By Devin Rose
A former employee of Oak Park's Animal Care League who tried to save an aggressive cat from euthanasia said she should have spoken with management sooner about their "no-kill" policy.
Carrie Gobernatz worked part-time as an adoption counselor at the ACL for just over a year until she was dismissed earlier this month. Gobernatz thinks it was because she questioned management about their decision to put down a two-year-old Siamese cat named Lorelei who was deemed too aggressive to be adopted.
"I've handled enough cats and know enough (to know) that they can be worked with," Gobernatz said. "They have been putting to sleep a lot of animals that can be helped," she added about the shelter, which she initially thought did not kill animals.
Lorelei came to the shelter in November after someone dropped her off in a box at the non-profit's 2nd Chance Shop on Harrison Street, Gobernatz said. But during her time at the shelter, Executive Director Tom Van Winkle said the cat attacked volunteers and staff members, including Gobernatz, four times. The cat drew blood twice, which prompted a rabies watch. Lorelei was euthanized last week.
Van Winkle said the shelter does follow no-kill policies, but that doesn't mean animals are never euthanized. If animals are adoptable—meaning they aren't too aggressive or they don't have pain unable to be relieved—the shelter will keep them and eventually release them into homes.
If an animal is aggressive, staff puts together a plan and continues to assess the animal for signs of improvement.
"My policy is I do not send aggressive animals out," Van Winkle said. "I don't feel it's a responsible thing to do." He added the shelter could still be liable if a family wants to take an aggressive animal home because the animal might attack someone outside the home.
Gobernatz's dismissal, Van Winkle said, "was all performance-driven and had nothing to do with this particular situation."
Gobernatz said she's sad about the situation's outcome and will miss her work at the shelter. She said she wasn't trying to be rude by sending rehabilitation information to Van Winkle and the shelter's cat managers.
"I was just trying to help," Gobernatz said.