URBANA — Hate mail and calls continued to pour in at Champaign County offices Monday more than a week after a dog was mistakenly euthanized by the county’s animal control department.
“Everybody’s mad,” said Champaign County Executive Darlene Kloeppel.
Kloeppel said county Animal Control Director Stephanie Joos euthanized the dog, a chocolate lab-pitbull mix, by accident on Christmas Eve.
The dog came to be in the possession of county animal control after being picked up on a complaint and had been running at large in the 1400 block of West Church Street, Champaign, Joos said.
The dog had been impounded on Dec. 18 and became county property after being housed for five days, as per county policy, according to Kloeppel.
Animal control staff members saw a photo sent by a caller as the office was closing Dec. 23 and realized that the dog the caller was referring to had been impounded.
They arranged to hold the dog for an additional four days so the owner could pick up her pet after the holiday weekend, she said.
Joos, who was on vacation, came in to do payroll Christmas Eve and missed seeing that change, Kloeppel said.
Champaign County Board Chairman Kyle Patterson said he asked for an investigation into the incident and detailed information on the practices, procedures and internal policies of the animal control department. As of Monday, he said, he hadn’t received further information.
“I am very troubled and upset to learn of the improper euthanasia of Monica Lopez’s dog Dada on Dec. 24,” Patterson said. “I cannot imagine the pain experienced by Ms. Lopez, and I am demanding accountability for this grave, irreversible error she suffered.”
Patterson said he’d like to see a big picture look at animal control and see if fewer animals could be euthanized in favor of more efforts made to boost adoptions.
Kloeppel said an investigation has been conducted and incidents such as this are rare.
“While the holidays and staff vacations made this circumstance unique, additional steps in animal control procedures have been put into place to prevent any similar gaps in communication in the future,” she said.
Kloeppel said hate mail has arrived from as far away as England and Canada after a post about the dog’s death was posted on Facebook, and she is calling on the public to stop.
“It was just an accident,” she said.
Joos, who has worked for county animal control since 2002 and has been director since 2006, said the dog has been cremated and the ashes have been sent to the owner.