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Animal Control Warden Resigns After Wrong Dog Euthanized

Kendall County Board members apologize repeatedly in face of criticism over shelter dog that bit at least three people.

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.

Beth Krane August 04, 2011 at 01:50 PM
@ Todd-Fantastic news! Now let's hope it works. Just a recommendation: At your regular vet appointments, have your pet scanned for the chip. I learned, almost the hard way, that the chips can sometimes "fall out", "float", or are hard to detect with certain breeds. How exactly I am not certain, but I've had to rechip my Berner 3 times. And each time the vet shows me the chip, and that it is reading, I send in the paperwork, only to find a year later it's gone. Fortunately this last time seems to have been the magic chip.
Nancy Sondgeroth August 04, 2011 at 03:56 PM
To Edev...We did file a proper bite report. I had to do it myself..I went to the ER, got the form, completed it, faxed it to KCAC, and VERIFIED receipt of the form with Christine via phone myself. I can provide a copy to you if needed. It was rfiled approx 0945 on June 1,2011. If there is no form on file there, perhaps this just adds to the list of wrongs that were committed in this case. Also, we were told it was not another Mastill put down, but a pit bull mix who fought with other dogs, not that makes things better, just proof of the lies and injustices that have occurred. I really hope for a new beginning and change for all of the homeless animals out there!
Edev August 04, 2011 at 04:15 PM
Yeah I wasnt aware of how and if the bite report was filed. In any case I hope that you and your husband are doing well though. As far as the other Mastiff , Ive allready confirmed his breed and have his picture. As you stated , just another lie in the long list of many in this whole matter. The board im sure is doing its best to maintain damage control , but all the matters that involve the two dogs is what i have 100% eveidence in. Including video tape and recorded telephone conversations . The only thing im missing is documents form animal control on Moose's adoption. Ive done my homework on this matter and my attorney has approved everything i can submit on the case of the dogs and animal control's neglect on the issues of these two dogs. The victims have there own case. To be honest i dont think we will never know the whole truth on this matter.
Nancy Sondgeroth August 04, 2011 at 05:35 PM
Does anyone know if theres been any official action to check on the well being of the other dog that the original owner in Montgomery has??
Tina Conley August 04, 2011 at 06:05 PM
Edev, You come on here and state your name is Erik Devick and work at the KCAC, you have evidence, photos, you have an attorney. As big as this story seems to be, you go out there on a public site like this? C'mon buddy.
Edev August 04, 2011 at 06:45 PM
No where in any of my statements or any published information did it state I was employed by animal control. I have no affliation with any government agency what so ever. In fact my employment is nowhere near or related to the feild of animals at all. My efforts are of a grass roots campaign , I simply have evidence of all these matters , I brought it to the board and here we are today.
Tina Conley August 04, 2011 at 06:49 PM
My misunderstanding. I thought someone had mentioned your efforts coming form the inside (or something like that)...
patricia hish August 04, 2011 at 07:15 PM
Sad that we now find the need to blame the one who came forward. Everyone should read the front page story of the Ledger today. Seems as though we have someone else taking the blame. Moose bit twice before Mr. Sondgeroth, I agree Nancy, three strikes your out. There were and are dogs that are very ill in there. Staph infections in one dog becomes an outbreak if not contained. We can also put blame on Mr. Lee but a firefighter and his kids were there along with a Brownie Troop. As sad as this is, it happens everyday. The abuse will continue on all levels until you get rid of the ones in charge. They save face now for the public but my from personal experience it always returns. It's wonderful to have so many people coming forward to volunteer and help in any way they can, but change can fall on deaf ears. Alot of people ask how this could happen, it's because we're talking about animals. After reading some financial records I find some of the problem to be the almighty dollar. I would ask people to write the Board, States Attorney and everyone in between. Those in charge need to go. These helpless animals can't take this chance and neither can we. To each and every pet lover and owwner out there, your voice matters!
patricia hish August 04, 2011 at 07:26 PM
Tina, You might be talking about me. I work field investigation and the term "inside/ insider" refers to the info that would otherwise not be available unless involved on a personal level. As in detailed info as Erik has in his posession. There's no reporter or paper who would have published any of this had they not had "hard facts". ones that could be checked and verified, same info my group uses in court.
Nancy Sondgeroth August 04, 2011 at 07:46 PM
We were told by Anne at the board meeting while in the hall identifying the dogs remains that the people that adopted Moose had spent over $500 in vet bills and antibiotics restoring him to health. I feel bad that he may have been ill, but that goes to show..another ill animal out of that facility. Please don't take offense but did Powell suggest my husband had some blame in the bite? He put his bag between the dog and him as instructed by USPS policy and the dog got his arm before he could get the mace off of the bag. How could that have been prevented? The USPS insists your mailman cut through yards to save time..even in the winter! regardless, no blame should be directed at the Postal Workers..I have a family member that delivers and has "cookies" for her regulars:-)
patricia hish August 04, 2011 at 08:38 PM
Nancy, Here's their wording. Johnson said last week that the dog was on hold after the owner refused to pay for a veterinary bill related to Sondgeroth's bite. Sondgeroth said he wanted to see photos of the dog being euthanized at AnimalCotrol, and confirmed it was Moose after looking at Vickery's photos. It's a large article bottom front page and cont. on 3
Tina Conley August 04, 2011 at 08:46 PM
Patricia, I felt I had apologized to Erik for my misunderstanding. I never blamed Erik for anything! Perhaps if you and the other "regulars" didn't jump on every post, dissect and comment, others would feel free to comment as well. You didn't feel my c'mon buddy comment was appropriate? Who died and made you Princess Patch?
