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Thursday, July 31, 2014 12:01 am

Board member’s dogs attack

A history of impoundments

The vet bill for Bella Abzug, left, came to $700 after the pooch was bitten by dogs owned by a member of the Sangamon County citizens advisory board on animal control.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF CHRISTINE GROVES
A member of the Sangamon County citizens advisory board on animal control has been repeatedly caught allowing unaltered dogs to run loose with no proof of rabies vaccination. At least one of her dogs may be declared dangerous following an unprovoked attack on a dog and a Springfield woman.

On June 26, Christine Groves was walking Bella, her dachshund-beagle-chihuahau mix, at the intersection of Lincoln and Ash streets when two dogs owned by animal control board member Sheryle Henry attacked. One of the two dogs was unleashed, according to Groves and a Leland Groves police report. The other was being walked by a man identified as Henry’s brother, and witnesses reported that he had to repeatedly kick one of the dogs, which resembled a pit bull, to end the attack. The dogs were bull terriers, according to animal control records, that each weigh more than 40 pounds.

“This wasn’t a bite, this was a mauling – Bella weighs 20 pounds,” Groves said. “These dogs are not family pets. I thought they were pit bulls. She (Henry) has never contacted me. Early on, this would have been ‘I’m so sorry, let me pay your vet bill.’ But that is not what has happened. … When I sue her, it’s going to be ‘Sheryle Henry, animal control board member’ on the lawsuit.”

Henry submitted a written statement to Illinois Times, saying that her dogs are purebred English bull terriers and that a relative with mental issues entered her home while she was gone and walked her dogs without permission. She said her dogs were provoked, although she acknowledged having no firsthand knowledge of the incident.

Bella is recovering from bite wounds – the veterinarian bill came to $700. Groves suffered minor bites on her hands when she tried rescuing Bella, whose last name is Abzug. A witness to the attack followed the man who had been walking the culprits to Henry’s home, where he saw the man put the dogs in the home and drive away with an unidentified woman. Sangamon County animal control subsequently confiscated the dogs and quarantined them to ensure they did not have rabies. One of the dogs, Dottie, did have proof of vaccination but the other, Pompeii, did not and so was vaccinated before being released to Henry, who paid $995 to get her dogs back, records indicate.

It was not Henry’s first visit to animal control, where records show that Pompeii had been impounded at least four times after being found running loose prior to the attack on Bella. On at least one prior occasion, in April of 2011, Pompeii was given a rabies vaccination after impoundment when animal control officials found no proof of vaccination. Animal control officials eventually required Henry to spay Pompeii, and the procedure was completed in the spring of 2013, after the fourth time the dog was picked up.

In her written statement, Henry says that her dogs twice escaped while left in the care of friends.

“Perhaps because they were agitated as a result of being away from me, these dogs escaped from the yards they were in by jumping fences,” Henry wrote.

The vet bill for Bella Abzug, left, came to $700 after the pooch was bitten by dogs owned by a member of the Sangamon County citizens advisory board on animal control.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF CHRISTINE GROVES

 

The state’s attorney’s office may get involved.

“We are waiting for all the information from animal control, which we do not have at this point,” said state’s attorney John Milhiser. “However, animal control has indicated to the state’s attorney’s office that they are working on making a dangerous dog determination and are going to issue ordinance violations in this case.”

In addition to run-ins with animal control, Henry, who is an office administrator for the Illinois Department of Public Health, has twice pleaded guilty to misdemeanor shoplifting charges and has also pleaded guilty to misdemeanor marijuana possession, according to Sangamon County Circuit Court records.

How does someone with sticky fingers and a history of letting her dog run loose get named to an animal control advisory committee that’s supposed to help ensure public safety? Politics.

Seven members of the advisory board must be Republicans and six must be Democrats, according to county administrator Brian McFadden. There is no formal application process, and Henry submitted a resume, he said. Following standard procedure, McFadden said, Henry’s request to be on the board, which meets quarterly and pays members $50 for each gathering, was referred to county Democratic Party chairwoman Doris Turner, who recommended approval before the county board appointed her to the position on June 10, just 16 days before Grove’s dog was attacked.

Turner did not respond to an emailed interview request. The county plans to bolster the vetting process, McFadden said.

“We’ve been made aware of the issues and the more recent allegations about what happened with her dogs,” McFadden said. “Moving forward from this point on, if we do receive a name from wherever, there’ll be a recommendation that the name be run through animal control.”

Contact Bruce Rushton at brushton@illinoistimes.com.

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