Some trustees take animal shelter committee to task

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An ad hoc committee assigned by the village board to locate a site for a new animal shelter was sharply criticized Monday by some trustees who argued that the task force was overstepping the bounds of its charge.

At a board study session, Kathy Capone, a member of the Animal Shelter Task Force, told trustees the group felt it was necessary to look at animal control policy-?#34;which may, for instance, affect how many animals are kept at a new facility?#34;before identifying a location.

"Animal shelter is a rather generic term that covers everything," she said. "We could not look at a facility without looking at policy. I couldn't even make myself do it; it's bad management."

One of the more controversial recommendations from the committee was that the village conduct "temperament testing" on stray dogs. The method is used to determine if an animal is adoptable. If a dog is not adoptable, the group has recommended that it should be "euthanized as promptly as possible, as keeping it caged for an extended period of time is inhumane."

The new policy would help the village's Animal Control department better place animals with established shelters in neighboring suburbs, the report argues. The committee has also recommended that to be cost effective, the village should look for a facility suitable for caring for strays until animals can be placed at full-scale animal shelters.

The recommendations are, however, only supported by a slim majority of the task force. A strong minority contingent has forcefully objected to temperament testing and the committee's overall direction.

In an e-mail to fellow task force members, David Spagat and Jean Heyes voiced strong reservations, saying temperament testing should not have a "life or death outcome." They also state that the village should establish its own adoption program, not send strays to other area shelters, and that all animals should be kept for at least 30 days before they can be euthanized.

Though the report argued that animal control policy issues are critical to locating a shelter site, several trustees said the task force should not be focusing on temperament testing or other practices.

Trustee Gus Kostopulos went so far as to say the committee should be disbanded.

"They should be looking at real estate and organization, not at policy. At this point, a push for policies is going backwards," he said.

"We did not charge this committee to look at this," said Trustee Robert Milstein, who also supported disbanding the group. Milstein added that he believes it is the Board of Health's responsibility to advise the board on animal control practices.

"I think this represents at least a 90-degree turn; it came as a surprise," Trustee Galen Gockel said. "It seems that with a lot of animals there's a gray area and a lot of mistakes could be made [with temperament testing]."

Trustee Ray Johnson, who is also board liaison to the committee, said it was not unreasonable for the task force to look at other issues, and not all board members said they were opposed to the policy recommendations.

"The task force found that perhaps we mislabeled the charge," he said.

"Temperament testing is routinely used to see how aggressive animals can be. In my opinion it's a good thing for us to look at," said Trustee Diana Carpenter.

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