Residents urge St. Clair County to adopt 'Buddy's Law' to save pets

News-DemocratJanuary 27, 2014 

"Bud," a Chow mix with dark fur, died chained up outside as the coldest weather in decades hit the metro-east. Now a group of residents are urging St. Clair County leaders to enact "Buddy's Law" to prevent such deaths in the future.

Kim Keeney, of Belleville, said the group hoped the county would update its ordinances to clarify when a law enforcement officer can remove a pet left outside a home in extreme temperatures.

Bud's owner, Robert E. Dickerson, 48, of 401 S. 23rd St. near Belleville, faces a misdemeanor charge of cruelty to animals. The dog was found Jan. 7 inside a makeshift doghouse in the side yard of Dickerson's home.

Keeney and several others asked St. Clair County Board members how they could help prevent deaths such as Bud endured. The group addressed members of the board's Animal Services Committee on Monday.

Karen Ferrara, of Belleville, said they were speaking for animals who can't speak for themselves and only wanted to help, not place blame.

"We are just a small group of people that represent a larger group that got wrapped up in a couple of situations lately, in particular dogs stranded outside," Ferrara told board members. "Animals left in the cold and some of the cases ended badly, unfortunately. We have all kinds of horror stories we could share with you. ...

"We would like to help in any way we can to prevent these situations from happening in the future. We know there are ordinances on the books older than me, maybe, and it's not easy to make these changes."

St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern said the board welcomed suggestions and noted the committee has advocated strongly to help pets in the past. Kern cited as examples the board recently passing one of the most progressive anti-tethering policies in the county and increasing funding to its pet adoption center.

St. Clair County Animal Control Director Jim Jacquot said state law considers a three-sided, roofed enclosure with a floor to be adequate shelter for a pet. St. Clair County is not home-ruled, which limits its ordinances to within those of state law.

Animal control officers are able to remove pets in extreme situations, Jacquot said. He urged the creation of a protocol to address humane care cases.

"We remove animals from property all the time if we think the animal is in serious trouble," Jacquot said. "The problem is we don't know about them until it's too late."

Jacquot said the county's three animal control officers answer every call from residents, about 10 calls a day. Area police departments are also able to drop off pets at the county's shelter 24 hours a day.

In other news, the board voted in full session to:

* Reappoint several department heads, including Dan Maher as director of administration, Debra Moore as director of the Intergovernmental Grants Department, Frank Bergman as manager of Human Resources, Terry Beach as director of Economic Development and others.

* Spend more than $161,000 to purchase eight 2013 Chevrolet Impalas as police vehicles for the Sheriff's Department. Green Chevrolet in Jacksonville, Ill., won the bid.

Contact reporter Daniel Kelley at dkelley@bnd.com or 618-239-2501.

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