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Daily Journal
     January 30, 2020      #42-30 KDJ
 

Partnering for paws: Sheriff touts successful

The name Zoe means new life, a fitting tribute for a 13-week-old German shepherd at the Kankakee County Animal Control shelter.

Zoe was recently named and adopted by Kankakee County Sheriff’s Department Patrolman Griffin Able-Bernier and Rachel DeBoer. The couple chose the name Zoe because a new life is just what she’ll have.

This winter, animal control officers responded to a call of three stray dogs in rural Kankakee. The German shepherd puppies, two males and one female, were brought to the shelter.

The female pup was in need of immediate medical attention. It’s believed she ingested a hazardous material or even poison.

She made a quick recovery and was posted on animal control’s website as available for adoption.

“I saw the puppies on the website and happened to come into the [animal control] office that week,” said Able-Bernier. “I saw the puppies. It was a done deal.”

“The day I first saw her, she jumped up in my lap. She chose me,” said Able-Bernier.

Zoe was welcomed home by Able-Bernier’s 4-year-old German shepherd, Greta, also a rescue dog.

“Greta is pretty spoiled. I’ll spoil [Zoe] too,” he added.

“We talked about getting another dog,” said DeBoer. “But once we saw her, it was love at first sight.”

Zoe’s two brothers were brought to a rescue for adoption.

And if it wasn’t for the newly formed agreement between the Kankakee County Sheriff’s Department and Kankakee County Animal Control, Patrolman Able-Bernier may have never seen and adopted their newest pet.

Kankakee County Animal Control is now managed by the Kankakee County Sheriff’s Office. In September, the county board transferred management of the animal control department to the sheriff’s department as of Dec. 1. The office and shelter remain at 1270 Stanford Drive, Kankakee.

Animal Control today

The main focus of Kankakee County Animal Control has been, and still is, to enforce animal control regulations, said Kari Laird, who was named Kankakee County Animal Control administrator. Laird has been working for the sheriff’s department since 1999, most recently with the Emergency Management Agency.

“Kari knows how to get things done and how to work with people,” said Kankakee County Sheriff Mike Downey. “We are fortunate she accepted the position. It’s been a good fit.”

Having animal control managed by the Sheriff’s Office allows it to provide a greater good to the community, Downey added.

“Under the sheriff’s office, we are able to provide more resources and assistance,” he said.

The three animal control officers — Hillary Diehl, Callan Griffiths and Teralyn Rasmussen — enforce laws per the Illinois Animal Control Act, Illinois Animal Welfare Act and the Illinois Humane Care for Animals Act.

They respond to a variety of calls each day ranging from animal bites, lost or found animals, nuisance violations, animal welfare checks, neglect and cruelty investigations and animals running at large.

Animal control officers can write an owner a citation and impound their cat or dog immediately if they see cases of inhumane conditions such as animals without shelter from subfreezing temperatures or extreme heat, and even pets left unattended inside vehicles during hot summer months.

In December alone, the department handled 99 animals.

“Staff has been great during the transition. They are all knowledgeable,” Laird said.

“I can’t say enough about how good of a job they do every day,” Downey added. “They are seen carrying a scared dog or caring for a sick animal. They deal with all of it.”

The animal control office also serves a variety of functions including rabies vaccination and registration. All dogs and cats 4 months and older must have a current rabies vaccination and Kankakee County registration tag. Animal control records rabies certificates and tags, which is where a majority of the department’s revenue comes from, Laird said.

Animal control continues to operate a shelter, and in early January, it had 19 dogs and 22 cats available for adoption.

“We won’t close the shelter. We have too many animals to take care of,” Downey said.

Animal control hopes to expand the shelter’s outside area by creating a dog run to let dogs socialize and enjoy recreation.

Future plans

Currently, animal control handles all calls in unincorporated parts of Kankakee County. If a village needs assistance, the department will go into its jurisdiction to assist them, a service they are billed for, Laird said.

The only local municipality with a designated animal control department is Manteno.

“One important thing we are working through is trying to contract with neighboring municipalities,” Downey said. “Legally, we are not allowed to take calls or assist in their jurisdiction unless they ask us.

“We want intergovernmental agreements so when there is a call, we can respond. It will be beneficial for all the communities and the animals as well.”

In the future, the sheriff also foresees implementing a program getting Jerome Combs Detention Center inmates involved – helping at the shelter walking dogs, cleaning cages and even bringing the animals to the jail to interact with inmates.

“We have some inmates who would love to do that,” Downey said.

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