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Livingston County

PONTIAC — A former employee is criticizing a Livingston County animal shelter for changes to the animals' exercise schedule.

“My heart hurts for these dogs,” said Cathy Strait of Pontiac.

The Livingston County Humane Society is a not-for-profit animal welfare organization founded in October 1998 by Karen Gregory. Volunteers had been allowed to visit the shelter located in Rowe, a few miles northwest of Pontiac, to exercise the dogs waiting to be adopted. Last week, though, officials said changes in insurance laws led to reduced hours for that practice.

“Due to the need to adhere to local laws and regulations, combined with our limited staff availability, LCHS can currently support out-of-hours dog-walking Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3 to 6 p.m., and Saturdays from 2 to 4:30 p.m.,” said a statement on the LCHS website. “In addition to the hours above, LCHS welcomes volunteers to socialize and exercise the animals at any time during normal opening hours.”

The shelter is open noon to 4:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday and from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

Recently, officials sent a statement to the Pantagraph:

"We continue to welcome anyone during our open business hours to volunteer at the shelter socializing all the animals including walking dogs as they have done in the past. We have added additional hours for those who work during the day to walk dogs during out-of-hours dog-walking."

“The board and staff at LCHS are truly grateful for the wonderful support from the community to help us exercise and socialize the animals at the shelter,” said a message on the LCHS website. “The current group of walkers are dedicated animal lovers and we appreciate them all. We are committed to protecting our animals, our staff, and our volunteers. The schedule and guidelines we outlined are intended to improve our process and show clarity and structure for all involved.”

Strait, a former employee at LCHS, said she understands that running a shelter can be difficult, but worries about the animals' welfare.

“The new hours means the dogs could be locked up for 19 hours at a time and they are in a cage with their own urine and feces,” she said. “We just want to see some positive changes and we worry about the dogs.”

“Everybody just wants what is best for the animals, but I think we are kind of at a crossroads with the LCHS and we want some positive changes,” she said.

LCHS does not receive federal, state, or local tax money. It relies on donations, fundraising events and nominal adoption fees to fund its programs, according to its website.

Contact Kevin Barlow at (309) 820-3238. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_barlow

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Agriculture Reporter

Agriculture reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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