Animal Shelter of the Week: Episode 45 – Madison County Animal Care & Control

Madison County Animal Care and Control have the responsibility of enforcing licensing laws and regulations that are applicable to the animal control program. Animal Control does much more than rescuing abandoned animals but they offer second chances to the animals they come in contact with. They also assist in transporting animals to other states as well as rescue opportunities through local shelters. Save rates for these animals today is 90% or better.


Welcome to the ARPA Animal Shelter of the week podcast where we introduce you to incredible organizations around the country that are focused on helping animals. We’re proud to be sponsored by Doobert is a free website designed to connect volunteers with rescues and shelters, and the only site that automates rescue relay transport. Let’s meet this week’s featured animal shelter.

Madison County Animal Care and Control has the responsibility of enforcing licensing laws and regulations that are applicable to the animal control program. They provide expert testimony in court cases, rescue abandon animals, investigate the mistreatment of pets, and when necessary, they determine if an animal is sick or dangerous. Today, they offer a second chance for animals found as strays and a safe haven for animals often abandoned by their owners.

Hi, Katherine. Welcome to the show. Hi! How are you doing today? I’m good. How are you? I am doing well. Thank you for joining me today. We’re excited to learn about you guys. So you are the Manager of the Madison County Animal Care and Control in Illinois, is that correct? Yes. We are in Edwardsville, Illinois. Awesome. Okay, well, let’s go ahead and jump right in. Can you tell me more about your organization and how you got started there? We are an animal control, we’re different from the fact that we’re not a nonprofit. So everything for us is government funding. So we’re a county-based facility. I actually started at Madison County Animal Care and Control a little over a year and a half ago. I was brought in, the county wanted to be no-kill by 2021. No-kill means you have to have a 90% or better, save rate in your facility. And that’s why actually I was hired to fit that 90% save rate. Oh, wow. So, I mean, that works for you. Now, have you had any type of experience before taking on this position? So before taking on this position, I actually have my bachelors is in social work and I have a master’s degree in special education. I taught for a while, but I had always been somehow involved in animal welfare, not necessarily the animal control side. I was more involved with rescues and shelters in the main societies, adoption, that sort of thing. So for me, coming into an animal control. It is a very different world, but this was all new to me, so I kind of started from scratch. But that’s great because like you said, you came on and it’s different. It’s a whole new outlook on everything, and sometimes that’s a good thing to, kind of, get an outsider coming in. So I think it’s great. Yes. And I’m happy that they were able to find somebody to help them reach that no-kill goal.

How is that going? I mean, you said you’ve been brought on about a year, so can you, kind of, share with me what a day in your shoes looks like? Well, nothing’s ever the same. We have hit, actually over a 90% save rate at animal control. I work with some wonderful, wonderful people. I have four animal control officers, and they do a tremendous job. It’s definitely a team effort, along with the rescues that we work with on a daily basis, we couldn’t do what we do without them. A day for me can range from transport to doing something in regards to, you know, county business, board-related stuff, budget. It’s kind of a variety of different things. No day is ever the same for me, so it just depends, really. But since I am the manager, I also have to do besides just the animal aspect of it. You know, you have to do all the paperwork and stuff that comes along with it as well. So yeah, it’s kind of, ah, variety of different things. You get your hands in a little bit of everything. So I admire that, and I think that that’s great, that you are able to do that.

And with you guys being in animal control, I’m curious as to how the process works with that, because we usually talk to rescues and shelters, and so you guys are a little bit different than the norm. Right. So how do you go about? Do you guys rescue the animals? Do you bring them into your own facility, or do you work with other organizations to, kind of, help those pets? Or how does that process work? We handle strays, and we handle the unincorporated areas of Madison County. So we don’t go inside any cities. Most of the cities here have their own animal control or it’s through the police department. So either my officers bring in stray animals that are found or we have some individuals who find stray animals that bring them to us. We have municipalities, so the city is basically who bring animals to us. It’s kind of a mixture of different things on how we get what we get. Then what ends up happening is, once those animals, they’re stray, so they stay on straight hold for a certain amount of time. And then if they’re not claimed by an owner or anyone, then they end up going to a rescue, or even a society, or a shelter.