Jeri August 04, 2011 at 09:21 PM
Hi Nancy, No blame absolutely not...just a bit of incite that carriers go through in their jobs. Glad your family is doing well.
patricia hish August 04, 2011 at 09:45 PM
Tina, All I said to Nancy was I didn't feel it was appropriate. Whether you apologized or not is not what my referenced sentence to "Nancy " was. Last time I checked we still live in the USA and are allowed to have an opinion. Sorry you had an issue with that. Princess Patch? Didn't know we had a pageant for that, must have missed that one. Since I'm such a "regular", I need to pay more attention, thanks for the heads up
patricia hish August 04, 2011 at 10:37 PM
Tina, I have removed my post since it has offended you. I do have respect for other people's feelings. I will refrain from any further reference to you, so sorry. We have much bigger issues right now and would rather focus my energy on the animals and the victims.
Beth Krane August 05, 2011 at 02:15 AM
Retraction to Jim Birch. Sorry I am tired and only read as far as time to put animals care... should have read the rest. Private business is not the only option for these pets. Cleaning up the facility and giving the KCAC a chance is the first option. If unable to clean it up than we can look at something different. A few bad apples in the leadership doesn't make the whole program ready to throw in the trash.
Beth Krane August 05, 2011 at 02:17 AM
If Vickery isn't overseeing this group than what is the next option and is it any better? Now that there is this huge black cloud hanging over her, and the KCAC, I would expect that she'll step up to make sure such a thing doesn't happen again. And what options as tax payers do we have with elected officials? She technically has not broken any laws, just made incredibly poor leadership choices.
Beth Krane August 05, 2011 at 02:21 AM
@ Tina - Since Patricia removed her posting out of respect, maybe you can be as courteous and remove your "princess patch" comment. Just a thought out of respect for each other.
Ellen August 05, 2011 at 11:07 PM
What would you propose doing with the animals that are there???
Ellen August 05, 2011 at 11:09 PM
So you want to make it a for profit business where the cute dogs would be kept for adopting out while the ugly dogs would be killed?
Ellen August 05, 2011 at 11:13 PM
Just how would that work? When a dog is dumped in the forest preserve and taken to a private business, would they get to look the dog over and decide if they could make enough money off of it to make it worth taking in?
Ellen August 05, 2011 at 11:35 PM
@Patricia When my 13 year old dog (Sheltie) bit a neighbor who ran around the corner, scaring my dog, and may have stepped on his paw as my dog ran toward him, and my dog bit him, I'm so happy you had nothing to say about what should happen to my biting dog.
patricia hish August 06, 2011 at 12:31 AM
@Ellen, Had no idea you had a dog. Demon dog has 2 meanings. One is a vicious dog as in trained to fight pit bull. Second is a coyote, which is common in our area. So now that you understand what I was talking about, doesn't look as though your sheltie fits either.
Ellen August 06, 2011 at 02:25 AM
@Patricia, Demon dog? Don't know what you're talking about. I was responding to this statement; "I don't believe any biting animal should be allowed to live, that's my opinion.
Beth Krane August 06, 2011 at 09:12 AM
@ Particia - You taught me something new. The professional field terminology "Demon Dog" and the two categories that would place a dog with this label. Makes sense you'd need some sort of "code" for processing. I think your original comment is one of those that you were thinking faster than typing. If I may comment, from our conversations on here I have garnered the understanding that just because a dog has a "biting incident" you'd not put it down immediately. If allowed the opportunity to evaluate the dog and resolve any reasons for its attack than you would, and do anything you could to help save the dog. If you are in the field and are given no alternative than you would be forced to put down a "Demon Dog". I know you work on behalf of the animals and have a generous heart for the four legged, but you are also reasonable in your assessment and understand that a dog who is aggressive to a no stop point must be killed. (Oh I dislike that word.) Thanks for protecting the four and two legged animals in your area. And for all your volunteer efforts.
