SANGAMON COUNTY, Ill. (WAND) - Sangamon County's board chairman said Illinois State Police have been asked to investigate allegations about criminal abuse and neglect of animals at Sangamon County Animal Control.
The statement from Andy Van Meter comes after leaders from WILD Canine Rescue alleged animals are in grave danger at the facility. Their leaders said there have been botched euthanizations and as many as 17 cats have died, with many from an extremely contagious upper respiratory disease.
Van Meter said allegations against staff and facility leadership "are extremely serious." He said an independent investigation by law enforcement is the "appropriate next step."
The rest of his statement said the following:
"We request that ISP interview animal control staff, the leadership of organizations making allegations, and anybody having relevant factual information. Should any of the allegations prove to be accurate, Sangamon County will not hesitate to act. However, to date, we have no proof to support these allegations. Sensational statements and allegations made by organizations cause long-term credibility issues for the organizations and unnecessary mistrust in government. An independent investigation will provide much-needed answers to the public. The county is expecting to hear back from ISP within a few days.
"We also welcome a spot inspection of the facility from the Illinois Department of Agriculture, the division of state government that has direct supervisory authority over animal control facilities. By their nature, these inspections must be unscheduled and without the knowledge of the county or animal control personnel. We hope an inspection will take place at the earliest time, and the findings will be made available to the public.
"Virtually every enterprise in our community is struggling with inadequate staffing levels. Our undermanned animal control staff has worked diligently to provide the service our community rightfully expects. But no organization is perfect. We are sure that our operation can be improved.
"To address comments made by Springfield Alderperson Kristin DiCenso that described Animal Control as a profit-making endeavor by the county, attached is a four-year financial analysis of animal control. This report was compiled by the Sangamon County Auditor's office and is available to any member of the public. With the exception of personnel records, all county financial information is available to any member of the public. Again, baseless accusation without supporting facts is a disservice to a caring public.
"If Springfield Alderperson Kristin DiCenso can produce any facts to support her accusation that the county provides animal control services to other cities and villages at no cost, we welcome her full explanation of that accusation and will be happy to make any county record available to her.
"When we renewed the animal control contract with the City of Springfield, we suggested a three-year contract to give the City of Springfield time to study and implement its own animal control service, if it wished to do so. While we think that will prove disadvantageous to the community, ultimately, that decision is for Springfield City leadership. But, it may be helpful to point out that we are currently 14 months from the conclusion of the 3-year contract.
"We will continue to rely on our very dedicated community veterinarians for their guidance on the best practices for managing the animal control facility."
NOTE: The financial analysis Van Meter referenced is attached to this story as a screenshot from an Excel file he sent to media.