How many strays would you say that you guys have coming into your facility? It just depends. Sometimes we can have maybe 30 dogs in our facility. We don’t have a large facility. We have about 30 kennels for dogs, and we have about 40 kennels for cats. So it just depends this past Monday, actually, we had 13 dogs in our facility. And actually, all those 13 dogs got called by rescues in the same day. And it depends also to the time of the year it is. Right now, with it being colder weather, we don’t see as many cats. I think we’ve seen more dogs just because with the weather getting cold, sometimes they’re out more. But cats, we see a big influx in the spring/summer time because of kitten season and everything. We can have up to 40 cats in this building at one time, which is a lot of cats. Yeah. And we do our best. If the animal is microchipped, the goal is to get it back to the owner, of course, that’s in the long run. We hope to get it back to where it belongs. Unfortunately, for a lot of the animals that come in here they don’t end up back with the owner. But we do try to get them back to where they belong.

Another thing that I, kind of, picked up on and it, kind of, made me curious was, what is the community like within your area, not just for the animals, but also just a community in general? Do you have a very animal loving community? I think we do, I actually lived in St. Clair County. I actually moved to Madison County not very long ago, a couple months ago. I think it’s a good animal community. I think we have a lot of support from the community. We certainly have people who want to help. We’re so close to St. Louis. So I think St. Louis has so many rescues, but over here and especially in Madison County, I mean, I think we have a tremendous support base, and I think that’s one thing that definitely helps us out. Not everybody has that support base in their community and has the number of rescues that we have. And I think that’s a huge plus for us that we have a good support base here.

Do you guys just work with rescues that our local to you guys or how far you guys usually branch out? We don’t. Before I started here, the local rescues were the main ones who pulled from us. You know, we have Metro East Humane Society, who is actually right up the hill from us.  Partners for Pets who’s not far from us. They are two main support bases and they’re both wonderful organizations. But we also have rescues that we work with. So Wisconsin, we work with them. Iowa, we work with them. And we have a lot of rescues in the Chicago area, up north, that we work with. And that’s helped us as well because we’ve been able to move animals faster and it doesn’t put so much pressure on the local rescues here. They were having to take everything that we basically were getting in and expanding and transporting. There’s just so many animals. You can’t expect somebody to take the brunt of that. We’ve really had to expand that, but everybody that we are working with has been wonderful in supporting us and helping out the animals that are here.

Does everybody in your community, kind of, know? “Hey, if we find this stray pet, we can take them to your facility?” Or what happens if an animal is found and they’re taken to, like a local shelter or rescue? I mean occasionally one of the local rescues, every now and again, will take a stray animal, and what they’ll do is they’ll contact us and let us know they have it. They’ll keep it the stray hold time and then once the stray hold is up, then they would do the next thing, which would be adoption for that animal. But majority of the time, strays have to come through us just because we’re in animal control, so everything really has to come through us. Like I said, two cities. If an animal would be found inside a city and that city has their own animal control, they can take it there. But if somebody finds something and they bring it to us, then we will hold it for it’s stray hold time. Or if a rescue would find something, then they’ll normally contact myself or one of the officers and say, “I found this animal. I’ll hold it for the recommended time,” and then they would adopt it out. We do everything we can to make sure that that animal, if it’s not claimed by the owner, gets that second chance and get to a rescue to be adopted out. I think mentality is changing. I think some people still see animal control in a negative light, but I really think that so many animal controls have gone with the no-kill and are really trying to change the way people view them. You’re absolutely right. I think that animal control doesn’t always get the right light shined on them, per se.

So I love that you brought that up because people do things like that. “Hey, if I take it to animal shelter or animal control, we don’t know what’s gonna happen. Are they gonna kill that pet? But if I take it to a rescue, they’ll adopt it out.” Animal control does more than I think that people think they do. I think it’s great that you had mentioned that because you guys are doing great work and you guys are still loving on those animals, and trying to find a home. And, you know, my officers and staff, they work with these animals 24/7 on a daily basis. They’re here Monday through Friday and then Saturday and Sunday, so they really, really get to know them. And that helps, too, because then it helps me with evaluations and stuff on who’s good to go to a rescue or who would be a good candidate for this rescue or whatever. So it’s a total team effort. I mean, everybody plays a huge role in helping us get these animals where they need to be.

