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Article updated: 11/28/2012 2:41 PM

Longtime cat rescuer facing fines for South Elgin activity

By Tara García Mathewson

A South Elgin woman who fell into running a feline rescue by accident 30 years ago is facing fines and a December court date if she doesn't stop what she is doing.

Carol Schultz started Guardian Angels Feline Rescue as an employee of the South Elgin Police Department. She found out feral cats were being taken to a local gravel pit and used for target practice and resolved to do better. She focused on trapping, neutering and releasing the feral cats at first but shifted to finding homes for friendly cats whose owners dumped them when that became more of a problem.

Schultz started winding down her operations early in 2011, tired of the work and ready to focus on her own health issues. But when people drop off animals on her front lawn, she feels like she has no choice but to help them.

With 10 cats left in her garage, Schultz is due in South Elgin court at 9 a.m. Dec. 8 in the village board room, 10 N. Water St., because she is violating the zoning ordinance prohibiting animal shelters in a residential area.

Schultz is surprised by the timing of the complaint, but claims she never ran a shelter, just a cat rescue.

"People would make donations but I never charged adoption fees or did anything the actual shelters did because I wasn't an actual shelter," Schultz said.

The retired woman said she maintained licenses with the county, state and department of agriculture to trap cats and euthanize them if she saw fit. Those licenses are separate from the ones needed to run a shelter.

But in South Elgin, her definitions don't really count.

The village code defines a shelter as "the grooming and non-veterinary care of domesticated animals weighing less than 150 pounds." Enforcement happens largely on a complaint-based system where issues are investigated after being brought to the attention of the police or code departments.

Schultz's cat rescue was publicized after a Pepsi grant contest in late 2010 in which she was forced to give back the $50,000 award amid allegations of illegitimate online voting.

Code Enforcement officer Frank Altmaier said the problem with Schultz is strictly based on the zoning violation of running an animal shelter in a residential district.

"We have our definition and we're just enforcing our ordinances," Altmaier said.

Schultz is hoping to get the last 10 cats adopted as soon as possible and close up shop. She has no desire to try to get special permission from the village to run her cat rescue operations. But she is circulating an online petition urging the code department to drop the complaint, claiming the fines for noncompliance are forcing her to consider euthanizing the animals.

For details about adopting the cats, call Schultz at (847) 931-4535 or visit kittykat911.bbnow.org.

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