LOVE DOGS? LOVE FASHION?
Combine these two loves while helping to support Lost Dogs Illinois in our efforts to get lost and found dogs back home to their families, provide low cost tag and microchips, and effect change at state levels, including but not limited to, reducing the number of owned “strays” in shelters and animal control facilities. To purchase our t-shirts and hoodies, or donate through the end of February visit: https://www.booster.com/
Update on December 18th Meeting with Rosa Escareno, Deputy Chief Operating Officer, City of Chicago, Office of the Mayor.
LDI’s Director, Susan Taney and Kathy Pobloskie, LDI advisor, along with five members from Advocates for Chicagoland Animals and Chicago Rescue Round table, were asked to meet with Rosa to discuss what we felt was needed to hire an Executive Director for Chicago Animal Care and Control. Rosa said the Mayor had received our petition, calls and letters from Chicago residents for a nationwide search for the new ED. An ad has been posted on three national websites with applications closing January 11, 2016. We were very pleased with the meeting. We want to thank everyone who took the time to sign the Advocates for Chicagoland Animals petition or called their aldermen and the Mayor. They heard us.
The second meeting that day was with Martha Martenez, Cook County’s Director of Administration, who oversees the department of Cook County Animal and Rabies Control. We discussed the following:
- Encouraged Cook County Animal and Rabies Control to use reasonable priced microchips which includes registration. Profits from these sales could provide low cost or free microchip clinics for under served areas.
- Search for grants to help fund these types of clinics. Gave them names of organizations that may have available grants.
- Encouraged the County to use Helping Lost Pets, a free national map based database, since there are multiple stray holding facilities in Cook County and Chicago
- Gave them our municipality listing for Cook County animal holding facilities.
- Asked that they add Lost Dogs Illinois to their website as a resource.
- Asked for the copy of the ordinance saying that rabies tag monies have to be spent towards rabies education, etc.
- Asked what the plans are for the surplus of money for CCAC. As of 2015 that was approximately $8 million.
- We were told that CCAC are working with the Cook County Sheriff’s department.
We, at LDI, hope to continue a working relationship with Cook County and CACC.
Two weeks ago, Lost Dogs Illinois received an email from a woman located in Seattle, Washington who needed help in capturing her shy, scared and confused dog named Jimmy. We exchanged emails several times giving advice and suggestions. We asked her to share her story. Welcome Home Jimmy!
At the end of July 2015, I got two little dogs who had been rescued from a puppy mill: Ladybug, a rat terrier breeder (who was due to be euthanized by the breeder because she was too old to have any more litters); and Jimmy, a one-year-old toy fox terrier (TFT). I have had a lot of dogs, but they have all been big, bouncy, confident dogs (mostly mixed breeds). Having small dogs was a new experience for me but, by Thanksgiving, I felt like both dogs were really integrated into our family.
The night before the holiday, I took both dogs with me to visit a family member who lived in an apartment about five miles away from my home. I couldn’t find a leash for Ladybug in the house, but knew there was one in my car. At the last minute, however, I wound up riding with someone else and forgot to get the leash. I was a little concerned, but Ladybug always stays close to me when she is off leash (which is only when we are going from the front door to the car or vice versa), and even if she goes sniffing around the driveway, she always comes immediately when I call. So I figured it would be okay. Let’s call this “Big Mistake #1.” ALWAYS HAVE PROPER RESTRAINTS ON YOUR DOG WHENEVER YOU TRAVEL ANYWHERE.
We got to the apartment without any mishaps and spent a couple of hours visiting and making appetizers for the next day. The dogs seemed happy scrounging for scraps under the kitchen table. I was feeling a little lazy and the apartment was a second-floor walkup, so I asked my hostess if she would take the two dogs for a pee break. Big Mistake #2. NEVER ASSUME THAT YOUR DOG WILL BE COMFORTABLE WITH ANYONE, EVEN SOMEONE THEY ALREADY KNOW.
