Sangamon Co Suspends Volunteer Who Changed Cage Card

When a 16 year old volunteer took an exuberant dog out of his cage at the Sangamon Co shelter in Illinois last week, the dog was very excited.  The dog, called Alpha, hadn’t been walked in more than a day.  In expressing his enthusiasm, Alpha scratched the girl.  She reported the scratch to the staff who then made a note of it on the dog’s kennel card.  Another vol, Leland Grove Mayor Jill Egizii, felt this was unfair to Alpha and would present an obstacle to adoption.  She told the local paper that she gets scratched by exuberant dogs all the time and doesn’t consider it to be a strike against the dog.  So she replaced Alpha’s cage card:

The new card had Alpha’s name and a note that said, “Good Boy.” In the section for “energy level,” the box for “high” was marked.

“It’s a different way to say the same thing, really, but in a more positive light. It allows the dog to be pulled out so that somebody could look at him for a potential forever home,” Egizii said.

Egizii added that volunteers routinely make notations on kennel cards. She said she didn’t think she was breaking any rules when she made the change, and she doesn’t think Alpha is dangerous.

Sangamon Co Administrator Brian McFadden didn’t see it that way.  At all:

“The fact is, her actions violated the rules and put the county at a huge risk and potential liability if that dog were ever adopted out without full disclosure of its actions, and then it harmed someone… I think we would find ourselves in a courtroom pretty quickly.”

Plus there is apparently some sort of state law about cage cards in Illinois (which I’d like to read, if it exists in this plane):

McFadden added that once the volunteer notified staff that she had been scratched, the county was legally obligated to make that notation on the kennel card.

“That set in motion a chain of events dictated by state law. We can’t ignore it,” McFadden said.

So the mayor was a law breaker and created liability for the county.  As such, the county suspended her for 2 months.

After Egizii was suspended, there was speculation in the community that the action was taken because she objected to a mass euthanization at the shelter.

McFadden says pshaw, that’s just a coincidence.  Lawbreaker.  Lawsuit.  Lions.  Tigers.  Bears.

Egizii did not know of any other volunteer who has been suspended from volunteer work at the county. She said that since last week, two other Friends of Sangamon County Animal Control board members have resigned, and a couple of dog walkers have left.

The county, which has credited volunteers with being instrumental in helping to drastically reduce the kill rate in recent years, seems to have developed a new strategy in the way it handles volunteers.  I guess if it ain’t broke, break it.

The mayor is still working on getting Alpha into rescue.  She doesn’t know if she will continue to volunteer at the shelter after her suspension expires.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

11 thoughts on “Sangamon Co Suspends Volunteer Who Changed Cage Card

    1. The administrator is obviously targeting this mayor. Maybe bc of politics, maybe bc she’s a woman, who knows? His notion that someone would adopt the dog with the cage card not having “scratched someone” on it, then the dog eats a kid and the adopters turn around and sue the county claiming YOU KNEW! is absurd. More likely, the owners might suspect the county was falsifying documents and hiding something if a dog who “scratched someone” turned out to be vicious.

  1. Changing the card to “high energy” is not a big deal. She was being honest about the energy level of that dog. Our dogs scratch us all the time, but we don’t take them to the pound. It sounds like the manager of this place just wanted to keep this dog on the death list, so it would not be adopted by anyone who wanted a “high energy” dog…like many people do. Maybe it is the manager who should be suspended, not this volunteer. Lastly, why would this volunteer actually make a big deal over this, anyway. Just wash the scratch with soap and water, and put on a band aid, if necessary.

    1. ” Lastly, why would this volunteer actually make a big deal over this, anyway. Just wash the scratch with soap and water, and put on a band aid, if necessary.”

      Where do you see anywhere that the volunteer made a big deal over it? All I see is that she told staff members. It may be that a staff member noticed that she was bleeding or saw her washing up and asked about it, so she told them, and then the staff made it into a big deal. I’m not ready to place any blame on a 16-year-old shelter volunteer without any evidence.

    2. Well, a lot of shelters require vols to report any injury at all, so she may not have had a choice in the matter (or at least felt like she had a choice).

      This sounds political. Having a mayor volunteer at a shelter is highly unusual and I think probably presented shelter staff more uncomfortable oversight than they were happy with. They’ve probably been looking for a way to get rid of her for a while, now. I do hope that she fights back with all she’s got.

