Trustees hear concerns about tortoise in a village pet shop
by JASON MEREL
The Lincolnwood Village Board of Trustees at its Dec. 7 meeting heard several concerns from residents and activists about the welfare of a tortoise kept at a local pet store and heard calls for a ban on animal sales within the village.
During the public comment section of the meeting several residents and members of animal activism group Chicago Alliance for Animals expressed concerns about the welfare of a 40-year-old sulcata tortoise named “Spur” at the Animal Store, 4364 W. Touhy Ave.
“At least seven times now, we have witnessed absolutely no source of water in her enclosure,” CAA founder and executive director Jodie Wiederkehr said. “We also have not noticed a heat lamp or any sort of enrichment.”
The official Web site for the Maryland Zoo says sulcata tortoises get most of the water they need from the plants they eat, though a shallow dish of water should be provided. The Web site for the San Diego Zoo says sulcata tortoises may go days or weeks without eating or drinking. Both Web sites said that the tortoises typically live in conditions exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Animal Store owner Ken Bearmann said he did not know the group spoke at the meeting but they have staged protests outside of the store over the tortoise. He said that the group has a point with the heating lamp, but that’s because he’s waiting for a back ordered lamp fixture to arrive next week. He pointed out that the store has an ambient temperature of about 75 to 80 degrees and Spur has a UVB light above her enclosure.
“People want me to let her go but her shell was damaged and she requires veterinary care so she wouldn’t do well in a refuge,” he said.
In July of 2011, the 70-pound tortoise was stolen during an apparent overnight burglary of the store and spotted in a nearby resident’s yard the next day, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Former Deerfield village trustee and animal activist Jerry Kayne said that animal sales in the village violate existing village ordinance prohibitions on keeping “naturally wild animals” within the village. He added that this specific case with the tortoise violates another code provision regulating humane animal treatment, which says that animals must be fed wholesome food and that clean water must be provided to animals at all times.
Bearmann said Spur’s enclosure contains hay for grazing, which is changed throughout the week.
“So if people want to bring her a piece of sweet potato or corn, that’s her protein,” he said. “Sometimes she won’t drink for days, sometimes she drinks for minutes at a time.”
A Lincolnwood resident also called for a ban on animal sales in the village at the meeting
“As a pediatrician, I work to protect and enrich the health of children,” she said. “Stores such as the Animal Store have a lot of animals that don’t behave predictably in cages and can be a danger for a child, if the child were to access the cages unattended.”
Mayor Jesal Patel said the village has also received several e-mails about the issue and will be looking into it. Bearmann said he has not been approached by the village.
Also at the meeting, trustees approved the 2021 property tax levy of $6,027,082, which was capped at an increase of 1.4 percent from the 2020 levy, due to standing village financial policy. For reference, the 2019 tax levy was capped at an increase of 1.9 percent and the 2020 tax levy was capped at an increase of 2.3 percent.
Village policy pins the levy increase to the consumer price index and though the village finance committee recommended the village board approve the 2021 levy, it also recommended trustees reevaluate the policy ahead of 2023 budget discussions and the 2022 tax levy, according to Lincolnwood finance director Denise Joseph.
Joseph explained that the village financial policy limits the levy increase according to the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law that is based on the consumer price index.
A 1.4 percent overall increase from the $5,943,868 levied in 2020 meant the village was able to allocate an additional $83,214 for the 2021 levy.
The tax is levied on village properties to fund corporate, special recreation and parks and recreation budgets as well as police pension contributions.