Animal control has been a point of contention in Madison County for months as officials move toward a no-kill policy at the public animal shelter, but County Board Chairman Kurt Prenzler took the point a step further this week when he made another announcement.
He had found a lost dog and helped return it to its owners.
A spokeswoman for the county sent out a press release — complete with a photo of Prenzler and the dog and its owner — a few days later announcing the news.
When asked Tuesday if the story was a salient county issue worthy of a press release, Prenzler defended it as a relevant public announcement.
“It may not be newsworthy in your mind, but there’s a whole apparatus to return dogs to their owners,” Prenzer said. “And it worked just perfectly.”
It may not be newsworthy in your mind, but there’s a whole apparatus to return dogs to their owners. And it worked just perfectly.
Kurt Prenzler, Madison County Board chairman
As the county’s public relations and communications manager, Cynthia Ellis made about $47,088 in 2016. When asked if writing up a press release on the lost dog was a good use of time paid for by the public, Ellis said it was “just a feel-good story.”
“It shows the fact that we’re working on no-kill relationships with area non-profit rescue groups,” Ellis said. “On a Saturday afternoon, when most animal control facilities are closed, Kurt knew where to take it.”
Jack Daugherty, a Madison County attorney who has been a frequent critic of Prenzler, called the press release an “outrageous bit of political pandering” paid for with public funds.
“Nothing about this ‘press release’ is even remotely related to Chairman Prenzler’s public duties,” Daugherty said. “Why does Prenzler feel entitled to squander tax dollars on his personal, political self-promotion? The guy is a shameless snake oil artist — a huckster with no values other than his own shameless self-promotion.”
Why does Prenzler feel entitled to squander tax dollars on his personal, political self-promotion? The guy is a shameless snake oil artist — a huckster with no values other than his own shameless self-promotion.
Jack Daugherty, Prenzler critic
The county’s animal control department works with two area shelters to transfer animals when possible, but the county does not directly fund any non-profit shelters.
County Board members have been working on revised ordinances to put a permanent no-kill policy into place, according to Prenzler. When asked why he didn’t include an update on the proposed revisions in the release about the lost dog, the chairman said it was really meant to remind people to have their pets microchipped.
“I think it’s just to let people know what they can do,” Prenzler said.
County Board members approved a resolution in April to work toward a no-kill policy. The resolution calls for the policy to be presented by the end of the year and implemented by 2021.
A concrete policy has not yet been submitted to the board, Prenzler said, though animal control employees signed an agreement for a temporary no-kill policy. Under the agreement, there is a 10-day hold on all animals, and a veterinarian must approve any euthanasia before it happens.
The agreement came after two healthy puppies were euthanized in July at the public shelter after their former owners were reassured by county animal control the dogs would be re-homed.
Prenzler, a Republican, said there was some “bureaucratic resistance” to the new policy when the discussion first came about. The no-kill policy was part of Prenzler’s 2016 campaign. He was elected as chairman in the November election that brought an upset to the historically Democratic-majority board.
Though veterinarian Michael Firsching resigned as administrator of animal control not long after he was appointed, Prenzler said the board is “united” on the no-kill policy.
The temporary 10-day agreement will hold until a permanent policy is made “crystal clear” in the coming weeks, Prenzler said.
Ellis said the lost dog story “is just a lead-in into all the other things going on.”