Troubled Kendall County Animal Control Warden Christine Johnson resigned Tuesday afternoon before county board members .
Instead, county leaders apologized Tuesday night as one member of the public after another criticized how Johnson and others handled the in the face at the shelter July 3. Johnson, who had been placed on paid leave from her job Friday, did not attend the county board meeting.
“I can’t apologize enough for what happened. There’s no excuse for it,” said county board member Anne Vickery, who also chairs the board’s Animal Control Committee.
Johnson initially told the public that Moose, the 6-year-old bull mastiff, had been destroyed. In reality, a different bull mastiff had been euthanized and a LaSalle County family had adopted Moose on July 6 knowing he had bitten people twice, Vickery said.
Before biting the boy, Moose escaped from a back yard in Boulder Hill and bit a mail carrier in the neighboring yard on May 31.
When asked how Moose became available for adoption, Vickery simply stated: “Well, that’s a good question.” Apparently, shelter staff do not have in-take paperwork for Moose.
But the LaSalle County family brought him to a Yorkville veterinarian to be . They said he had bitten their neighbor, a woman who approached him in their yard, but they did not file a bite report, Vickery said.
Patrick Sondgeroth, the mail carrier, reviewed photographs Vickery had taken of the dog killed Monday and identified it as the dog that attacked him. Sondgeroth said he thought Moose should have been killed after attacking him but he said Johnson seemed to blame the attack on the mail carrier.
“They should have evaluated the dog and found out what was going on, not said, ‘Oh, it’s not Moose’s fault,’” Sondgeroth said.
His wife, Nancy Sondgeroth, said she had to “nag and nag and nag” Animal Control staff before Moose was taken in for a 10-day quarantine. His rabies vaccination had been expired when he bit her husband.
She was incredulous about what happened after that.
“You can’t write this stuff for a Hollywood movie, and I cannot believe we’re in the middle of it,” she said.
Later, the 6-year-old’s mother, Shannen Flores, criticized board members for not overseeing Animal Control operations more closely.
“Shame on you, every single one of you,” Flores said. “I think that needs to be a huge part of what changes, not just a new warden. That’s just the start of it.”
She urged them to develop methods of accountability.
“Someone needs to be going in periodically and making sure the records are being kept, that the rules are being followed,” Flores said. “Somebody needs to clarify what the rules are.”
Leaders from area rescues and pet shops said Animal Control staff had not followed through with offers for help or expressed gratitude for donations. But they offered to help them moving forward.
County Board Chairman John Purcell apologized on the county’s behalf.
“We do appreciate all the help that’s been given,” he said. “Maybe it hasn’t been expressed in the past. I accept responsibility for that but we will make improvements, I can assure you.”
Vickery urged county residents to stick with the Animal Control shelter.
“We’ve got a lot of issues to work out there,” Vickery said. “And our biggest problem is we need serious and good volunteers to help us out until we can get some people hired up there to help us.”
The search for Johnson’s replacement, however, has begun. In the meantime, the shelter’s four part-time employees are working more hours and County Administrator Jeff Wilkins is overseeing them.
To see clips of the 6-year-old bite victim's parents speaking during public comment at Tuesday's meeting, click here.