I asked if we shouldn’t put the harness on Jimmy, instead of just a collar, but my hostess thought it would be okay. Big Mistake #3. A FRIGHTENED DOG CAN GET ALMOST ALWAYS GET OUT OF A COLLAR. MAKE SURE YOUR DOG IS SECURE.
As they were leaving, it was clear that the dogs didn’t want to go with my hostess. They were obviously distressed, but after a few seconds, she seemed to have them under control, so I was relieved and let them go. Big Mistake #4. LISTEN TO YOUR DOG – IF HE DOESN’T WANT TO GO WITH SOMEONE, DON’T MAKE HIM! (I now realize that my dogs were thinking – “they are trying to take me away from my human,” so of course they were scared.)
After a few minutes, we thought we heard my hostess shouting outside. One of the other guests went down to the street, but didn’t see anything and came back up. We waited for them all to come back, but they didn’t. At some point we realized that our hostess had left her cell phone in the apartment (can we say Big Mistake #5?). IF YOU HAVE A CELL PHONE, KEEP IT WITH YOU WHENEVER YOU ARE WITH YOUR DOG OUTSIDE OF YOUR HOUSE OR YARD – YOU NEVER KNOW WHEN YOU MIGHT NEED HELP (ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE NOT IN YOUR OWN NEIGHBORHOOD).
After about 45 minutes, our hostess appeared, breathless and upset. She said she had lost both of the dogs and we should come look for them. As we arrived at the front door, Ladybug appeared. Our hostess took her upstairs and the rest of us went looking. Needless to say, we couldn’t find Jimmy anywhere, although a couple of people reported seeing him running. We gave up and went back to the apartment. Jimmy was lost.
We spent the next three days looking for Jimmy. There are plenty of resources that can tell you how to conduct a successful search, but please let me summarize our actions and tell you what worked the best.
- Wednesday night, we put a posting up on craigslist (we got two reported sightings from this posting)
- I also started posting Jimmy’s picture on Facebook and Twitter and people started re-posting the notice
- Thursday morning we printed off some posters with Jimmy’s picture and posted them on telephone poles and in a 24-hour vet clinic in the area (we got two sightings from posters)
- Friday I went to the neighborhood and sat in my car and called Jimmy from two locations – this was wasted effort
- There is a lot of foot traffic in this neighborhood, so Saturday morning, we ran off some quarter-sheet flyers so we could give them to people
- We also set up a public Facebook page to coordinate information and invited lots and lots of people to “like” the page (according to FB metrics, this page reached more than 350 people; although it didn’t make a lot of difference in finding Jimmy, I started getting hundreds of messages every day from people who wanted to show their support – that made a big difference in keeping me going and not just sitting around being depressed and guilty about losing my dog)
- Saturday, we got a call for a sighting in an area about six blocks away from where Jimmy was lost – we focused on handing out flyers to people in the street and putting them on parked cars
- Saturday night, I went back to the area and just sat in my car for about five hours – mostly so I could just be in the area and again this was wasted time and energy
- Sunday we went back to handing out flyers and found out that the Saturday sighting had pointed us in the wrong direction – we had focused on the blocks east of the sighting when we should have gone west – we went back and started passing out flyers
- Almost immediately, I got a call from someone who said Jimmy had been hanging out in yards on her block (on both sides of the street) – we went to visit the person and learned that he had been hanging around since Saturday – Jimmy was found!
Around the time we tracked Jimmy down to one small area, someone sent me the article on Shy and Elusive Dogs. I sent an email using the links on the website (lostdogsofamerica.org) and received a response from the Director of Lost Dogs Illinois. I finally understood that calling Jimmy was not going to make him come running. Jimmy was viewing humans – all humans – as predators, so we needed to let people know that they shouldn’t try to call him or coax him or catch him.
The neighbor who had first contacted me said that Jimmy had mostly been seen in three yards on the other side of the street. She suggested that we set up a feeding station for him in the middle house and I went and met the homeowner. He had seen Jimmy coming in and out of his yard and had already put out food. By Sunday evening, the food and water were in the yard, tucked away under a bush.
