Thursday, October 22, 2009

County board mulls over animal control

Bill Grimes

If there’s one thing Effingham County residents don’t agree upon, it’s how the county board should proceed on a lingering animal control issue.

Despite a 2 1/2 hour board meeting Monday that was punctuated with a number of opposing views, the board wasn’t able to provide State’s Attorney Ed Deters with a whole lot of guidance on several pending issues related to animal control — particularly the alleged hoarding that has generated complaints from several people in a Lake Sara-area subdivision in rural Effingham.

“Ed, we’re not helping you at all,” said board Chairwoman Carolyn Willenburg. “I don’t know what the answer is.”

Board members did agree higher fines should be part of an amended animal control ordinance but said a zero-tolerance policy about animals running loose, even in farm areas, should not be considered...

But board members and private citizens alike agonized over the issue of how many animals is too many. The Illinois Animal Control Act prohibits hoarding of “companion animals,” but does not list a number of animals one must have to be considered a hoarder...

Board member Mark Percival suggested a hoarding provision would be an undue burden on animal control personnel.

“The county has many things to do besides count cats,” Percival said. “Covenants could be placed in each subdivision.”

But several neighbors of Calvin Myatt, who is accused of owning up to 160 cats at his Lake Sara-area home, said Myatt’s cats have caused a problem in their neighborhood. Several residents of the Nees Subdivision on the north shore of the lake have expressed frustration with the inability of anybody to do something about the cats, which they claim create smell and disease issues in their area.

“You can’t sit in my yard without smelling it,” said Jamie Sidwell, who lives down the street from the Myatts. “Having more than 100 cats is wrong.”

County animal control officers and Illinois Department of Ag officials, who have visited the Myatt property, claim Myatt’s cats are cared for and say he is not in violation of the state hoarding statute, which is unclear in its description of what constitutes hoarding..."