June 16, 2010

11 protest Racine humane society's annual meeting, call for ouster of top officials

Eric Marcus and protestors outside Countryside Humane Society's annual meeting on Wednesday. 

Eleven people protested Countryside Humane Society's annual meeting Wednesday outside of Racine County's Ives Grove office complex. 

The group carried signs with phrases like "In-Humane Society" and called for the resignation of Countryside Board President Marilyn Bensen and  Executive Director Jennifer Jakes. 

Eric Marcus, a Racine City Council member and spokesman for the protesters, said the shelter's use of expired vaccinations is part of a lack of experienced management in the organization. Countryside is under fire for issuing more than 600 expired vaccinations to animals over a five month period. The shelter admitted to the mistake and is offering clinics to re-vaccinate animals who received the outdated shots.

Experts said the expired vaccinations likely are still effective, but Marcus said the state won't recognize dog licenses with the out-of-date vaccinations. So, many pets will need a second round of vaccinations, which could harm animals, he said. 

Countryside turned people away from its annual meeting (photo-right) on Wednesday, saying access was limited to the organization's members. Shelter officials were not available for comment after the board meeting, and Bensen was not available by phone Wednesday. 

Countryside is facing a crusading foe in Marcus, who said he's already researched ways to reorganize the shelter. Marcus already convinced the City Council to send its animal control contract out for bid next year, a step the city hasn't taken in at least five years because Countryside is really the only provider in the area. 

He's now talking about organizing officials in Racine County's 18 communities - all contract with Countryside - to consider a new organization managed by outside contractors.

One option that doesn't appear to be on the table is working with Kenosha's Safe Harbor shelter, which Marcus credited with running a solid organization. 

"Safe Harbor in Kenosha hires experienced managers; Countryside doesn't," he said "Safe Harbor in Kenosha is an example of a compassionate shelter; Countryside isn't."

Safe Harbor officials rebuffed the idea of expanding into Racine County, Marcus said. 

Along with protesting Countryside, the group also called on the City of Racine to release records it has on Countryside. Environmental Health Director Marcia Fernholz sat on Countryside's board and had information about the organization, but the city won't turn over the information, Marcus said.  

"She only sat on the board to represent the city," he said. "She should release those records." 

Treatment of animals is a personal issue to Marcus. He runs the Woofdorf Astoria kennel in Racine and owns seven dogs. His dogs include a 13-year-old American Spitz that is a diabetic; he has to test it and give it shots twice a day. And he has six Shi-tzus rescued from a puppy mill in Green Bay. 

Racine regulations only allow three animals in a home unless the homeowner has a "Pet Fancier's Permit," which Marcus says he has. With the permit you are allowed up to seven animals.