The Animal Control—Citizen’s Advisory Board had its first meeting on Wednesday, setting the stage for a citizen-led review of the Dodge County Humane Society’s contract with the city.
The board was formed during a special Fremont City Council meeting on May 6 in response to citizen complaints regarding the Dodge County Humane Society and its services provided under the city’s animal control contract.
During the meeting, Councilmember Susan Jacobus said the board was brought forward due to a “series of unfortunate events that have been re-occurring.”
“For whatever reason, this has failed to reach the council,” she said during the meeting. “Since some of us have been involved in this for many years, we have had repeated input from the public about concerns and discussions.”
The board was created to research, investigate, document and make recommendations to the city council regarding citizen complaints and potential state law and city municipal code violations.
Several citizen complaints were made during the meeting regarding operations at DCHS. Those complaints ranged from animal welfare to failure to respond to pick up animals and roadkill.
Several humane society employees refuted claims made by the public during the meeting.
Included in the report submitted by the council was a petition with 1,100 signatures from Fremont residents asking for an investigation into DCHS.
The Citizen Advisory Board consists of eight members, all recommended by city council members. Those members are: Julie Kempenar, Mike Semrad, Roxie Kracl, Quinn Eaton, Danielle Platt, Tricia Homan, Shawn Shanahan and Rebecca Pence.
The initial meeting was largely introductory. The board elected Shanahan as chairperson of the board, Eaton as vice-chairperson and Semrad as secretary.
It also took the first steps to compile records and information from DCHS, the city and the state to begin the review process.
Board members unanimously supported a motion that would allow City Attorney Molly Moberg Miller to obtain information regarding DCHS’s contract on behalf of the city.
Board members also supported a motion introduced by Semrad to obtain information and documents. He asked that the board submit any documents including any limitation to the city code, any ideas from the city as to applicable state and federal statutes and anything outside of the city that may be applicable to DCHS under the state department of agriculture.
He also requested receiving additional citizen complaints not included in the city council packet during its special meeting in May. Some complaints and emails were not included in the final packet presented to the council because publishing permission was not received.
Moberg Miller said there isn’t a record of that information that wasn’t published.
“If we didn’t have the permission from that person to publish it, we didn’t publish it,” she said.
Semrad also asked for clarification on city positions listed in the municipal code that referenced an animal control officer and animal control authority.
Moberg Miller said she didn’t believe those positions are currently filled, as the city’s contract with DCHS covers those positions.
“I don’t know that the city employs an actual animal control officer,” she said. “I think that’s what this contract was intended to do, that the humane society is allowed to act as animal control under the authority of the police department. If police looks in and believes that this is something that we need to do, then the police department has the authority to step in.”
Eaton also introduced a motion asking for property, personnel and financial records during the past five years from DCHS.
“I don’t want to punt this over to the next meeting,” he said.
Platt seconded his motion, which the board unanimously approved.
The board also took time to discuss each member’s objective for the board moving forward.
Kracl said she hopes to create a smoother road moving forward between the city and DCHS.
“It seems like every few years we go through somebody getting their feathers ruffled and it just gets so ugly,” she said. “For me, as a citizen, I feel like I can’t even go into DCHS to donate because of everything that is going on. I guess I’d just like to have some clear paths on what to look for going into the future.”
Eaton said one of the board’s first steps needs to be identifying crucial allegations and incidents regarding DCHS in order to perform a “fact-finding function.”
“I only briefly reviewed large packet of information from the special council meeting, but from what I saw in there, there are some allegations, some of which may not be relevant to our scope here but some here particularly regarding mistreatment of animals, if substantiated, certainly could affect whether DCHS is providing competent animal control services under the contract,” he said.
Homan said her goal is to be a voice for both the animals and citizens of the Fremont community.
“My objective is to be a voice for the animals to make sure they are treated right and for the citizens of Fremont as well regarding their own animals and issues that they may have,” she said.