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Woodford County faces a federal lawsuit after a kitten seized by animal control was euthanized and beheaded

A gavel rests on a judge's bench in a blurry courtroom. The text "WCBU Courts" sits on top of that photo.

Woodford County faces a federal lawsuit after its former animal control administrator had a kitten killed and beheaded, allegedly in contravention of state law.

Animal Control Administrator Tim Abney was fired by the county board Monday night following a lengthy executive session.

Abney, Woodford County Board chairman John Krug, and Associated Veterinary Clinic are named in the lawsuit filed by Sarah Keim on Monday in U.S. District Court in Peoria.

The kitten, Kiki, was living in the Razor Zone salon in Eureka as a "companion animal" after it was rescued by Keim in January.

The lawsuit alleges Abney came to the salon on March 23 and claimed the kitten bit someone, and needed to be killed immediately and tested for rabies at the University of Illinois.

At the salon, Abney was shown paperwork documenting the kitten was seen by a veterinarian on March 12 to start vaccinations, and was scheduled for a follow-up appointment on April 17, the lawsuit said.

He reportedly told employees in the Razor Zone that the cat was "gone" and ran his finger across his throat. He said the cat needed to be tested for rabies because the bite victim could die.

State law says an apparently healthy cat must be quarantined and observed for 10 days following a biting incident to determine if it transmitted rabies. If the cat is still healthy after 10 days, the animal is in the clear for rabies.

Instead, Abney immediately took it to the Associated Veterinary Clinic in Washington to have it euthanized and beheaded. Abney reportedly told the clinic that Kiki was a stray, and he certified the animal hadn't bitten anyone in the last 10 days and wasn't exposed to rabies.

The head was then sent to the U of I for testing. The clinic said the head was submitted due to an unprovoked bite, and said it was approved by the Woodford County Health Department, the lawsuit claims.

At the Woodford County Board meeting on Monday, Razor Zone owner Shannon Shreffler said Abney's behavior was "unethical and ill-mannered."

"When he came in, he didn't give us an option B. Kiki was already at the vet once starting her kitten vaccinations. There was no cause for concern. She was an indoor kitten for 5 1/2 weeks straight, no outdoor exposure," she said. "Worst case scenario, Kiki should have been placed in a 10-day quarantine to make sure she was okay."

After the kitten was euthanized in Washington, the lawsuit alleged Abney returned to the salon in Eureka, told Keim he took the cat to Champaign, and said he would need a check to cover the costs of antibiotics for the bite victim — reportedly less than $10.

The lawsuit also says that Abney is not a veterinarian, and therefore by law, any medical decisions should have been made by a deputy administrator who was a veterinarian, but a vet was never appointed as a deputy administrator.

Keim said she found out on March 24 that Kiki was never taken to the U of I. A bite report also wasn't filed with Woodford County, and the state's attorney's office said it had no knowledge of the case despite Abney reportedly claiming he had "run this by" the county's top prosecutor.

The case was investigated by the Eureka Police Department and forwarded to Woodford County State's Attorney Greg Minger to review for potential charges. As of Wednesday, no charges were filed.

Woodford County will hold an emergency board meeting next Monday to designate a temporary animal control fix following Abney's firing.

Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.