Alderman calls for end to Danville animal control agreement

DANVILLE — A Danville alderman wants the city to immediately end its animal control arrangement with the Humane Society of Danville, citing alleged abuse and neglect of animals by staff at the non-profit organization's shelter.

Alderman Rickey Williams Jr., Ward 1, said the environment at the Humane Society, 1225 N. Collett St., is inhumane and unsanitary, and he has been told of incidents of abuse and neglect of animals.

"So the bottom line is, we need to make sure the animals are not being tortured and neglected. We can't continue to allow this to transpire," said Williams, who has written a resolution that will be placed on the Danville City Council's agenda Tuesday night. The resolution will be considered first by the council's public services committee at a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. and then by the full council at 6 p.m. Both meetings will be at the municipal building, 17 W. Main St., Danville,

If approved, the resolution would immediately end the city's arrangement in which it pays the Humane Society to provide animal control services throughout the city and enforce the city's animal ordinances.

Mayor Scott Eisenhauer said he has issues with the city's arrangement with the Humane Society, but he is not requesting that the relationship be eliminated at this time. Although he's not in support of the resolution, Eisenhauer said aldermen have the ability to propose resolutions for the city council agenda. He said Williams, not city administration, wrote the resolution that will be considered Tuesday.

Williams said he hasn't seen any physical abuse himself at the Humane Society shelter but has talked with a young man, Dalton Darr, who claims that he witnessed abuse and neglect last summer while doing service work at the shelter through the Illinois Community Action Agency. Darr did not respond on Friday to a voice mail from The News-Gazette requesting an interview.

An audiotape was made of Darr describing what he claims to have seen at the shelter and that tape was distributed to aldermen. Williams said he has also talked to others in the community who have made claims of abuse and neglect at the shelter.

The claims include allegations that dogs have been hanged, Williams said.

Williams said when he has been there, he has observed a stench beyond a reasonable level and saw a dog with a gash in its leg that had not been addressed. He said allegations of others are that animals don't receive proper veterinary care. Williams also said that all pit bulls are euthanized rather than making them available for adoption.

There also have been instances, he said, when residents looking for lost pets are told by shelter staff that they don't have their pets, and the residents find out later that the facility did, he said.

"They're not even serving the citizens properly," Williams said. "We can't continue to wait on this anymore, because animals are dying and being mistreated every day."

Pete Lary, president of the Humane Society's volunteer board, said accusations have been made about neglect and abuse at the facility but no evidence has been produced. Lary, who has been on the board for many years, said he's at the shelter weekly, sometimes more often, and he has never seen any abuse or signs of abuse. He said some people consider euthanizing animals to be abuse, and some do not like the shelter's policy to generally euthanize pit bulls rather than adopting them out.

In regard to the accusations of Darr, Lary said he spoke to Eisenhauer about the claims, and they were looked into by Humane Society officials and former long-time shelter director Joanne Adams who questioned staff and the allegations were unfounded. He said the animals receive veterinary care, and he signs the checks every month for those services.

Eisenhauer said his office has received complaints of abuse and neglect, and he has forwarded them to the Humane Society board and director, because the city does not have oversight of the shelter. It contracts with the organization to provide the city's animal control services and enforce its ordinances. If the city ended that contract, the Humane Society could continue running its shelter. Eisenhauer said he's working on a long-term alternative to the city's current animal control arrangement but it takes months to do that.

"When you are dealing with the number of animals you are dealing with, you have to set up a program that's not just about adoption but also about code enforcement," Eisenhauer said. "It's not like we have neglected this issue, but what we are doing is thinking this process through three, four and five steps down the road rather than just making knee-jerk suggestions as to how to move forward in the future."

The city's previous contract with the Humane Society expired last year, and Eisenhauer has not proposed renewing it, because he's been considering an alternative arrangement, possibly a consolidation of services with Vermilion County, which has an animal control officer and shelter on Catlin-Tilton Road just west of Tilton.

"The fact of the matter is there is no other alternative that exists today. In his resolution, he doesn't say anything about how we will do enforcement. At the end of the day, if this passes, there will be no animal control in the city until we are able to come up with a viable alternative. So again, this is another example where I have explained ... some issues take a while to make sure the alternatives you have in place are well thought out constructive plans for successful transition," he said.

If the contract were terminated immediately, Williams said it's his understanding of the law that animal control is the county's responsibility so its department would be responsible until the city came up with another plan.

Vermilion Board Chairman Jim McMahon said a municipality's authority supersedes the county's within that municipality's borders, and if aldermen ended the city's arrangement Tuesday, the county would not be forced on Wednesday morning to take over animal control of the city. He said doing so would require more staff and more vehicles for the county's animal control department to absorb the city's territory.

McMahon said he and Eisenhauer have had discussions about consolidating the city's and county's animal control departments and shelters. McMahon said the mayor has proposals he's willing to share, and he has proposals he'd like to share with the mayor. McMahon said combining the city and county in this area is right for the community.

"We can't get there overnight, and we can't be forced by reaction of an aldermen," McMahon said. "It has to be articulately drawn out so taxpayers won't go in the hole on this deal."

McMahon said he has received a tremendous amount of e-mails and other correspondence in recent years making allegations of animal abuse and neglect at the Humane Society shelter, but he has never seen any firsthand evidence that has made those accusations viable.

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auntsonyas wrote on April 30, 2012 at 10:04 am

People who care about animals have known for years now that this place should be avoided at any expense. The policy of euthanizing pit bulls without offering them for adoption is reprehensible and this shelter should not be receiving one penny of our tax dollars. Finally someone is doing something about this problem, thank you Mr. Williams. 

cbrads334 wrote on April 30, 2012 at 1:04 pm
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Every alderman should show the concern of Mr. Williams as to the issue of pet abuse and neglect.

Animals are innocents who are caught up in unfortunate circumstances.  They deserve better treatment than to be viewed as objects.  They are living, breathing, feeling souls, and should be treated accordingly.