Monday morning I dropped off some food from home and a well-scented blanket. During the day, our volunteer advisers from Lost Dogs of America sent me text for people in the neighborhood and I created this flyer. After work, I went and handed it out to each house on the block and talked with as many people as I could. I stopped off in the yard with the feeding station and saw that the homeowner had also put out a small dog carrier and put the blanket inside of it.
Tuesday, I got a call from the homeowner. He had seen Jimmy quite a few times and it looked like someone had slept in the carrier. He also said that there were little paw prints all over his porch and that Jimmy had popped on the welcome mat. He took this as a sign that Jimmy was feeling a little more secure in that yard. I also got a call from the neighbor across the street, who was going every day to put wet food on the ground near the feeding station. We all agreed to just keep up the feedings. I also contacted our City Animal Control department, which is able to set humane traps to catch elusive dogs. The trapping officer only works Wednesday through Saturday, so I left a message for her to contact me.
Wednesday there were more sightings in the three yards. One person said Jimmy had actually gone up onto her deck for a little while. I was glad to hear that he seemed to be staying put, but I was also really missing my pup and kept thinking about him getting hit by a car. It was a hard night.
Thursday morning, I decided that I needed to try to make contact, so that at least Jimmy would know that I hadn’t abandoned him. I took the day off and got to the yard with the food around 9 a.m. I bundled up in another funky blanket and lay down on the porch. I had only been there a few minutes when Jimmy appeared. I ignored him and he paused when he saw me on the porch, but went on to grab some food and left.
I stayed buried in the blanket and peeked out. He kept coming back every few minutes. I decided to cover my head too so I wouldn’t be tempted to make eye contact. After about ten minutes I heard a little whine and when I peeked out, Jimmy was very cautiously approaching me. He was obviously frightened, so I didn’t do anything except lift the blanket in a little bit. He snuck in and kept sniffling. By the time he was all the way under the blanket, he knew it was me.
I let Jimmy lick my face for a few minutes and then made him put on the harness I had ready. That’s pretty much the whole story. He was a little skinny, but checked out okay when I took him to the vet. I feel extremely lucky, knowing how many lost dogs never make it home. You can believe I will be putting all the lessons I learned into effect and remembering all of my Big Mistakes. Thankfully, while we were looking for Jimmy, someone sent me the article from the Lost Dogs of America website about shy and elusive dogs, or I don’t think we would have successfully recovered my dog.
So Jimmy’s owner sent this last tip to me: We have never used this before – but whatever it takes……..About scent marking for a stray dog: It’s standard advice to scent mark in the area where the dog has been seen, especially if you have set up a feeding station. I’ve see suggestions to use a dirty piece of clothing or a blanket from home. Personally, as I tend to think like a dog, I believe that urine is the best scent marker. Just pee into a disposable cup and then transfer the urine to a little dropper or squirt bottle – the kind that eye drops or nose spray come in is perfect (then put the filled dropper bottle inside a Ziploc bag in case of leaking). It only takes a few drops in different locations in the area where the dog has been sighted — try to renew the markings once a day. Just make sure that the drops form into a “trail” leading back to the yard where the dog is being fed. You may think that the dog doesn’t know what your urine smells like, but you’re wrong. Your dog’s nose will tell him that you have been there.
We, at Lost Dogs Illinois, feel it is important to keep you informed on how we are trying to support our mission is reuniting lost dogs with their owners.
Last Thursday (November 19, 2015) our Director attended the open meeting of the Commission (advisory board) for the City of Chicago Animal Care and Control. She read the following statement:
Since 2012 through the end of September 2015, over 70,000 animals have passed through the doors of CACC. Approximately 4,400 were adopted; 5,400 were returned to owner and 37,000 were transferred to rescues. 24,000 were killed. What is wrong with this picture?
The management staff of CACC has been so concerned with increasing their live release rate that they have done this at the expense of owned family pets and rescues. Rescues are doing the heavy lifting. Many of these rescues volunteers are paying taxes to support CACC while they are funding their rescue organizations and volunteering their time to take care of these animals..