kpfarrer August 06, 2011 at 12:40 PM
The Kendall County Board Animal Control Committee (Anne Vickery (Chair), Suzanne Petrella, and Nancy Martin) is responsible for overseeing KCAC shelter. There are now multiple issues coming to light about how badly the facility is run, how animals are not properly cared for and even suffer, how filthy it is, how staff lacks the proper work ethic, how policies and procedures are lacking, and how there may be questionable financial management. Erik Devick stated in this Patch article that at the Tue. 8/2 meeting Vickery held "up an enlarged picture of moose in the beginning of that meeting, bellowing he's dead here is the proof". The 8/4 Ledger Sentinel reports that "she had photos for proof if anyone wanted to see them". Can anyone else who was at the meeting comment on Vickery's behavior? If Erik Devick's account is the more accurate one, it shows once again that Vickery (the self-described “new sheriff in town” who referred to residents who wanted to speak at CB meetings “lunatics” and “idiots”) lacks common sense and sensitivity. ...
kpfarrer August 06, 2011 at 12:41 PM
... The good things that resulted from this mess are more attention to animal welfare and to the accountability of our County Board. This issue has united citizens of all political parties and of varying opinions on other issues to scrutinize the County Board's conduct in a way that surpasses politics, and that is good. It’s apparent that the CB did not do their job in overseeing the KCAC facility. There have been problems with the County Board, their methods of operation, and their attitudes for a long time. It has always rankled me when the press refers to citizens who question the CB, request FOIA's to get complete public information, and demand accountability, as "frequent critics of the County Board". It seems to have a negative connotation. We should all be frequent critics of the CB. Why don't we ever see the press refer to the CB as "the frequently criticized County Board"? The CB has a huge impact on our local lives. I'm grateful for all the citizens who keep an eye on the CB, research local issues and information, rescue animals, and blow the whistle when they see something wrong. I hope voters take a closer look at the CB and consider some new choices next election.
patricia hish August 06, 2011 at 02:46 PM
Beth, I need to start using "laymans terms". When I refer to biting for me that's meant as "extreme repeaters". Those are the ones that are flagged dangerous, they're the ones to cause the most damage, usually court cases. Bites are a one time, usually done as a reaction to a situation, out of reflex. Bitters are flagged as caution. A few known bites, complaints and need to watch. Animals who will look for "the taste of blood", that's when add. behavioral and training needs to be implemented immediately. A report has been filed with authorities on different levels. Thanks for the help, I will also add that I mentioned "animal" in that statement. It's not only a dog/cat issue. Typing will never be my strong point. I have other tools of my trade and they have nothing to do with a keyboard. Kpfarrer, I look forward to your posts. I don't have time to read and find what I need to know can be done here in nano speed. I have filed a FOIA request with the county and I'll see how receptive to my request they are. I thought about applying for the warden position, but my family has made the decision, on light of the goings on here, that we will be relocating in 2 yrs. If I would have been offered the position I give nothing less than 150% no matter who's toes I step on. But feel it should be given to someone who can devote many yrs to bring it back to where it should be. I encourage everyone to WRITE,WRITE,WRITE!!!!!!!!!!!!
Beth Krane August 06, 2011 at 03:36 PM
@ Kp - Well stated. I was not at the meeting (hearing) but when I read about Vickery being so (in my terms) melodramatic holding up a picture of Moose saying he's dead, I found that to be crass and unprofessional. Being a board member you are asked to hold a position representing the people of your county. I would expect anyone representing me to have a little more decorum than such a display. With that said, I also get Vickery's point. She is clearly frustrated and well under attack herself, thanks for Johnson's poor choices and her lack of oversight for the KCAC, thus she may feel that evidence must be presented. However, who there can absolutely say, without any doubt, that the photo was of Moose. Afterall, they have confused everything by saying another Mastiff was euthanized and it was Moose, but that turns out to not have been a Mastiff but a Pit Bull (mix - all dogs in the shelters are labeled "mix"). Bottom line: All staff at the KCAC should be replaced. They can all reapply for their position once a new director is hired. And Anne Vickery should be replaced. I'm not saying she should loose her board position, but for now maybe another board member should take over the KCAC. She is tainted because of all that has come down the pipe and to get things back on track fresh blood throughout is necessary, and starting the hiring/rehiring process should be the first step.
Anne August 12, 2011 at 09:47 PM
Three years ago my son was bitten in Oswego when he tried to help a black Chihuahua from being hit by a car as it ran down Heritage on a very cold night. He was able to pull the dog out from behind the wheel of his car where it was hiding and the dog bit him in fear. He was then able to calm the dog down and hold it on his lap until the Oswego police came. The officer took the dog to the Kendall County shelter and my son went for a tetanus shot at the health department the next day. I contacted the shelter to make sure the dog was being held for the 10(?) days needed to make sure it wasn't rabid, as it had no collar or tags. I was treated very rudely on the phone and told that the county had no instances of rabies and therefore the dog didn't need to be held as it was too expensive to hold the dog for that amount of time. What? Isn't it a fact that rabies is in the area and a severe health issue if that assumption was wrong? Isn't that part of the reason we have an animal control center? Are tagless dogs that bite still not held for the correct incubation time for rabies? Should I have kept the dog in my home? The Kendall County Health Department stepped in to ensure that the dog would be held, but I still don't know if it was. My son is healthy. Sounds like things have been amiss for a while.

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