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3 Animal Care workers suspended for leaving dog in city van for 5 days

Missy, a shelter dog, was mistakenly left in a Chicago Animal Care and Control van.

Three employees from Chicago’s chronically troubled Commission on Animal Care and Control have been suspended for leaving a dog in a city vehicle for five days and nights after a mix-up at an adoption event last spring.

Nine months after the Better Government Association disclosed the latest example of negligence at the city’s animal welfare agency, Inspector General Joe Ferguson revealed that he was overruled after recommending disciplinary action “up to and including termination” for two of the three employees.

Instead a Commission on Animal Care and Control that has been a revolving door and an almost constant source of embarrassment for Chicago handed out lesser punishment:

  • A 20-day suspension for the Animal Care and Control employee charged with leaving the dog in the vehicle with little or no food and water after an adoption event at a Chicago Wolves hockey game at the Allstate Arena.
  • A 10-day suspension for an Animal Care and Control supervisor who appealed the punishment earlier this month.
  • Three days without pay for a third employee involved in the incident.

The Commission on Animal Care and Control, now conducting a nationwide search for a new executive director, updated its policies last summer to “more accurately track animals going to and from off-site events, Ferguson said.

“The employee later discovered the dog alive but not until a full five days and nights,” Ferguson wrote in his quarterly report released Tuesday.

“Further, the investigation revealed that a supervising . . . employee’s lack of control over the offsite adoption event contributed to the dog not being discovered for five days and nights.”

In a story that appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, the BGA reported that the April 18 adoption event allowed Chicago Wolves fans to interact with lost, stray or abandoned dogs and consider taking one home.

The event was a success with 13 of the 14 dogs adopted by somebody that night, a Saturday, or the next day.

But things didn’t turn out too well for one last dog that was caged in the ACC van outside the arena after getting a bit too anxious for a positive interaction with Wolves fans.

Missy was accidentally left by itself in a cage in an RV-style city van for the next five days, apparently with little or no food and water and temperatures at times in the 30s or 40s.

The young brown female dog, believed to be part or all pit bull, was retrieved when somebody at ACC realized the mistake.

Chicago Wolves owner Don Levin, an animal lover who is one of Animal Care and Control’s biggest benefactors, was livid about the incident.

“If it’s true, whoever did it should be fired,” Levin told the BGA, which has investigated a number of problems with the ACC, including a 2014 incident in which an employee allegedly choked a dog to death while trying to get it under control. “It’s just stupid.”

At the time, Commission spokesman Brad Powers sought to put the best possible face on the latest embarrassment.

“As soon as we learned of this incident, we immediately had our veterinarian give the dog a complete medical examination, which found no health issues. The medical staff will continue to monitor the dog,” Powers said at the time.

“We take this seriously because it is completely unacceptable and not in keeping with the level of care we expect our employees to provide. We immediately initiated an investigation of this matter and referred it to the Inspector General. … While preliminarily this appears to be an accident, nothing like this has ever happened before and we are committed to ensuring it never happens again.”

Ferguson’s quarterly report also recounted the IG investigation that culminated in the Chicago Police Board’s decision to fire officer Jose Velez.

Velez was accused of committing perjury and obstruction of justice for allegedly writing false reports about the 2010 arrest of a man for criminal possession of heroin, then providing false sworn testimony at the preliminary hearing and bench trial.

“The officer’s official reports and testimony were refuted by a private security video that recorded the events at issue,” Ferguson wrote. “The arrestee, who was acquitted, later filed a federal civil rights action against the city and the officer, which the city settled for $99,000.”

The Police board sustained the charges and approved the Police Department’s decision to fire Velez on Nov. 19. The officer subsequently filed a lawsuit seeking to reverse the discharge.