A group of animal advocates have called for someone new to to lead St. Clair County Animal Services and changes to be made in the department to improve the care of animals.
After meeting for months with County Chairman Mark Kern and Animal Services Director Jim Jacquot, members of the St. Clair County Animal Welfare Advocates group published criticisms on Facebook calling out the animal services department.
That preceded a large crowd of community members who attended Monday’s Animal Services Committee meeting forcing the monthly meeting to be moved into a larger space.
During the Animal Services Committee, Jacquot’s credentials were questioned, people in the crowd criticized the county for not giving parvovirus vaccines, questioned how money is allocated in the animal services budget, questioned euthanasia procedures, whether there was a preference of certain dog breeds, the efficient use of county software, use of volunteers, among other things.
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Among the changes they called for was using computer software to identify area with a high amount of strays, implementing humane treatment of dogs, and vaccinating animals for to reduce the incidence of communicable diseases.
“There’s lack of transparency,” said Dennis McDonald, of Mascoutah. “When you’re a director, it’s your job to maximize what you have ... It’s your job to empower people.”
A couple of the animal advocates said they felt like they were going nowhere, during meetings with county officials and complained there was no communication.
“I can’t keep spinning my wheels trying to make suggestions to their director to make things better,” said Jamie Case, executive director of Gateway Pet Guardians. “We’re not seen as a team, they’re not making things better.”
The animal advocates complained about cleaning procedures followed by animal services employees, a lack of standard operating procedures, and not using software purchased in order to to keep track of calls for service by the department.
Case said animal control sprays down kennels while animals are in them.
Jacquot says when employees clean kennels, they move one animal into a clean kennel, and then clean a dirty kennel out, rotating animals in and out of kennels to clean them out one at a time.
Jacquot said the animal advocates want each kennel out emptied all at once so they can be cleaned.
That process requires many more vacant kennels.
“When we have someone call in a stray, we have to have a place to put it,” Jacquot said.
The animal group also wants animal control to vaccinate animals as soon as they’re taken into the county facility.
However Jacquot said it would open a large liability with the possibility of the animal becoming ill from the vaccine. He also added giving a vaccine would just save money for rescues who take animals to try to have them adopted out.
Jacquot says it take seven days for a vaccine to take full effect, and added that all the things done medically for animals is done at the advice of a veterinarian.
“It provides no protection to the population of animals while in our kennel,” Jacquot said. “We’re not providing any protection by vaccinating on intake.”
However, Case said when a rescue takes an animal from the animal control’s euthanasia list, it still would have to give it it several other vaccines, such as an additional parvo shot and rabies vaccine.
Case added vaccinating for parvo would help prevent an outbreak. Having an animal control center with parvo can lead to rescues not wanting to take animals from the animal services department.
“This will make shelters safer,” Case said.
“We’ve been pushing change for quite a few years,” Case added.
Sheila Ford, who is a member of the animal welfare advocates, said she started to work on grant applications to help animal control, but needed data from animal services to help obtain money.
“I got no response from Jim, no cooperation,” Ford said. “What is the point of working on it? We need data for any grant.”
The animal advocates called for Jacquot’s removal.
“Bring someone else in who wants to save lives and doesn’t want to catch and kill,” Case said.
“We’re as transparent as it gets,” Jacquot said.
Jacquot said animal services said any changes proposed have to be reviewed by the state’s attorney’s office.
“They don’t understand we can’t circumvent laws to accommodate them,” Jacquot said. “Everything we do complies with the law. We’re not a rescue, we can’t pick and choose which ones we comply with.”
Jacquot disagrees with efforts to remove him from his position and hopes his job is not in danger.
“I obviously don’t think it’s warranted,” Jacquot said. “I think we’re doing a good job, I don’t see any complaints except from one rescue.”