  2. Hold off on slamming this facility until you know all the facts as they were slanted in the newspaper article. I am a licensed shelter in Illinois and must abide by the same rules of disclosure that this animal control facility must follow. While all of us, as dog experts, can agree that a bite or a scratch incident is not black and white, the issue of truthfulness and responsibility should always be first. What if this volunteer had been nipped or had a small bite and it wasn’t disclosed or was changed on the card? If this dog was then placed in a home and did serious damage you can bet there would be a lawsuit and rightly so. What this facility does is disclose and place the dog in an appropriate home so that the chance of a more serious incident would hopefully be avoided. Sangamon County AC has a very good success rate with all the dogs in it’s care and has a VERY LOW euthanasia rate, mostly only owner requested euthanasia, serious biters or animals too ill to give any quality of life. They participate in moving abandoned animals to shelters where they can find homes and they work with all kinds of rescue groups to make sure that more than 90% of the animals make it out alive. They do a good job and the story of this one volunteer is the exception, not the rule.

    THERE ARE NO MASS EUTHANIZATIONS AT THIS FACILITY! Look at their statistics that are recorded by the state!

    Here are the facts:

    1. IL REQUIRES a Disclosure Form for each animal in a shelter or animal control facility. Here is the form:

    2. The clause at the bottom that states: “I hereby attest that all of the above information is true and correct to the best of my knowledge.” is the important line because if it is found out that the form was not filled out appropriately OR CHANGED then the facility may be subject to fines and loss of license, in addition to a possible civil suit stemming from known behavior that was not disclosed should the dog harm someone else.

    3. Just because a dog has a scratch incident on the disclosure form does NOT mean the dog will be euthanized. It will, however, be a good guide to how to place the dog appropriately.

    It is patently unfair to slam a facility that has done so much good for so many years. This kind of action on the part of this volunteer jeopardized the license of the facility and the whole volunteer program. The volunteers receive training and must sign a Code of Conduct to be at the facility. Having volunteers at a county run facility is a privilege, not a right. Sangamon County values their volunteers and does a better job with them, but they MUST follow the law.

    1. “What if this volunteer had been nipped or had a small bite and it wasn’t disclosed or was changed on the card?”

      But it *wasn’t* a bite or a nip. It was a scratch. A scratch from a young dog who hasn’t been walked in over a day is well within the range of normal and expected behavior. If the scratch is more severe than expected what that usually means is that nail maintenance is lacking, not that the dog is aggressive. If there was some aggression here it should be mentioned in the story (which it’s not, as far as I can see), and I think most of us are assuming the most likely scenario rather than aggression. Obviously if a dog is jumping on people that’s not perfect behavior and ideally it’s something you should try to train out, but IMO that may not be a realistic expectation for a young dog in a shelter environment, and it’s not something that *needs* to be addressed immediately. OTOH a bite (even an accidental one such as what happens when a dog bites a hand when they’re trying to get a toy) always needs to be investigated and usually needs to be addressed ASAP as a behavioral issue.

    2. What if the volunteer had been abducted by aliens and mind-melded into believing the dog had mauled her? I guess we could sit here and what-if all day or we could discuss the facts as presented.

  3. It is generally complete crap when government entities try to hide behind the fear of possible litigation to either prevent change or punish workers (unpaid or paid). I’d bet that very few people who adopt from a shelter have the mindset of doing so with the idea of potential monetary gain from the remote chance that the dog (or cat) they adopt will hurt them, and even if the animal does hurt them, they generally care more about the well-being of the animal and wouldn’t want to jeopardize its safety by even telling anyone the animal ‘nipped’ or even bit someone. Animals that have a ‘clean record’ at a shelter can still bite if the situation is wrong enough and those that do scratch, nip, or even bite someone in a shelter may never do so again in a decent home, so using any incident at a shelter (short of lunging, biting, hanging on, & really ripping into someone) as a reason to not adopt out/kill the animal is not fair. On top of that, every decent adoption contract has a “this animal may … so you agree to not hold” [the adoption place] “liable for harm” waiver/clause to prevent them from being sued – and as governmental entities as practically impossible to sue anyway (as we know – police, fire, even snowplow services that cause damages either are held harmless or just have to give you a new mailbox at most), so shelters that claim they are fearful of lawsuits are being disingenuous at best and bullshitters at worst.

    And even those who imagine that there are lawyers hanging around just hoping to pounce on a juicy dog bite case, bringing a suit cost a lot of money & the probability of a big payback is so low that the number of lawsuits filed against government entities are not very high. Well, they might be *filed* but actually going forward… not that many. The average Joe/Joleen adopter doesn’t waste money trying to sue shelters. If they are sufficiently upset by an animal’s behavior after adoption, they just have the animal put down and *then* they might ‘retaliate’ against the shelter by not going there again, if they decide to get another animal.


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