Many progressive animal controls have over a 50% return to owner rate for dogs and 9-13% RTO for cats. Many of these owned dogs and cats at CACC are being adopted out, transferred to other shelters and rescues or killed.
These same progressive animal controls have adoption programs and promote adoption events to find homes for the homeless.
Creating programs to keep animals in their homes and out of shelters reduces shelter intake. Preserving the owner/animal bond should be at the heart and soul of every animal shelter’s core mission
It is time for the City of Chicago to hire a Director who will implement progressive, proven programs like a lost pet recovery and viable adoption program including an intervention program to keep animals in their homes.
Illinois is ranked number one in animal protection laws in the US even though Chicago, a world-class city, is lagging way behind in saving lives and keeping animals in their homes.
One final note: Chicago’s shelters are rich in cash assets. I understand that it is good business practice to have a surplus and that some assets are locked in. BUT when the three largest shelters have over $100 million in assets. Doesn’t it make sense to collaborate with CACC to offer free microchip events to Chicago residents, develop programs to keep animals in their homes, and to help with CACCs adoption program. I hope common sense will prevail to save lives.
The ASPCA has recently released a Position Statement on Responsibilities of Animal Shelters. We are very pleased that they have put a high emphasis on shelter transparency and proactively reuniting lost pets with their families.
Below are some excerpts from this Position Statement. Does your local shelter or stray holding facility do these things? We would like to see American shelters and stray holding meet these standards and feel that there is a need for legislation to enforce them. Please discuss these items with your state legislators and ask that they be mandated for all American shelters and stray holding facilities.
Goal 3: Owned animals are quickly and reliably returned to their owners
A. Shelters must check for ID, including microchips, tattoos, etc., at the time of intake. Checking animals for identification at the time of intake should be required by law of all animal shelters, public and private. The administrative burden associated with this requirement is minimal compared to the benefits of quickly reuniting animals with their owners. This requirement should be extended to owner-surrendered animals, as the information concerning ownership of a micro-chipped animal can confirm current ownership, shed light on possibility that other owners may exist, and must be updated regardless in the event of a subsequent adoption.
B. Shelters must serve notice to identified owners of stray animals, and the hold times for stray animals must account for mail delivery. Even in 2015, the U.S. Mail continues to represent the method by which many, if not most, people receive communications from local government, utility companies, financial institutions, the courts, etc. Thus, the mail represents a relatively reliable means of communication, and while other means of contacting owners are encouraged, shelters should be required to serve notice to identified owners by mail, regardless of other methods of communication that might be attempted. In order to provide owners with a meaningful opportunity to reclaim their animals, stray animal hold times should be of sufficient length to account for the additional time that notice by mail requires.
C. Shelters must provide public notice, appropriate to the community, of stray animals entering the shelter. Shelters have an obligation to give notice to the community of stray pets that enter their facilities in order to assist and facilitate the return of those pets to their owners. While online postings, whether on a shelter’s website or other web platforms, have become commonplace, this may still not be feasible for all shelters. Thus, the form this notice should take may vary by community. Nevertheless, notice that is reasonably calculated to reach community members should be required of all shelters accepting stray animals.
D. Shelters must provide clear notice to the public concerning shelter locations, hours, fees and the return-to-owner process. The ASPCA strongly supports requiring the provision of this information to the public. Where possible, it should be available on a shelter’s website, but certainly, information regarding fees and the return-to-owner process should be available in written form at the shelter itself.
E. Shelters must establish a reasonable process for matching stray animals admitted to the shelter with reports of lost pets received by the shelter from owners. The ASPCA supports a requirement that shelters establish and publicize a reasonable process for helping stray pets return to owners in search of them. The most effective approaches will include a process for monitoring lost pet reports for possible matches with stray animals admitted to the shelter. However, because the appearance of an animal may change significantly while lost, or information provided in lost pet reports may be incomplete or inaccurate, the ASPCA believes that shelters should provide clear notice to owners searching for their lost pets that there is no substitute for visiting the shelter in person.
