Sometimes as Sarah Gimbel watches TV with her kids, a dog catcher is worked into the show – and it’s usually not a good scene.
“They look at me and say, ‘Do you do that mom?’ I say, ‘No, we don’t do that,’” said Gimbel, director of the Joliet Township Animal Control Center.
Gimbel and other animal control officers emphasize that their mission is to help pets and their owners, not to hunt down stray dogs and put them to sleep.
“We’re not the pound,” Gimbel said. “I think people view that as a negative place – that animals are dumped here.”
They do have animals. More than 25 dogs and 50 cats were at the Joliet Township Animal Control Center at 2807 McDonough St. last week.
They are in cages but not always. On Wednesday afternoon when Gimbel was giving a tour of the facility, many of the dogs were out for walks with volunteers.
None of the dogs or cats faced a death sentence if they were not claimed or adopted by a certain date.
Euthanasia is rare, Gimbel said, and typically used in cases of “extreme aggression” or severe injury or illness.
The same euthanasia policy applies at the Grundy County Animal Control Center.
“We don’t euthanize for time or space,” said Sue Gale, senior animal control officer at Grundy County. “An animal can stay here a long time before it’s adopted or rescued.”
Some animals are adopted more quickly than others. Older dogs and cats can have a harder time finding new owners.
“We’ve got one terrier that’s 13. He’s taken quite well to us,” Gale said. “I don’t know if he will get adopted.”
When a dog or cat arrives, staff checks first to see if it has a microchip that can be used to find the owner. If not the animal’s picture goes on the Grundy County Animal Control Center’s Facebook page in hopes that it will be recognized.
Critters and trappers
Grundy County Animal Control Center only handles dogs and cats. If someone has a problem with a raccoon, skunk or other wild animal, the center refers the caller to a private trapper.
Not all animal control centers operate the same way or have the same services.
Joliet Township Animal Control Center will provide traps at a cost of $50 a week and with a $100 deposit that is returned when the trap is returned. If an animal is trapped, an animal control officer will come get it.
Grundy County is the only animal control center in the county. It provides services for the entire county, including municipalities.
The Will County Animal Control Center operates primarily in unincorporated areas, but it also provides services in municipalities that do not have their own animal control offices.
In addition to Joliet Township, other animal control centers in Will County are Bolingbrook, Frankfort Township, Lockport, Naperville and Romeoville.
Will County Animal Control refers most calls about wild animals to private trappers.
“Usually, we will deal with sick or injured wildlife,” said Sheila Buffano, senior administrative specialist at Will County Animal Control. “If there’s a sick raccoon in your yard and it’s not moving, we will remove it.”
Will County Animal Control, however, does not have facilities for stray dogs and cats. Any pets that it picks up are taken to local animal shelters or hospitals.
But Will County does play a big role in rabies control.
The animal control office keeps records of all animals vaccinated for rabies in the county. Staff makes daily checks with hospitals to find out if anyone has been brought in for dog bites.
Will County also aggressively pursues potential cases of bat rabies. Last week, Will County Animal Control picked up two rabid bats in a Homer Glen garage. They were the fourth and fifth rabid bats identified this year in Will County.
Dogs and cats
Dogs and cats, however, are the focus of most animal control offices.
Gimbel said Joliet Township Animal Control tries not only to be pet friendly, but people friendly, too.
A specialist comes in once a month to offer people a free one-hour session on dog behavior issues. The center provides discounted spay and neutering, vaccinations and microchipping with the help of a grant from the Petco Foundation. The facility keeps later hours on Wednesdays, when it stays open until 6:30 p.m. for the convenience of people who want to stop in and check out the dogs and cats for potential adoption.
“We’re not bad people,” Gimbel said. “Cartoons and movies try to make us look like the bad people who are here to get your dogs. That’s not who we are.”