Animal control dispute causes protesters to growl
By Jan Larsen For The Herald-News March 17, 2012 11:46PM
Protester Yvonne Polenc pets Lola a pitbull during a demonstration outside the Joliet Township Animal Control in Joliet, Illinois, Saturday, March 17, 2012. Lola was pulled from the Animal Control facility before paper work was ready for its adoption and those who now own her think they probably saved the dogs life. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 19, 2012 8:42AM
Angry animal lovers picketed the Joliet Township Animal Control at the intersection of McDonough Street and Infantry Drive from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday to protest the firing of longtime worker Bryan Jones.
At 11:30 a.m., only about eight picketers had gathered, but the numbers bloomed to about 30 as protest coordinator Yvonne Polenc of Joliet urged chanters to come up with slogans to shout at passing cars. Several people carried posters that purported to show feces in cages and other animal neglect at the facility.
Passers-by honked to show their support, while other people came with their dogs for a low-cost vaccination clinic scheduled that day.
One thing is certain. Neither Bryan Jones, who has worked for the facility for 14 years before being fired for “insubordination” Thursday, or the beleaguered director, Sarah Gimbel, thought it would snowball into this big of a dogfight.
Less certain is who is right and who is wrong.
Has the facility, touted for its renovation, website, higher volunteer base, Facebook fans and increased adoption rates, improved under Gimbel’s direction?
Jones and fellow longtime animal control officer Stephen Fix admire her marketing acumen, but say she doesn’t understand animals. Two former volunteers and a former worker on the picket line agreed with Fix and Jones that the facility is sometimes dirty and dogs and cats can go too long without water. Fix and Jones say they don’t trust other employees with making decisions on which animals are saved and which must be put down.
The fight started when Jones took home a stray Chihuahua, labeled a possible biter, because he didn’t trust the dog would still be there after he took some comp time, even though Gimbel promised it would be. He was ordered to return it and would not.
“I guess I got fed up,” he said.
At Tuesday’s packed and raucous township meeting, he brought a dead kitten to the meeting to illustrate lack of care.
Gimbel and a different volunteer say the facility is consistently clean and dogs and cats don’t go thirsty or hungry.
It’s apparent one tiny dog is not the only bone of contention. Staff and volunteers have taken animals home before adopting them in the past. Andy Ivnicky was in charge of the facility for more than 15 years before being demoted a year and a half ago, then fired last fall. Township lawyer Franklin Burkey has been quoted as saying some employees “can’t make the transition” to the facility becoming “first-class.” Yet Gimbel praised both Jones’ and Fix’ experiential knowledge.
The battle of words is expected to continue March 27 at the next township meeting. Some unrest is attributed to Supervisor Dan Vera, who hired Gimbel a year and a half ago and insisted Jones be fired.
“I can’t believe how arrogant Mr. Vera” has been at past meetings, said former volunteer Monica Kowalski. “He treats us like we’re crazy animal lovers.”