F. Shelters must be accessible to the public during reasonable hours for the return-to owner process. The ASPCA supports a requirement that shelters be accessible during reasonable hours to owners seeking to reclaim their pet. These hours should include some reasonable additional period of time beyond the typical workday (e.g. 9am to 5pm Monday through Friday) so that pet owners who may not have flexible work schedules have the best opportunity to reclaim their pets. What constitutes “reasonable” access depends on factors including the length of the hold period, the nature of the community, e.g., urban, suburban, rural, and the resources of the shelter.
G. Shelters should be authorized and encouraged to reduce or waive redemption fees. For the reasons discussed above in relation to adoption and placement, the ASPCA supports the granting of specific authorization for shelters to reduce or waive fees to owners seeking to reclaim their pets and encourages shelters to regularly and consistently use this tool to reunite more pets with their families.
H. Return-to-owner from the field should be expressly authorized. The ASPCA strongly supports legal authorization of return-to-owner from the field for animals with identification. This practice not only reduces burdens on shelters, but it straightforwardly accomplishes the goal of quick and reliable return.
Last Tuesday, several concerned citizens including LDI volunteers attended the Cook County Commissioners Meeting in regards to issues about Cook County Animal and Rabies Control. We try to keep our supporters and fans up to date on issues that affect getting lost dogs back to their rightful home. As many of you know, Lost Dogs Illinois supported the petition to reform Cook County Animal and Rabies Control.
Here are the four public statements in support of the petition:
Public statement #1
My name is Susan Taney, Director of Lost Dogs Illinois, a not for profit organization which provides a free service to help families find their lost dogs. Our FB page has over 100,000 fans and since our inception in December 2010 over 16,000 dogs have been reunited with their families
A year ago, I, along with numerous others, made public statements in regards to the Department of Cook County Animal and Rabies Control. Commissioner John Fritchey heard our concerns and initiated the Inspector General report.
I would like to address statements that were made at the budget meeting and ask if it is time to reconsider the department’s mission. Currently the mission is to provides health protection to the residents of Cook County through preparation, education, rabies vaccination and stray animal control
In the last few decades, the status of dogs has been elevated from the barnyard, to the back yard and now to our bedrooms. Our dogs are now loved family members.
With the maze of stray holding facilities in Cook County, it is very difficult for families to find their missing dogs. Approximately 50 municipalities are contracted with Animal Welfare League; 14 with Golf Rose Boarding Facility; 5 with Animal Care League and with other municipalities using vet clinics, animal shelters, police departments. etc. to hold stray dogs. Many dogs are not reunited with their families. They are adopted out, transferred to another shelter/rescue or euthanized. A centralized database would make it easier for families to find their lost dogs and assure more dogs are reunited. A simple FREE solution is to use Helping Lost Pets, centralized national map based website. The county and other municipalities could start using it now. Lost Dog Illinois along with over 25 states have already partnered with HeLP.
Commissioner Fritchey commented on the kill rate of Animal Welfare League. In 2014 Animal Welfare League took in approximately 14,500 animals and euthanized approximately 7,900 animals. 53 municipalities and Cook County contract with AWL. The bar of excellence should be set high for AWL in getting lost dogs home and saving lives.
Recently CCARC added a Lost Pets section to their website. After reviewing the website there are many stray hold facilities that are not listed. Animal Care League as well as vet clinics and police departments that act as holding facilities in Cook County have been omitted. Also, our organization Lost Dogs Illinois is not listed as a resource to help families find their lost dogs. Our site provides free flyers, tips, resources and community support to help families find their lost dogs.
I am not discounting the importance of rabies and public safety but I really believe it is time to reexamine the mission of this Department and reorganize CCARC to provide better services. Cook County is the 2nd largest county in the US, we should be proud to offer an efficient way for owners get their loved family members back.
Public Statement #2
My name is Becky Monroe, LDI Volunteer
I think that the issues with Animal Control can best be expressed by reading a piece by the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board published Sept 8 entitled, “Why lost pets stay lost in Cook County.” The piece started by talking about what to do if you’re trying to find your lost pet.
