County board chair demands answers after dog mistakenly put down

Local News

CHAMPAIGN COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — The Champaign County Board Chair has called for an investigation into the Champaign County Animal Control Department and a change in leadership.

A woman expected to pick her dog up after Christmas Day, but the dog was put down mistakenly.

Champaign County Animal Control told WCIA they responded to an impoundment request on December 18th. Workers identified the dog as possibly a mixed breed pit bull. The County Executive said there was some confusion. The County Executive said when the owner called Champaign County Animal Control looking for her dog, she said it was a chocolate lab.

“After seeing a picture, after the office was closing on December 23rd, the county staff realized that the dog was actually being identified as a chocolate lab mix,” Darlene Kloeppel said on December 30. “That’s how the owner had been describing it, which is why we couldn’t find it. When they saw the picture, they realized that it was the same dog, and that we did have the dog in the impound facility.”

It was agreed that the facility would hold the dog for an additional four days over the holiday vacation. The agreement was made that the dog would be picked up on Monday. “Unfortunately, and this was our fault, the last minute change was not received by the person who did the euthanasia on the next day,” said Kloeppel.

The dog was put down on Christmas Eve.

Kloeppel apologized and said some additional steps are being added at Animal Control so this won’t happen in the future.

Champaign County Board Chair Kyle Patterson said in a statement on Saturday he has requested detailed information on the practices, procedures and internal policies of the office. “To this date, I have not received an adequate or thorough explanation from the County Executive or the Director of Animal Control, Stephanie Joos.  I have been reassured by Executive Kloeppel that this type of incident is ‘rare,’ but have been given no explanation or justification for that conclusion,” he wrote.

Patterson said on December 31, he formally requested that the county conduct a thorough investigation, particularly with regard to locating and identifying pet owners and euthanasia. He also wanted to know the frequency of similar events. He also said he would examine the policies at Animal Control and explore possible changes to create a more human environment.

“This tragic event should not have occured and it calls into question the competency of this office,” Patterson concluded in the statement. ” The public’s trust has been violated by this failure of the Animal Control Department.  Champaign County must take every action available to ensure that this horrible event never occurs again and I believe that doing so must include a change in leadership and reorganization of that department.”

While the County Board looks into the matter, others went out their way to show compassion for Lopez.

Jonathan Johnston stopped by WCIA to deliver a painted canvas of Dada for Lopez to keep. He said he and a friend of his, who are both pet owners themselves, paint the canvas to show Lopez that the community supports her.

“We felt like it was necessary to give her some kind of memory of her dog, because I know this is a tragic situation and we just want to make the days easier and brighter for her,” Johnston said.

Patterson said the County Board will take every available action to ensure that the incident doesn’t happen again.

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