Ludlow officials believe dog case was handled correctly

LUDLOW — Village officials say a case involving a stray dog that was captured after 3 1/2 weeks on the run was handled correctly.
A neighbor of the dog’s owner disagrees.

Jennifer Baize, who lives across Thomas Street from the woman whose fenced-in yard the dog (Patches) escaped from, said it wasn’t until she contacted news personnel that the village began paying attention to the situation.

Police Chief Joe Navarro said the case had been turned over to Animal Control, which finally captured Patches Jan. 23.

“I’m not happy with all of this, but I’m not sure what Animal Control’s policies are,” Baize said during an often-heated police committee meeting Thursday night.

She asked why no tickets were given to the dog’s owner, Beatrice Ortega, for allowing the dog to be loose and be kept outside in subzero weather.

Marcella Alvarez, who is Ortega’s sister and who owns Ortega’s house, said her sister rescued the dog because the previous owner wasn’t taking care of it properly.

She said the dog was kept inside for three weeks, and when it was let outside to go to the bathroom, it was lured back inside with food.

But Ortega’s heat went out, and her brother brought wood, which he stacked (to be used in a wood-burning stove) against the fence in her fenced-in yard. The dog climbed onto the wood and over the fence, refusing to come back into the house again. That started a nearly month-long chase involving Animal Control personnel before the dog was finally captured.

After Patches’ capture, Animal Control Officer Rebecca Eubig said the dog was deemed feral and unadoptable. She said it would probably be put to sleep.

The village had no say in the fate of the dog once the case was handed to Animal Control, per village contract.

Police Chief Joe Navarro said in cases of animals running loose, village ordinance allows for a warning to be issued on the first offense. If an officer then deems the owner is purposely not seeking to keep the dog on its property, a ticket can be issued.

Navarro said no warning or ticket was issued because Ortega had been trying to get the dog back into her yard.

He said on one occasion, Ortega tried to grab the dog by the collar and it bit her.

Baize disagreed with Navarro’s assessment. She said she had video of the fence not being secure.

Baize asked why village police were not initially involved.

Navarro said he was vacationing in Mexico from Dec. 31-Jan. 8.

“I was sitting on a beach in Mexico when I got a call Jan. 5” about the dog being loose, Navarro said.

He said another Ludlow police officer tried to catch it. The case was later turned over to Champaign County Animal Control

Navarro said county personnel spent hours trying to capture the animal.

“They’re equipped to deal with this. We’re not,” he said..

Baize said Animal Control was having trouble luring Patches into a live trap because neighbors were feeding it. She said when she told people to stop feeding it, the dog finally went into the trap.

She decried the fact that the dog was outside for several days when the temperature was below zero.

Baize also claimed a county sheriff’s deputy came to her house and told her to stop harassing the dog’s owner.

She also said Animal Control took the live trap away from Ortega’s property before bringing it back, which Navarro disputed.

Navarro explained the police call-out policy. He said he lives 35 minutes away from Ludlow. If someone calls the police department, he will receive a call from Champaign County METCAD. The urgency and type of the call depends on how soon and who responds, he said.

“If somebody calls me at home or I’m sitting on a beach somewhere (and hear) there’s a loose dog, it’s not a priority,” Navarro said. “Ninety-nine percent of the time the dog will go back on its own.”

This dog’s case was unique. It defied all attempts, until the end, to capture it, Navarro said.

“So many people tried to walk up to this dog,” Navarro said. “It wouldn’t come up to nobody. Basically the dog was evaluated (by Animal Control) and (deemed feral).”

Said Mayor Steve Thomas: “It looked like a dog, but inside it wasn’t a dog. It was like a wolf or a coyote.”

Village officials said Baize’s gripe appears to be with Animal Control, not village police. They urged her to complain to the county. She said she has but has gotten nowhere with Animal Control. She was then encouraged to attend a county board meeting.  

Baize said a St. Louis-based advocacy group, The Feral Companion, tried to contact Champaign County Animal Control officials, whom she said didn’t respond.

Lindsay Harmon, founder of the group, confirmed that she had attempted to contact Animal Control but said she received no response. (See related article.)

On its website, the Feral Commission said its mission is “to bring education and support to communities across the nation by providing a safe haven for feral, shy and special-needs dogs. We will work to rehabilitate and find loving homes for our wonderful companion animals.”



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