Reading from the article:
“Don’t expect much help from Cook County’s Department of Animal and Rabies Control. It doesn’t operate a shelter and doesn’t consider reuniting lost pets with their families a big part of its mission. In a report last month, the county’s inspector general made a good case that it ought to, and we agree. Especially since the IG’s six-month review left us shaking our heads at what the department actually does.
Animal Control is about rabies, mostly. It gets most of its funding from the sale of rabies tags — and spends much of that money to pay employees to type the rabies tag data into a very old computer system.
There are 22 full-time employees, and 13 of them spend most of their time processing tags, often earning comp time for working during their lunch hours, according to the IG’s report.
Most of the data is submitted by clinics, shelters, veterinarians and rescue groups that perform the actual rabies vaccinations, but Animal Control’s system is so dated that the information can’t be uploaded easily, if at all. So staffers do it by hand. If this reminds you of the Cook County clerk of the circuit court office, join the club.
The IG recommends a web-based system so veterinarians and others can input the data themselves, freeing up resources for more meaningful services (like helping you find your dog.)
The office is closed nights, weekends and holidays, and the IG’s report notes that law enforcement agencies throughout the county complain that they can’t access rabies data or find an animal control officer except during banking hours.
There are six employees who patrol the unincorporated area for strays. Their workday includes time spent commuting to and from work in their take-home government vehicles. For one employee, that’s three hours a day. If heavy traffic means their door-to-door workday lasts longer than eight hours, they get comp time.
What do they do in between? The report doesn’t say, exactly, but it sounds rather aimless.”
The Tribune Editorial mirrors another article that the Tribune ran on August 4 about Animal Control failing to pick up a dog after they were notified by the Sheriff’s Office on July 13.
Reading from the article:
“The dog was in the locked garage when officers arrived July 13 to evict two young men from a foreclosed house in the 11200 block of Worth Avenue. Finding that the men had moved out, officers posted an eviction notice and called the animal control department to remove the dog, according to the sheriff’s department.
But last week, Frank Shuftan, a spokesman for County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, denied that such a call was placed, saying in an email to the Daily Southtown that animal control double checked its call log for that day after the Southtown story appeared and found no record of such a call from sheriff’s police.
But the sheriff’s department released a tape of a July 13 call in which a woman is clearly heard saying, “Cook County Animal Control, may I help you?” A sheriff’s officer then says, “Cook County Sheriff’s Police calling” and that there’s “a dog to picked up from an eviction” and giving the address in Worth.
“It’s a German shepherd in the garage,” the officer says, giving the name and phone number of the receiver, the person representing the bank, who would be waiting for animal control at the garage.
Animal control apparently never sent anyone to the house.”
How many bad news stories will it take to get this Board to make meaningful changes at Cook County Animal Control? It seems obvious to everyone who has had interaction with Cook County Animal Control that this department is a disaster. We are calling upon the County Board to stop ignoring this issue.
Public Statement #3
My name is Kathy Pobloskie and I am an advisor with Lost Dogs Illinois. Thank you for allowing us this opportunity to speak today.
The vast majority of animals in shelters come from two sources. Strays, which are lost pets, and surrenders. We are here today to talk about lost pets. In fact, the ASPCA estimates that 40 – 60% of animals in shelters are lost pets. Most of these pets do not need a new home, they simply need to go home.
Proactively reuniting lost pets with their owners should be one of the main focuses of animal control departments. When barriers prevent people from reclaiming their lost pets, the system fails. I would like to talk about one of those barriers. That barrier is inconsistency.
Currently the range of fees for Cook County stray holding facilities vary from $7 per day on the low end to $36 per day on the high end. Microchips (which are required to reclaim) range from $20 to $35 and does not include the additional cost of registration. Vaccines can cost up to $29 per vaccine. Each municipality also has it’s own impoundment fees, fines, licenses, etc. One of the main reasons for dogs being left at a shelter is cost. By the time the owner locates them, they cannot afford to reclaim them. It is not unusual for costs to reclaim your dog to be well over $100 for a 24 hour stay at “the pound”. Then of course, there is a strong likelihood that your dog will come down with an upper respiratory infection common in crowded municipal shelters. Add veterinary costs on top of the above fees also.
