MORTON — With their grief still fresh, members of a Morton family have hired a Springfield lawyer to pursue legal action against Tazewell County Animal Control for accidentally euthanizing their dog.
The Wang family rescued their dog Moses from a kill shelter in Cincinnati six years ago when the family lived in Ohio.
But they couldn't rescue the German Shepherd-lab mix from a mistake made at the Tazewell County Animal Control shelter in Tremont.
Moses was accidentally euthanized Aug. 9 at the shelter during a 10-day bite quarantine required by state law after Moses bit a maintenance worker Aug. 3. The worker came into the Wang family backyard in Morton unannounced.
"I don't care if we don't get a cent because of what happened to Moses. That's not our focus," Tony Wang said. "We want the person who euthanized Moses to be disciplined, and make sure this never happens to another family."
The Wang family was not present when Moses was euthanized. They learned what happened to their dog through a phone call from the shelter. Moses was placed in quarantine after the Wangs called Tazewell County Animal Control following the biting incident.
Wang says his 6-year-old son, Kellan, misses Moses.
"We got Moses when Kellan was a few months old. They grew up together," Wang said.
Kellan is a first-grader at Jefferson Elementary School in Morton. He started the new school year Wednesday. Tony Wang and his wife, Jennifer, are expecting their second child in January.
Stephen Hedinger is the attorney who is representing the Wang family. He's been a member of the Illinois State Bar Association's Animal Law Section council for several years and served as chair two years ago.
Hedinger said he's been involved in a wide variety of cases involving animals including abuse and ownership cases and "actions against governmental actors for unnecessarily killing family pets."
What actions will be taken by the Wang family and their attorney against Tazewell County Animal Control haven't been determined.
"This is a situation that cries out for justice," Hedinger said. "Any objective observer can see that what happened never should have occurred. What will justice look like? We don't know yet. We're reviewing and evaluating our options."
One action he will take, Hedinger said, is notifying investigatory and disciplinary bodies about the case.
He said he's already sent an email to Tazewell County Animal Control requiring it retain all records about the case.
Tazewell County Animal Control issued a statement last week admitting that a dog being held for a 10-day bite quarantine had been mistakenly euthanized.
"Tazewell County truly regrets this error. Tazewell County will be reviewing policies and procedures to prevent any such occurrence from happening in the future," the statement read.
Ryan Sanders, Tazewell Animal Animal Control director, said Friday he can't comment further because of pending litigation.
While the legal issue over Moses' death begins to unfold, Tony Wang said he's trying to keep his emotions in check.
"I'm so mad sometimes," he said. "Moses should have been out of the shelter Monday. That was the end of his 10-day quarantine. Instead, he came home that day in an urn."
Tony Wang works at Pekin Insurance at its headquarters in Pekin. He said his employer has been supportive during his family's ordeal.
"My manager assumed I would stay home from work (the day after Moses was euthanized)," he said. "But I had to go in to work. My manager texted me from the office to see how I was doing, and I was there."