EUREKA, Ill. (WMBD) — On Tuesday, Woodford County Board unanimously voted to terminate the contract for Animal Control Administrator Tim Abney immediately with written notice.
Abney had been in the position since December 2021. The termination follows the outcry for removal after a cat was euthanized under the direction of Abney.
“That’s exactly what we were fighting for in all of this. This won’t bring back KiKi the Cat at all but it will protect everybody else in Woodford County,” Shannon Shreffler said at Tuesday’s meeting. “He won’t be handling animals, cats, dogs or anything from here on. That’s what we were fighting for and I feel like Justice for KiKi really happened tonight and it was beautiful.”
KiKi the Cat was a salon cat at Razor Zone Salon in Eureka. According to KiKi’s owner Sarah Keim and Shreffler the salon owner, Abney wrongfully had KiKi euthanized in March.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Debbie Bouchard, board member of Friends of Woodford County IL Feral Cats, spoke up during public comment.
“This is unacceptable, unnecessary and it’s a misuse of the Menssen Trust Fund,” Bouchard said.
Bouchard was referring to the Veterinary Service Funding Agreement that the county has with the Jayne L. and David Eric Menssen Critter Care Perpetual Charitable Trust. The most recent agreement was approved Sept 2022 with an amendment adding cats to parts of the agreement being approved the following month.
The Menssen Trust allocates $7,500 per month to the county to “provide financial support for health, feeding and medical care of abused, neglected or abandoned dogs, cats and for the adoptive placement of the dogs, cats and other small animals.”
The agreement also states, “The Trust endeavors to reduce the unnecessary euthanization of dogs, cats and other small animals by providing financial means to encourage and support institutions within Woodford County, Illinois to care for dogs, cats and other small animals and place them for adoption.”
According to Eureka Police Reports, KiKi the Cat was euthanized by Associated Veterinary Clinic in Washington. Justin Peterson of Associated is one of two veterinarians listed in the agreement to provide veterinary services for dogs and cats. The report states Abney told Associated that KiKi was a stray.
The Menssen agreement also said, “the County is required to hold animals for 10 days; in the case of animals without tags, microchips or other indicia of ownership.”
KiKi was reportedly seized because a client was bitten and scratched. She was euthanized and decapitated so her head could be tested for rabies.
The Illinois Animal Control Act states:
(510 ILCS 5/13)(from Ch. 8, par. 363)
Sec. 13. Dog or other animal bites; observation of animal.
(a) Except as otherwise provided in subsections (b) and (c) of this Section, when the Administrator or, if the Administrator is not a veterinarian, the Deputy Administrator receives information that any person has been bitten by an animal, the Administrator or, if the Administrator is not a veterinarian, the Deputy Administrator, or his or her authorized representative, shall have such dog or other animal confined under the observation of a licensed veterinarian. The confinement shall be for a period of not less than 10 days from the date the bite occurred and shall continue until the animal has been examined and released from confinement by a licensed veterinarian. The Administrator or, if the Administrator is not a veterinarian, the Deputy Administrator may permit such confinement to be reduced to a period of less than 10 days.
“Eventually we’ll get another animal control person and hopefully they’ll be educated on what they can and cannot do,” Shreffler said on Tuesday.
Prior to being hired, Abney did not have any professional experience working with animals.
Oct. 13, 2021, according to minutes from a public safety committee meeting. Abney along with four other candidates sent in proposals to be the Woodford County Animal Control Administrator. Abney proposed a salary of $70,000. The budget for the salary was $69,000. The minutes said that animal control will be a sub-contractor with no benefits. It is financed through dog registrations and the treasurer’s office handles animal control.
Abney was able to address the committee at the meeting. The meeting minutes state, “Mr. Abney is an animal lover. He is retired with two part-time jobs – driving a school bus and taking care of the parks in Metamora. His family has a farm with buildings that they will allow him to use to house the animals. He has been in contact with Rubies Rescue Retreat and a vet for veterinarian services. He will purchase a dog truck with this salary. He currently does not have any cages or supplies, but he has made a list of what he believes he will need and he will purchase with his own money. He has already procured insurance.”
Oct. 19, 2021, a special public safety meeting was held. In that meeting, the board voted to move to the County Board the appointment of Abney. Assistant State’s Attorney Erik Gibson met with Abney between the regular meeting and special meeting to go over expectations, duties and call volume.
Abney was present at the special meeting and was informed that he needed a special use permit. Abney informed the board he would be using one acreage of his farmland for the job. The minutes stated that Abney would have the basic contract that the old animal control administrator had with the addition of $10 a day for housing animals for court cases. The minutes also stated that Abney would like some training on how to handle certain animals and cases and that Gibson would be the one to offer him guidance and work with him on issues.
Nov. 8, 2021, at a regular public safety committee meeting Gibson presented the committee with a proposed Animal Control Contract. There was a clause added that allows the Animal Control Administrator to receive restitution funds for housing animals held for criminal cases. The contract was approved.
Nov. 16. 2021 the Woodford County Board approved the contract for Tim Abney to become the Animal Control Administrator.
On Monday, Keim filed a civil lawsuit against Abney, Woodford County, Woodford County Board Chairman John Krug and Associated Veterinary Clinic.
According to the court documents Woodford County failed to train Abney and Krug failed to appoint a licensed veterinarian as a deputy administrator.
The Illinois Animal Control Act States:
(510 ILCS 5/2.01) (from Ch. 8, par. 352.01)
Sec. 2.01. Administrator. “Administrator” means a veterinarian licensed by the State of Illinois and appointed pursuant to this Act, or a non-veterinarian may serve as Administrator under this Act. In the event the Administrator is not a veterinarian, the Administrator shall defer to the Deputy Administrator regarding all medical decisions.
(Source: P.A. 101-295, eff. 8-9-19.)
(510 ILCS 5/2.07) (from Ch. 8, par. 352.07)
Sec. 2.07. Deputy Administrator. “Deputy Administrator” means a veterinarian licensed by the State of Illinois, appointed by the Administrator or the County Board.
(Source: P.A. 101-295, eff. 8-9-19.)
The lawsuit also stated, “Associated knew or should have known that Abney’s certification on the consent was a lie as Associated indicated on the IDPH form that the rabies test was being conducted due to a ‘bite from pet.’”
According to court documents, Keim is suing for $100,000.
As of Wednesday, State’s Attorney Greg Minger has not said if any criminal charges will be filed. Abney has been removed from the County’s website and deactivated the Woodford County Animal Control Facebook page he was running. He is still listed as the maintenance supervisor for Metamora Parks and Recreation.
WMBD has reached out to Animal Control, the State’s Attorney, Associated Veterinary Clinic and the trustees for the Menssen Trust. As of Wednesday, our calls have not been returned.
Woodford County Board will have a special meeting on April 24 to discuss Emergency Temporary Animal Control.