DEMAND CRIMINAL CHARGES AGAINST CHICAGO ANIMAL CONTROL OFFICER
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It’s time for Chicago law enforcement to stop making excuses for the deadly incompetence of Chicago’s animal control officers.
On April 24, 2015, police were called to Chicago Animal Care and Control (CACC) after it was discovered that an employee had left a dog in a small cage in a CACC vehicle for six days without food or water. This is just the latest incident of harm befallen an animal at the hands of a trained Chicago Animal Control Officer, whose salary is paid by the tax dollars of every Chicago resident. Despite being a clear violation of the Illinois anti-cruelty statute, law enforcement has refused to prosecute.
The young female dog, Missy, was one of 14 dogs who had been transported to an adoption event at the Allstate Arena on Saturday, April 18. All of the dogs found new homes that weekend—all, that is, except for Missy, who was caged in the CACC van outside the arena. Apparently she had gotten “a little antsy” or “overwhelmed” by the crowds, sources told the Better Government Association, which broke the story last month.
After the adoption event, a CACC employee drove the van back to the pound and parked, leaving Missy inside. She wasn’t discovered until six days later. Her condition is unknown.
This is not the first time negligence by a CACC employee resulted in severe harm to a dog in CACC’s custody. Nor is it the first time that law enforcement has brushed off the incident as an “accident” and refused to press charges.
Nearly a year ago, a young mixed-breed dog named Chance was “accidentally” euthanized when a CACC employee failed to put a proper hold on the impounded animal. Also last year, it came to light that an employee choked a dog to death using a “catch pole” (a pole with a noose-like rope at one end that is commonly used to bring animals under control and prevent bites).
This makes three separate “accidents” in the course of a year that police and prosecutors have simply brushed off as honest mistakes, disregarding all blame. But that is not how the law works. Even “accidents” are punishable if they amount to criminal negligence, which is clearly the case here.
The Illinois Humane Care for Animals Act clearly states that any person having custody of an animal must provide the animal with a sufficient quantity of food and water and adequate protection from the weather. Failure to meet these basic standards of care is a Class B misdemeanor. Missy was left in a cage for six days without food, water, or proper shelter while the temperature dropped into the 30s. (510 ILCS 70/3)
Moreover, no person may abandon an animal where it may suffer hunger or exposure. A violation is a Class A misdemeanor. Again, Missy was left without food and warmth for six whole days. (510 ILCS 70/3.01)
Similarly, “no person shall confine any animal in a motor vehicle in such a manner that places it in a life or health threatening situation…” (510 ILCS 70/8). Once again, it is indisputable that confining Missy to a cage in a CACC van for days on end placed her a life- or health-threatening situation, especially since temperatures were nearly below freezing.
It is not necessary that a person act with knowledge or purpose in subjecting an animal to any of the above conditions. Even a violation that occurs as a result of an “accident” is actionable as a criminal offense. And CACC has had more than its fair share of “accidents” over the past 12 months. It is time to prosecute. If CACC employees do not fear criminal prosecution, these accidents will continue and more animals will suffer.
What’s more, Chicago police’s repeated refusal to prosecute CACC employees for criminal negligence amounts to clear preferential treatment. Law enforcement has not hesitated to prosecute similar conduct—often far less egregious—when committed by ordinary civilians. For instance, last year Chicago police charged a woman with cruelty for leaving her dogs in a car for just a few hours on a mild day. Compare that to the six days in 30-degree temperatures that Missy was left in a CACC vehicle. The decision not to prosecute Missy’s wrongdoer can only be explained by nepotism.
Animal control officers do not enjoy any special immunity from anti-cruelty laws. In fact, as trained professionals, they ought to be held to an even higher standard of care. Other jurisdictions have not hesitated to prosecute city employees for such inexcusable negligence. For example, in 2014 a Wyoming police officer was charged with animal cruelty after leaving his K9 in a police car. Likewise, earlier this year, an Ohio police officer was charged in the death of his K9 after the dog was left in the car.
It is simply unacceptable for Chicago law enforcement to continue to excuse the negligence of CACC employees. Please demand that charges be brought against the CACC officer who left Missy in the van. Absentmindedness is not a defense to animal cruelty!
Please read what the Better Government Association's Andy Shaw has to say:
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