A dog-eat-dog-world out there

Evan Hessel

Following complaints by some aldermen of animal problems in their wards, City Council voted against a proposed cut to the Animal Control Department budget, ensuring the retention of one of two full-time animal control employees.

Animal Warden Linda Teckler, a city employee of 27 years, will keep her job despite the nearly $4 million deficit in Evanston’s budget. City Manager Roger Crum originally suggested cutting Teckler’s position in his budget proposal released in early December.

The council is scheduled to vote on a final budget by the end of February.

Teckler worried about the future of the Animal Control Department if her position were to be eliminated.

“My concern is that we’ve been running short-staffed for years,” Teckler said. “Skokie doesn’t have the animal problems we do and they still have three full-time employees.”

Chief Animal Warden Bill Andrews said the elimination of Teckler’s position would put a major strain on the department, increasing his workload and making his job much more difficult.

“When you’re trying to catch a dog, it helps to have one person chase it and another catch it,” Andrews said.

Teckler’s job includes responding to calls from residents, writing tickets and taking care of stray animals. It is the second highest-ranking position in the animal control department.

Maureen Barry, assistant to the city manager, said animal control is a bonus for the city.

“We looked through areas where we could cut funding and decided this is an area,” Barry said. “Animal control is an extra service that Evanston provides that most other cities don’t provide.”

Ald. Ann Rainey (8th), a proponent of maintaining the current animal control staff, motioned to strike Teckler’s position from the proposed cuts at Saturday’s meeting. Only Ald. Edmund Moran (6th) opposed the motion. The council’s decision to keep both wardens came after several aldermen expressed concerns about animal problems in their wards.

Rainey proposed cutting a part-time position, noting if a warden’s position were cut, police would have to handle more animal problems.

Ald. Joseph Kent (5th) said that animal control’s handling of stray dogs is an invaluable service to the city and that outside contractors could not provide the same level of service as the current animal wardens.

“The speed with which they respond to a call and deal with a problem is just amazing,” Kent said.

The question of how the city would pay Teckler’s salary sparked another debate within the council. Rainey suggested the city use a recent $36,700 grant to cover the second warden’s position.

The grant was willed to the city for the general purpose of benefitting the Evanston Animal Shelter, Crum said.

Ald. Edmund Moran (6th) opposed using the grant to pay for employee salaries.

“If someone makes a gift like that they probably have the idea of making a long term investment in the program,” Moran said.

Linda Gelb, president of Community Animal Rescue Effort, agreed that the city should use the grant for long term improvements to the Evanston Animal Shelter, a building her organization shares with the Animal Control Department.

“The gift should really be used for something the facility needs, like better cages and new equipment,” Gelb said.

The Daily’s Susan Daker and Matt Lopas contributed to this report.