As county leaders continue the search for a new warden, one Yorkville woman complained last week about a policy of killing animals that were not removed from the shelter after 37 days.
Michelle Alexander said county leaders had been strictly enforcing the 37-day deadline since former Warden Christine Johnson resigned after telling the public a dog that bit a 6-year-old had been euthanized. A family had actually adopted the dog, a Bull Mastiff named Moose, who was destroyed after the issue was publicized.
Alexander asked board members last week to give shelter animals a stay-of-execution if space was available at the shelter after the deadline, while board members said the 37-day limit was much longer than legal requirement. Stray animals must be kept for seven days, while there is no housing requirement for animals released by their owners, according to state statute.
“I don’t want my money, my tax dollars, to go toward this high-kill shelter, because that is what you have voted on this to become,” Alexander said. “You’re laughing.”
A county board member disputed the “high-kill” label, and Alexander replied: “It is if you’re going to kill the dogs every 37 days.”
Alexander also worried that leaders only began following their 37-day limit after the bite incident, which happened at the Animal Control shelter while the boy’s father was completing court-ordered community service work.
Alexander pointed to a Nov. 18, 2010 article in the that indicated Board Member Anne Vickery had said leaders weren’t following the 37-day rule as long as there was room in the facility. Johnson made similar comments to Patch in January.
“To think that some of these dogs would just die that are healthy and adoptable because of what’s been going on, it breaks my heart,” Alexander said. “If there are cages available, I’d ask that you please reconsider.”
Later in the County Board meeting Sept. 6, Vickery, who also leads the board’s Animal Control Committee, explained that they implemented the 37-day limit about seven years ago after a prior warden (not Johnson) had turned the facility into a “pit bull rescue.”
She also said county leaders had not “knowingly” killed a healthy animal. Citing figures from the most recent committee meeting, Vickery said 26 of the 238 dogs the shelter has handled this year were euthanized. That’s about 10.9 percent.
Of those 26 dogs, 13 were pit bulls that were biters, while the rest were sick, injured or unadoptable, Vickery said.
Vickery also said county leaders planned to interview eight candidates for the permanent warden position late last week. The field of eight was selected from more than 30 applications the county received for the position.
County leaders also plan to hire one or two more full-time positions after the decision on the new warden is made, Vickery said.