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Activists still irked at pound operations

Updated: February 7, 2012 1:34AM

Animal rights activists aren’t letting up on their push to see that dogs — and other critters — found neglected or on the loose in North Chicago — get responsible care at the city pound.

About 10 protesters showed up at a meeting of the City Council this week to press the issue. A group also protested, with signs, at a meeting on Nov. 21 after Waukegan Animal Control staffers tried to drop off an animal at the shelter at 14th Street and Rankin Avenue and found six hungry, lethargic dogs sitting in cages of caked-on feces, with no warden on duty.

It was later learned that Warden Ted McClelland had taken vacation and a scheduling mix-up ensued.

Charlie Burleson, retired Waukegan police officer and animal rescue activist, who at the council meeting in November asked Mayor Leon Rockingham to order an investigation of problems at the pound, was perturbed to learn that no investigation has been launched.

She did her own though, she said, and found that a humane educator with Libertyville-based Animal Education and Rescue had noted similar cases of neglect at the shelter in 2009 and 2010.

Burleson said that she was told by Police Chief Mike Newsome and another city staffer that there were no previous problems with neglect.

“They lied to me,” said Burleson, who blasted the department for lacking standard protocol and procedures, such as signing animals in and making note of their condition.

Newsome did not return a call seeking comment and neither did 7th Ward Alderman Charles January, who Burleson credits with taking an interest in the problem. January visited the kennel on the night of Nov. 21 and later toured the Waukegan Animal Control facility.

But Mayor Leon Rockingham said the pound, which operates under the direction of the North Chicago Police Department and is licensed through June 2012, was recently certified by the state Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Animal Health.

“They said we needed to keep better records and we do plan to make sure we comply with that, and that there will be some follow-up through our sergeants, lieutenants and the police chief,” Rockingham said.

Burleson outlined a series of steps cash-strapped North Chicago could take to ensure a healthy environment for animals, including the recruitment of volunteers, enlistment of support and advice from rescue groups, and the institution of standard operating procedures, including the daily inspection of kennels.

“And you’ve got to hold people accountable,” Burleson said.

Rockingham said that an officer was disciplined as a result of the November incident and that the city might consider outsourcing its animal control operation or partnering with Waukegan.

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