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‘Chaos’ looms as vote on Animal Control nears

Vote scheduled for September 10th

Animal Control Director Julie Boudreau summed up Kankakee County Chairman Andrew Wheeler’s Animal Control Plan this past Friday with one word: “Chaos.” Boudreau says, “There is no plan. Nothing more (has been shared) than what [Wheeler] already put out there.”

“Come and protest if you want, but your protest will be about saving a job, not saving animals.” Kankakee County Board Chairman Andrew Wheeler said earlier this week via Social Media on a previous story here on CH. 

Since the announcement, Chairman Wheeler has reached to extend his voice wherever conversations on his plan to transfer Animal Control (and the Shelter) to the Kankakee County Sheriff’s Department. Those roads lead him back to an article posted here last week, replying to a concerned citizen on details for the proposed plan. “The Shelter is not closing,” Wheeler in a post on Country Herald’s Facebook Page, “and the plan, if there is one, will be developed with consultation and involvement of the shelters.”

“I think he means in 2019.” 

-Animal Control Director Julie Boudreau on the Animal Shelter’s proposed closure date set forth by Chairman Wheeler.

When asked about the Chairman’s statement, Director Boudreau said, “I think he means in 2019.” 

Wheeler’s statement contradicts his own made last Monday, when the County Board Chairman instructed Director Boudreau call all employees to Animal Control for an announcement, when, according to Director, “[Wheeler] stated to my staff, ‘This was done. This is happening.’ He didn’t say, ‘We wanted to make you aware of this because it’s going to go to the County Board for a vote.’ He said, ‘This was done, and this is happening.'”

Boudreau herself was informed in a closed-door meeting on August 23rd by Chairman Wheeler; her time with the County would come to a close. “This isn’t about me. Would I like to see support? Sure I’m a human being,” Boudreau said while defending her Shelter staff of eight employees, all who were informed on Monday by Chairman Wheeler himself they would be losing their jobs at County sometime between now and June 2020.

Cages are empty on Friday afternoon while Dogs stretch in the yard.

On Friday, the Animal Control building was filled with an eerie silence; it was easy to see the staff was still emotionally shaken by the announcement earlier in the week. To date, no transparency call-to-action to close the Kankakee County Animal Shelter has occurred in a formal, public forum at a public County Board Meeting. 

“I find it very sad. I didn’t think our County Board operated that way.” Director Boudreau stated in an interview. “I think the current vote needs to be understood. If you’re voting for [Animal Control] to go under the Sheriff’s Department, the long-term effects are the Shelter will close. “”

Last Tuesday, Chairman Wheeler announced the plan to move Animal Control (along with the Animal Shelter) under the umbrella of the Sheriff’s Department. Animals would be filtered or transferred out with the Shelter closing its doors sometime mid-2020. 

Since Wheeler has stepped back on those remarks, “You can call this walking it back, and it probably is on some level. But it is obvious that not having a full picture of what the future holds is not going to allow the process to move forward. It’s difficult to describe a system that others have not seen or experienced, and one that needs to be nuanced to fit our County.” Chairman Wheeler stated in a post on his Facebook page. Wheeler also stated it’s time to ‘broader discussion needs to happen’ about Animal Control, yet “for sake of clarity” has yet to pull or change the originally proposed vote, currently on the agenda for next Tuesday.

“I think it’s a vision he has,” says Director Boudreau, “[Wheeler] wants to model it off Will County. Will County has always done it this way. Will County has never had a brick and mortar building where they’ve housed Animals. So for Will County, that has worked. That’s the way it’s always been done. To backtrack now and say, ‘Don’t worry, don’t worry, don’t worry,’ it’s just something to calm the waters, to soothe the beast.”

While Will County has a system that relies on the support of over forty animal shelters, Kankakee County has barely four. The average intake rate in Will County is one animal for every 1,166 residents. The average intake for Kankakee County, one animal for every hundred residents.

The proposed Animal Shelter rendering for land purchased by Kankakee County in 2015, located at 3583 South State Route 45/52 in Kankakee, hangs in the main lobby of the Animal Control building.

Chairman Wheeler, who has stated publically he doesn’t believe Kankakee County should be involved in adopting out animals, neglected to mention the Kankakee County Animal Shelter has been transitioning out of that practice for nearly a decade.  

According to records found at KCARC.NET, the Kankakee County Animal Control’s webpage, in 2010 KCAS animal transfer rate was 59.9%. In 2018, that rate climbed to 76.4%. Less than 25% of the animals that landed in the Shelter ended up going to adoption through the Shelter. 

“We’ve moved away from adoptions and concentrated on transfers. We’d like to see our local shelters pull animals from us. I don’t know why they don’t.” Director Boudreau says.

Since the announcement last Tuesday morning, only one County Board member had reached out to Animal Control to learn more about their current plans and operations. Animal Control has been a self-sustaining institution for decades. 

Director Boudreau has a message for those who would like to support the Shelter, “Contact your board members, contact the County Board Chairman. Be a voice on social media. Attend the meeting [September 10th, 9 am]. I know the majority of support is for the Shelter and the overall animals. I hope we don’t forget the public safety in that factor.”

The Kankakee County Board meets to vote on the measure to transfer control of Animal Control to the Sheriff’s Department next Tuesday at 9 am.

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