could be kept

by Matt Schury

12/26/2013

Dogs and cats at the Kendall County Animal Control Facility in Yorkville could be getting a reprieve from the County Board.
The board recently discussed updating the standard operating procedures for the County Animal Control Department and rescinding the facility’s previous policies and procedures, which include doing away with a loosely enforced time limit for dogs and cats to be held at the facility.

Anna Payton, Animal Control warden, presented the board with the planned changes at their Dec. 12 committee of the whole meeting.
It would be the first time in almost 10 years the board has updated the operating procedures for the facility.

The County State’s Attorney’s office is currently reviewing the new document and the board is expected to vote on it at their Jan. 7 board meeting.

County Board members seemed to approve of the changes and praised Payton for her work. The previous plan, updated in November 2004, was only eight pages long; the updated plan is about 28 pages and was presented in a binder to the board members last week.

Payton added that rules about how the public can handle the animals and how volunteers are trained have been tightened. Animal Control is also recording animal information better with detailed forms and written procedures, which include training for all volunteers.

“It’s very difficult to have somebody just step in and volunteer, it’s important that they go through orientation,” Payton said.

In 2011, before Payton was hired, the six-year-old son of a volunteer was bitten in the face while doing work at the facility. The boy was hospitalized and required surgery but recovered from his injuries. The dog was later euthanized.

A year later the mother of the boy filed a suit against the county and Animal Control. It seeks in excess of $50,000 in damages for "injuries of a personal, pecuniary and permanent nature."

Payton didn’t mention the lawsuit during the meeting but said the new plan spells out the procedures her department implements when a bite occurs, documents all bites as well as what volunteers can and cannot do at the facility.

“We do keep records of all animal bites, sometimes we get some interesting animal bites, whether it’s a wild animal or other type of pet that doesn’t carry rabies,” Payton said.

Another change in the new plan is the elimination of the policy of euthanizing dogs and cats after being at the shelter for 37 days. Payton said the policy was only loosely followed anyway.

Going forward with the new policy, the department will determine if an animal should be put down based on the animal’s health, behavior and space at the facility.

Previously it wasn’t too strictly enforced. She said that at each Animal Control committee meeting they allowed her to discuss the animals that were there longer than that time.

“And they never denied my request,” she said. “I’m basically just asking them to make it official as far as ‘this is what is done.’”
Before she headed the department, the dogs were not tested for temperament or behavior.

“There wasn’t even necessarily formalized health assessments or animals being spayed or neutered prior to going up for adoption. There weren’t checks and balances in place.”

19 dogs, 16 cats
euthanized this year

Animal Control only takes in strays and owner surrender dogs. This year the department took in about 600 animals and euthanized 19 dogs and 16 cats. Last year they took in 607 animals and euthanized 28 dogs and 31 cats.

Payton said they have an open admission process, which is different from private humane societies that can pick and choose which animals they take into their facility.

“We have to accept all the strays,” Payton said.

She added that having a certain amount of days before putting down an animal “is kind of an antiquated method of managing pet population.” On the other hand letting an animal linger at the kennel is also not good.

They will also re-evaluate the animals who have been at the facility for a longer period of time.

“Animals are individuals. Some animals can handle being in a kennel environment for a period of time and some of them, their behavior regresses quickly. You see that more with dogs than cats,” Payton said.

She added that the way dogs’ social structures work, they always want to be in a pack.

“When dogs are in homes, their people are their pack and being in a kennel is stressful because they are alone for a lot of the time even though we try to interact with them on a regular basis,” she said, adding that they try to pair the dogs up as well to help reduce anxiety.

The facility works with rescue centers and adoption agencies to move the dogs and cats on if they are healthy enough.

She said if they have a dog that has a medical issue that could be solved with a procedure that might be more than they can spend, they will look to see if there is an organization that will do the surgery, or someone who might sponsor the dog.

“We had a dog that came in last year that was limping a little bit,” Payton said.

It was discovered he had a fractured femur and hip and needed double hip surgery. Volunteers raised a couple thousand dollars for him to be able to have that surgery and his physical therapy was donated as well and a foster home took him in for five months as well.

“If we have animals that have been here a while and aren’t moving we do contact rescues,” she said. “Sometimes it just takes a different community or audience.”

Payton provided the committee with letters supporting eliminating the time limit on euthanasia from the National Animal Control Association, the County Animal Controls of Illinois and the Illinois Animal Welfare Federation.

Board member John Purcell said he thought the document was good but was concerned that taking the 37-day cut off date away was going to lead to Animal Control needing more staff.

“What assurance do we have that we are not just going to fill this facility up with additional animals and therefore create the need for additional staff to take care of the animals?” Purcell asked.
Payton said that if they are going to be requesting staff they will be looking at other factors.

“Prior to this there was no checks and balances every animal was available at all times, there was no behavior assessment, there was no health assessment. There was basically nothing, it was whatever goes, goes,” she said

The county hired Payton in 2011. Purcell recalled that the facility is “running by far the best in the 13 years I’ve been on the board, by far the best.”

Payton noted that they don’t get any money from the county’s general fund and instead operate with user fees with rabies tag fees being the biggest source of revenue. They also pay for their health insurance and IMRF retirement contribution.
“We are very self sufficient,” she said.

Dan Koukol noted that Animal Control operates out of a county building and uses county support services.

Board member Amy Cesich said she understood Purcell’s concerns but thought doing away with the set date for euthanasia was a good policy change.

“As you can see from the old one we passed out, it was sorely needed. I think this really covers a much broader base and gives you the checks and balances,” Cesich said.




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