Andi Fairchild made a tough decision in early July: She and her husband decided to give up their two 9-month-old puppies to be rehomed. But she didn’t expect them to be euthanized.
Lola and Bella were both pit bull-terrier mix rescue dogs. The Fairchilds adopted them about four months ago from the Metro East Humane Society. On July 1, the dogs got into a fight in the backyard. “I tried to separate them, but they got pretty tore up,” Andi said.
Fairchild and her husband decided it would be in the best interest of their children to rehome the dogs. They spoke first to Metro East Humane Society, but their shelter was full. Partners for Pets, another local humane organization, only takes animals from Madison County Animal Control, not from the general public.
So the Fairchilds turned to animal control, with the understanding that the dogs would be rehomed, Fairchild said. She said they were told the dogs would be offered to the shelters. “They said we shouldn’t worry about it; someone would take them,” she said. “We felt confident enough leaving them there.”
Fairchild said she saw the officers scan the dogs’ microchips, which would have linked them to Metro East Humane Society. The dogs were surrendered July 5.
Animal control was informed that Partners for Pets would be taking the dogs and placing them in foster homes as soon as space was found, Partners for Pets founder Lisa McCormick said Monday.
“No one called us to say, ‘Come get these dogs.’ They just euthanized them,” McCormick said.
Fairchild said she felt “horrible” when she found out what happened to the dogs. “We were lied to, and they killed our dogs unnecessarily,” she said. “We felt we couldn’t keep them anymore, but they weren’t even nine months old yet. They could have been adopted. ... Had we known, we would have kept them until the Metro East Humane Society could take them.”
We were lied to, and they killed our dogs unnecessarily. ... Had we known, we would have kept them until the Metro East Humane Society could take them.
McCormick said it couldn’t even be called euthanasia, since that is generally done to put down an animal that is seriously injured or has a problem. “What they did to these three dogs, you’re just killing them,” she said. “These were three healthy, sweet dogs.”
The origin and circumstances of the third dog were not immediately known.
Both humane societies confirmed that while their shelters were full, the animal control facility was not, and so there was no space reason to put down the dogs.
Anne Schmidt, director of Metro East Humane Society, said they did not know the dogs were to be euthanized. “They scanned for the microchip but didn’t call us,” she said.
This has been a frequent problem, according to both organizations. “Not checking the microchip has been an ongoing issue,” Schmidt said. “It makes you wonder how many animals could have been saved had they followed up.”
McCormick said Partners for Pets had told animal control they would take the dogs, but they were never informed the dogs were about to be put down.
“We’ve been trying really hard to work with animal control, but this isn’t the first time this type of situation has happened — that nice animals were put down when we could have taken them,” she said. “This has been an uphill battle for years; I cannot even think of a reason why they wouldn’t want to work with us.”
Animal control was part of Madison County Chairman Kurt Prenzler’s campaign in 2016, during which he promised to move Madison County toward a “no-kill” policy. Upon election, he named veterinarian Dr. Michael Firsching as the new administrator of animal control, but Firsching recently resigned and was replaced by Dr. Ryan Jacobs. Todd Kruze is the current supervisor of the animal control department. Jacob and Kruze both report to Prenzler and his administration.
Prenzler said he was “very upset and disappointed” that the dogs were put down. He said both animal control directors in his administration have requested a 10-day hold on all animals, and that Jacobs made it “perfectly clear” that no animals should be put down without the approval of the veterinarian.
“It’s really a tragic situation,” Prenzler said. “I don’t want to prejudge what took place, but we will certainly be investigating ... this is exactly what we don’t want to happen as we move toward a no-kill.”
Madison County government has seen a lot of partisan strife in the months since Prenzler took office and the board switched from a long-time Democratic majority to a Republican majority. However, on this one issue, both parties appear to be working together.
Republican Lisa Ciampoli and Democrat Mike Parkinson, both county board members, have “taken the lead” on the animal control project. They each expressed frustration with what happened to the Fairchilds’ dogs.
“We just had a meeting Monday with (the public safety committee),” Ciampoli said. “This was in direct violation of the public safety committee’s direction.”
Parkins said he didn’t feel he could assess the department’s actions until he heard all the details, but that the direction they were given at the Monday meeting “was not in the same direction.”
When it comes to animals and animal rights, they can’t speak for themselves. Someone has to speak for them. I don’t care whose campaign promise it was.
Michael Parkinson, Madison County board member
“When it comes to animals and animal rights, they can’t speak for themselves. Someone has to speak for them,” Parkinson said. “I don’t care whose campaign promise it was.”
Ciampoli said these specific dogs were actually mentioned in the meeting, and Partners for Pets director Nev Fischer said that if the humane society wouldn’t take them, Partners would. Kruze agreed, she said.
“We thought we were making such great progress, and then animal control went out on their own and euthanized these animals without proper authorization,” Ciampoli said. “It’s appalling, and these animals lost their lives for no reason.”
Fischer confirmed that Ciampoli said in front of the committee and Kruze that Partners for Pets would take the dogs.
“I was confident they would hold them for me until next week,” Fischer said. While she had visited animal control several times that week, Fischer said Partners for Pets needed to wait to take the dogs until the following week, due to a lack of space.
“This has happened quite a lot over the years,” she said. “So many animal controls are moving to a more progressive policy.”
The 10-day hold is especially important, Fischer said. The previous policy was three days for cats, which she said was often not enough time for the owner to find them.
A resolution from the Madison County Board in April affirmed that animal control would set a goal of being no-kill by December 2021, and that county officials should work with humane organizations to develop a comprehensive plan toward that goal to be presented by the end of the year.
For the week of July 2-9, Madison County brought in 15 dogs and 11 cats. Of those, six dogs and five cats were turned over to animal rescue groups, one died upon arrival, and the remaining 12 animals were euthanized. None were feral.
Official county ordinances currently do not state an official waiting period. They do require that the microchip be scanned, the appropriate party informed and the animal offered to local humane departments before euthanasia.
Prenzler said the 10-day waiting period has been communicated to animal control officers, whether or not it is in the county ordinances. “That will be part of the process,” he said. “There has perhaps been some organizational inertia. ... It was mentioned in three public-safety meetings.”
Schmidt said both the Humane Society and Partners for Pets are working to get the issue resolved and move Madison County toward a no-kill solution. McCormick said they have been trying to work with the administration and the animal control officers, and up until now, have opted not to go public with their concerns.
“We wanted to work with them,” McCormick said. “But we’re to the point where if you don’t say something, you’re as bad as the problem.”
Fairchild said they’ve broken the news to her daughter but not yet to her son, who is out of state at the moment. The puppies were sisters from the same litter, and she firmly believes they could have been rehomed to a better situation.
“On Monday, (animal control) was told there would be a place for them, and they still killed them,” she said. “They didn’t deserve that.”