Animal control policy explained

While the Monroe County Board of Commissioners approved several  reappointments to county positions during Monday’s  regular meeting, a group of residents has been more concerned recently with one county role not on the agenda.

An online petition circulated recently on Facebook seeking support for the removal of current Monroe County Animal Control Officer Eric Allscheid from his post.

The catalyst for this petition was a recent post on the Monroe County Animal Control Facebook page about a cat which was picked up in Waterloo and later reported to have been labeled as feral and subsequently euthanized. 

The online petition, which has since been taken down, claimed Allscheid has been repeatedly negligent and abusive in his  duties, including “euthanizing animals when they appear friendly” and “dumping cats” in remote locations in Monroe County.

The animal control position is mandated by state statute, with Monroe County designating the sheriff as supervisor of animal control personnel.

Monroe County Sheriff Neal Rohlfing spoke to the Republic-Times about the recent comments.

“There are great people… who are overtly passionate about animals,” Rohlfing began, “but they don’t understand the process.”

Many times when a stray animal is picked up, a picture of the captured animal is shared through the department’s Facebook page, which can lead to it being reunited with its owner or being taken in by Helping Strays, a no-kill shelter in Monroe County.

 In other cases, animals are euthanized.

“Sometimes when we call (Helping Strays), there’s no room,” Rohlfing said, “and animal control is not a facility to adopt pets out.”

Per animal control policy, any captured animal can be kept for a maximum of 10 days. If its owner does not claim it or it is not taken in by an animal shelter, it is humanely euthanized.

In some cases, animals that show extreme aggression or other dangerous behaviors are euthanized without contacting Helping Strays or another shelter.

“When we get calls about these animals attacking pets and children and it’s obviously a vicious animal, it’s not something we’re going to release. That’s just asinine thinking,” Rohlfing said. 

He added that “99 percent” of calls for animal control are from the county’s city residents who are concerned about a stray near their residence. 

“We’re not abusing animals,” Rohlfing stressed, also noting Allscheid has never been cited for poor or unprofessional conduct. 

“There are people who care more about animals than human beings – and I’m not knocking it – but we have been tasked to do a job,” Rohlfing continued.  “There are times when vicious animals get euthanized.”

In past years, residents have posted complaints about the conditions at the animal control facility and other incidents – including a perceived mishandling of a catch-and-release project in Maeystown in which a resident was cited for caring for what Rohlfing described as an excessive amount of stray cats.

Rohlfing said he welcomes suggestions, but that the place for comments is not on social media.

“I urge anyone to contact me at the sheriff’s department with any concerns about animal control,” Rohlfing said.

The Monroe County Sheriff’s Department is located at 225 E. Third Street in Waterloo. The department’s non-emergency telephone number is 618-939-8651.

To contact Monroe County Animal Control, call 618-939-8681, ext. 238. For after hours or weekends, call 618-792-0453.

Another name not on this week’s agenda spoke at the Nov. 6 meeting.

Lynn Heins addressed the commissioners to discuss the county’s contribution to the University of Illinois Extension.

Heins currently serves as county director for Franklin, Jackson, Perry, Randolph and Williamson counties, but is also serving as interim director for Monroe, Madison and St. Clair counties.

Commissioner Dennis Knobloch told the Republic-Times that former director Laquitsha Bejoile-Hayes resigned from the position in August, and the extension is close to having a list of possible replacements.

County personnel who were on Monday’s county board agenda included Monroe County Public Safety Coordinator Kevin Scheibe, Zoning Administrator Chris Voelker, EMS Director Carla Heise and county-owned senior care facility Oak Hill’s administrator Shari Kruep.

Commissioners approved re-appointment of each to one-year terms to coincide with the county’s upcoming fiscal year which begins Dec. 1.

Monroe County Treasurer Kevin Koenigstein also updated commissioners on the upcoming budget slated for approval during a meeting Nov. 30.

He noted “small changes” in the budget, including an approximate reduction of $50,000 from the sheriff’s department line, with the projected revenue and expenditures remaining about the same.

Koenigstein also thanked department employee Scott Marquardt for his work in fine-tuning details of the budget.

Koenigstein then reported the ongoing county property tax collection has passed the 50 percent mark.

The first payment due date was Tuesday, with the second due date Dec. 21.

In other business, Kruep reported Oak Hill had a “positive month” and is “gaining over our deficit” which had surpassed $1 million earlier this year.

The Oak Hill budget will be one of the discussion points of the Nov. 30 meeting. 

Kruep also said the COVID-19 outbreak in the skilled nursing part of the facility was over, but there was a new rise in cases in the Magnolia Terrace senior living apartments wing of the facility, although there was “no significant illness.”

In other business, Voelker and Monroe County State’s Attorney Ryan Webb addressed the board with concerns about language in the county’s ordinance governing the Monroe County Planning Commission. 

Voelker suggested the current 22-member requirement should be reduced and the requirement to meet 12 times per year should be amended to reflect an as-needed basis.

Voelker explained the board now requires 12 members in attendance to constitute a quorum. 

With not all the seats on the commission filled, he explained it can be difficult to obtain a quorum, which could present issues as the county prepares to create an updated comprehensive plan. 

Voelker also said the 12 yearly meetings are cumbersome for commission members, especially if there is no business to be acted upon.

Commissioners approved an amendment which will take the planning commission down to 15 members, and thus making the required attendance for quorum eight members.

Webb said he will prepare a resolution for the change and an adjustment for required annual meetings for a vote at the Nov. 30 special meeting.

That meeting will begin at 9 a.m. at the Monroe County Courthouse.

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Scott Woodsmall

HTC web