Start to multiply this by a few days and pretty soon you could be looking at what could equal the car payment or rent or prescription costs or groceries for the family. Don’t forget – not everyone has a credit card or money in the bank. They might need to wait until the next payday to come and get their dog. Pretty soon, it’s become more than they can afford.
Cook County stray holding facilities are also inconsistent in their stray holding periods. They range from 3 days to 7 days. Many people work two jobs or jobs that prevent them from getting to the facility during normal business hours to check to see if their dog is there. Your dog cold be adopted out, transferred to a rescue, or even worse, killed, because you did not figure out the “system” in time. It is not uncommon for lost dogs to travel and cross into a different jurisdiction.
Standardizing fees and stray holding periods to enable the highest number of lost pets be reclaimed by their owners would go a long way to improving Cook County Animal Control. Pets are family members. Give citizens a chance to keep their families whole. This will also help save the more than 9000 animals that are killed in America’s shelters every day.
Public Statement #4
Public statement to the Cook County Commissioners on Nov. 3, 2015, regarding Cook County’s Animal and Rabies Control department and the OIIG audit and report of Aug. 21, 2015, delivered by Lydia Rypcinski, private citizen of the County of Cook and City of Chicago.
Thank you for granting time to speak before you today regarding Cook County’s Animal and Rabies Control department.
Unfortunately, it may be the last day that some beloved pets will ever know in this world. They have become lost; their owners don’t know where to find them within the labyrinth of animal control agencies that operate in Cook County; they have been given only a few days to either be claimed or adopted; and the municipal and private shelters contracted to house these animals are understaffed, under-resourced, and filled to overflowing.
So these lost pets will be killed in the name of operational expediency.
It does not have to be this way. While it is true that the mission of animal control historically has been to protect people first and animals second, much has changed in the way humans interact with what we now call “companion animals” since the passage of the Cook County Animal and Rabies Control Ordinance in 1977.
It is disheartening to see CCARC’s administrator declare, “Pet reunification is not part of the department’s core mission.” She may be interpreting the letter of the law correctly while missing an essential truth in this new era: that people view their pets as extensions of their families and want – and expect – government attention and assistance when one of them is missing.
To ignore that change in the public’s perception of the services a successful animal control operation should provide is to do a disservice to the very taxpayers that support the department and office.
I call your attention to this excerpted passage from a book by Stephen Aronson entitled, “Animal Control Management: A New Look at a Public Responsibility” (Purdue University, 2010):*
“Differences in opinion notwithstanding, animal control officials need to communicate with, cooperate to the extent possible, and garner support of those who have a perceived interest in the welfare of the animals in the community . . . [Animal control] must reach out to those it serves and work with those who want to offer their help to make the community a better place for people and animals to coexist.”**
I do not believe this communication and outreach exist today, even within the department itself. When I hear Dr. Alexander state that the Animal Welfare League, which is contracted to house County strays, is in Chicago Heights when it is actually 20 miles north in Chicago Ridge and about a 15-minute drive from her headquarters in Bridgeview, I have to wonder if she has ever even visited it to see how County money is being spent. Is she aware that AWL’s own stats reveal that every animal taken there by County animal control in 2014-15 had a better than 60 percent chance of leaving that facility in a garbage bag, headed for a landfill or crematory?
Surely County money can be spent more productively and rewardingly, to reunite these animals with their families, even if it isn’t part of the department’s “core mission.”
In light of these observations, I urge the Commissioners to adopt and implement all the recommendations made in the Inspector General’s Aug. 21, 2015 audit and report, to make Cook County Animal and Rabies Control more fully responsive to the changing needs of its community. I would like to point out that you have a wellspring of animal welfare professionals and volunteers available in this area, whose talents and resources could be tapped to help bring these changes about. Please avail yourselves of these people and organizations. Thank you.
* Aronson is a former local and state government worker with experience in animal control operations.
**Chapter Nine, “Interacting with Public and Private Entities and the Citizenry,” pp. 188-189.