Do your officers. Are they the only ones that interact with these animals? Do you guys have volunteers that come in? We don’t have a volunteer program that’s still, kind of, in the works. We are talking about that, but because we are an animal control, it’s a little bit harder because we don’t know these animals when they come in, we wouldn’t want anybody to get hurt. But we do actually have a foster program, our foster program’s not huge. It’s still new, but we do have a couple of fosters, who are dedicated to us and who have really been very helpful in taking mama kittens or that sort of thing. That’s been a huge help to us, so they don’t have to stay here. They can go to a foster until a rescue is found.

So how do you guys go about playing with animals? Taking them for walks? Those four officers that, kind of, do the enrichment programs with the animals to, kind of, keep him occupied while they’re in your care? What’s different about our facility is it’s an older facility. It was built in the 1960’s. It changed a little bit where we have outdoor areas for the animals. Right now, we don’t have any of that. So the only way our animals get out is if we bring them in our office area, which we do quite a bit. If there’s a dog back there that has been back there a while and needs a break, we will bring it in the front office and it will spend the day with us. And we’ve had dogs that have spent two weeks with us before they’ve gone to a rescue, or one of the officers will walk them around the building, that sort of thing. So we are working on changing that because we don’t have any outdoor runs. And next year, we will be able to get an outdoor play area built and our animals will be able to go outside, which would be wonderful. Then you can really horses being back in the kennel, or a dog, or cat, but a dog normally. You can see a total different reaction from being back in a kennel with other dogs. You know, it’s loud back there. You come up here, they can kind of distress, you know? I mean, it’s quiet, and sometimes you see a totally different animal vs back there. Yeah, and that kind of makes it all worthwhile.

So, Catherine, what would you say is the biggest challenge that your organization faces. I think one of the biggest challenges is the building that we are in was perfect for back a while ago. You know, back in the sixties, back in the seventies. What we’re trying to accomplish, I think now, and holding onto these animals for a longer period of time, they’re not being put down. I think it hinders us on some of the stuff that we can do. Like, for instance, I would love to do an adoption program for us. I think we would benefit greatly from it. It would also help us, I think, move the animals quicker. You know, we get people all the time that call us and say, “can I adopt this dog or can I adopt this cat?” And the answer is no, because we don’t have the policies for that in place. But we also don’t have a place where we can house those animals separate from stray animals that come in. We don’t want to spread anything that would be, to a possible adaptable animal versus a stray coming right in off the street. So I think one of the biggest challenges is changing the building.

And that, kind of, leads me into my next question is, what does the future look like for your organization? So clearly you have that vision. You want an adoption program? You want to be able to provide more for your community. You definitely have that vision and that overall, this is what we want and you’re absolutely right. A building can affect that because it does. If you don’t have the space or the resources that you need to operate that. That plays a big thing. It’s not silly at all. It is the issue. You know, you can’t do a lot of things in a building that you could if you had gotten a bigger building that has more space. Correct. And, you know, one time this was perfect, but it doesn’t fit our needs anymore. We’re changing and, you know, I mean, with the no-kill movement and everything. When I see bigger things for Madison County Animal Control, I see an adoption program, and I see more out of state rescue’s pulling from us, a volunteer program, and with all of that comes expansion, you know, things will have to change. I love that and I think that that is a great mindset to have.

You know, when I took this job, my whole thing was, you know, how can we help these animals that have no voice? You know, without any of us, what would happen to them? So my passion is animals, and I try to do everything I can to make sure they get that second chance. And they’re not just discarded and not wanted, but we get some absolutely amazing dogs and cats in here. I mean, it’s unbelievable, and most of them come into strays. And I think a lot of people, you know, don’t always think that at an animal control. But the majority of the rescues around this area, you know, they’re pulling from animal controls and they’re pulling from us. So you adopt that dog out, it started here. You know, it started at an animal control, so yeah. Yeah, and that ties into the great work that animal control is doing. People don’t realize that some shelters and rescues are pulling from you guys and just cause you’re animal control doesn’t really make it any worse or anything of that matter. Exactly. You guys are seen in a bad light. It’s a team effort, we’re all trying to do the same thing. We’re all trying to achieve the same goal. We all have to work together. And I think this community and the rescues around here and the ones that we work with out of state, and up near Chicago I think, you know, we all–we’re all trying for the same thing. And I think we’ve done really well working as a team. So I mean, I think we’re all trying to achieve the same thing. You’re right! We’re all working towards the same goal and how we get there, whether we work together, it’s gonna happen. So yes.

