Board votes to fire Ingham County Animal Control director, ask for criminal investigation
LANSING – The two top leadership positions at Ingham County Animal Control are vacant after the director was fired Tuesday and the deputy director opted to retire.
The Ingham County Board of Commissioners emerged from a three-hour closed session on Tuesday night and voted to fire John Dinon as director of the agency. Deputy Director Anne Burns had already informed the county she was retiring, effective July 30, officials said.
Commissioners also voted to have investigative reports about the shelter sent to law enforcement for a possible criminal investigation.
Those moves followed a Michigan Humane Society investigation that found some dogs received inadequate medical care while under the shelter’s care, along with a flurry of complaints that the agency was beset by ineffective leadership and poor morale.
Board members met after receiving an investigative report on shelter operations from Controller Tim Dolehanty. They agreed to publish the document to the county’s website on Wednesday morning.
Dinon attended Tuesday’s special meeting but left before it was over.
“I am so happy to see that we will be moving forward, and hopefully, we can get some good people to run this shelter,” said Christy Lawrence, who co-founded a group that campaigned for a leadership change at the county shelter. “There are a lot of qualified people who would be able to step up immediately.”
The board voted to suspend Dinon and Burns with pay during its regular meeting last week. On Tuesday, it voted 9-4 to fire Dinon, with Commissioners Teri Banas, Carol Koenig, Randy Schafer and Deb Nolan opposed and Dennis Louney absent.
A motion to forward the internal report and the Humane Society investigation to law enforcement passed on a 7-6 vote. Commissioners also agreed to send those reports to the state Board of Veterinary Medicine regarding shelter veterinarian Karen Worthington.
Some of those who voted to terminate Dinon said problems at the shelter are so pervasive that the agency is losing public trust and support. Two of those who voted no said Dinon should have a chance to improve his performance.
Dinon was hired to lead the department in 2015, having previously been the outreach and engagement director for the U.S. Humane Society in Toledo, Ohio. Burns was the director of Livingston County Animal Control from 1998 until she was fired in 2010. Livingston County officials never released the reason she was fired.
Animal Control is now being managed by Kate Turner, the shelter’s customer service and community outreach manager.
On Aug. 6, an Ingham County Sheriff’s sergeant will take over as interim director until the board can appoint a new interim director, county officials said Wednesday in a news release. After that, Turner will serve as deputy director, officials said
The sergeant’s name was not released.
The Board of Commissioners will assemble a committee to find a permanent Animal Control director.
Dolehanty and the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development (MDARD) began investigating Ingham County Animal Control after the Humane Society issued a report that found five dogs seized in a dogfighting investigation were improperly cared for. The MDARD investigation is still underway.
The Humane Society also found problems with record-keeping, monitoring long-term court cases and what it called a lack of written procedures for some shelter operations.
After the report was released, Dinon acknowledged there were problems with reporting and documentation and pledged to make changes.
Lawrence, of East Lansing, co-founded Advocates for Reform at the Ingham County Animal Shelter, which she said has about 50 members. Lawrence said she’d welcome a criminal investigation.
The Humane Society report detailed “horrific atrocities” at the shelter but was “less than comprehensive,” she said.