So I love that you’ve been able to, kind of, share your knowledge and what you guys are doing there because, like I said, you guys are a different type of organization. You guys do not run the same as a rescue or a shelter. So I love that and if some of our listeners or anybody in your community, if they need to get in contact with you guys or they find a stray, how can they go about getting in contact with you guys? So we have information on our website, which the website is actually, if they go to Madison County, the actual Madison County Web Page. We do have information, we list of all of our animals that come into our facility. They would see an animal. They can always give us a call or we have our own Facebook page, which I actually run. So I get a lot of people who Facebook message me or that sort of thing. And we’ll send me something and say, “You know, I think you have my animal.” We’re here Monday through Friday, 9:30 to 4:00, and then we also have an officer on call for emergency situations. So in the evenings and on the weekends when we are not open.

I’m kind of curious about one more thing. How did you guys go about verifying that this is somebody’s pet when they contact you? The majority of the animals that we get back home are microchipped. That is one thing that I would recommend if we do get an animal in here that belongs to someone that is not microchipped, that animal leaves with a microchip. Just because if it were to come back, which we have some animals that are repeat offenders that do see us more than one time. You know, we can say, you know, it’s microchipped. It goes back to this person, but normally and if somebody’s looking for their animal, we’ll ask for, you know, did it have a collar on? Did it have this type of marking? But normally if somebody’s calling in here, they see it on our Web page. They’ll give us the I.D. number to that animal. They know so much about the animal, you know, they pretty common that we have that person’s animal because they have so much information already. Picking up an animal at an animal control, we do have fees that go along with that. So, like stray running at large or that sort of thing. That’s a whole another avenue. But there is normally, and if the animal’s not vaccinated, it has to leave here with a rabies vaccination and microchipping. So I mean, there is normally a charge when you do pick up your animal. I mean, we do have the cases where sometimes it would be a certain circumstance where maybe somebody can’t afford it or something, and we’ll work that out. But there’s fees that go along with that with picking up an animal. And that’s news to me, too. I did not know that. I did not know that there was fees and everything, but it does make sense because you don’t want this to happen again. So clearly you want a microchip. Right.

I love that your term “repeat offenders.” People don’t realize that microchipping is so important like, I even have a family member. “Why do I need a microchip my cat? My cat stays indoors all the time”, and it’s like, “Okay, well, I know from experience. My cat sometimes likes to try and go out the door when you’re walking in. That’s all it takes.” Exactly. And, you know, I have kept my own, too. And, you know, they wear collars. They have their name on the collar. They have the rabies tag on, all that. I mean, if it’s not microchipped, because I know not everybody likes to do that, at least have some type of identification on. It’s just so it’s easy. Sometimes we get animals in here, and I’m sure that people are missing them, but they don’t know there’s no way for us to trace that back. So, unfortunately. Right, they don’t know where they’re at. Right, and unfortunately, that animal is not gonna get back to them. I mean, it’s gonna go somewhere. It’s gonna go to a rescue. But if we could get it back home, that’s always our goal.

So that’s basically the main thing is to our listeners, microchip your pets. Overall, that’s so important. If you want your pet to come back to you, microchip your pet. Well, Katherine, I’ve enjoyed talking to you, and like I said, I love learning about what you guys are doing over there. It’s so different, you know, and I know that animal control is everywhere. But it’s nice to be able to talk to you and about the great work that you guys are doing, as you know, opposed to a rescue or shelter. ‘Cause you guys are just as important and you guys are doing just as important things. And I’ve enjoyed talking to you. Is there anything else that you’d like to share before we wrap things up today? I’m so honored that we were able to talk and that you recognized us, as you know, shelter of the week. It’s quite an accomplishment for us, so I’m very excited. This was wonderful. One thing I would say is just to the listeners out there, please, if you can try to always choose adoption, just because there’s so many wonderful animals out there that are looking for homes and I’m a huge proponent of that, just because of what I do and what I see on a daily basis, you know, there’s so many animals out there that want that second chance and should get that second chance. So always think about that when you’re looking for an animal. Thank you so much, Katherine. Yeah, thank you. Take care.

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