Tag Archives: animal shelters

Update to the article – Welcome to the Cook County Animal Maze

 

In 2015, The Chicago Reader published an article entitled “Welcome to the Cook County Animal Maze”. The text of the article is reprinted below. We wanted to update our fans on our progress since then.

For the last two years, Lost Dogs Illinois has been using and promoting a centralized database called Helping Lost Pets (HeLP). LDI believes in the Power of One! If all of the entities used ONE centralized database it would make it much easier for lost pets to be reunited with their families. So far, only one stray holding facility in Cook County is using the HeLP system. That is the City of Chicago Animal Care and Control. The rest of the facilities do not use HeLP. The county remains a confusing patchwork of systems, with little to no cross-commuication between them. Some stray holding facilities, vet clinics and police departments post photos of impounded pets on Facebook or their websites. Some do not.

We are frustrated and disappointed that more facilities do not utilize HeLP. It is FREE and has numerous features to enable owners, finders, employees and volunteers to make “matches” between missing and found pets. Together we could help more dogs get back home to their rightful owner.

Welcome to the Cook County animal maze

A patchwork animal-control system with no central database has made Chicago and its environs a place where lost dogs stay lost. Animal lovers and Commissioner John Fritchey want to change that.

By Julia Thiel

Last November, a yellow lab named Harley escaped from the yard of his home in Garfield Ridge, near Midway. As they searched for him, Harley’s owners checked both Chicago Animal Care and Control and the Cicero facility Waggin’ Tails Animal Shelter, with no luck finding him.

But Harley had in fact been taken to Waggin’ Tails after his escape. From there he was transferred to the Animal Welfare League location in Chicago Ridge, which is where some volunteers with Trio Animal Foundation found him in early December. Chicago-based Trio pays medical bills for homeless pets, and the volunteers were looking for animals in need of help when they noticed a hematoma on one of Harley’s ears, both of which had become infected.

Bridgid Nolan, Trio’s medical and rescue director, says that despite his condition, it was immediately obvious that Harley was no stray but a lost pet. “He was way too good not to have been someone’s dog,” she says. “He was well mannered, incredibly calm and affectionate.” The Trio volunteers took him to the organization’s vet, who treated Harley and was the first to inform Nolan that the dog was microchipped.

Nolan got the information from the chip; the phone number was disconnected, but the address led them to Harley’s family, and soon after, Harley’s owners—a father and two young children—came to Trio’s facility to claim their pet. When Harley saw the family, Nolan says, “he jumped into the kid’s lap and started rolling around on his back. They were all on the ground in this joyous reunion pile.”

Still, the owner (who declined to be interviewed for this story) was “pretty frustrated.” Nolan says Harley was held by Waggin’ Tails for 14 days before being transferred to AWL, during which time a letter was supposed to have been sent to the address associated with the microchip. But not only had Harley’s owner failed to receive a letter, he’d gone to the shelter and been told that his dog wasn’t there.

Harley (and his owners) got lucky. But not all lost pets do, and Nolan says that Cook County’s lack of a centralized database to track recovered stray animals is a major part of the problem. “It’s a frustrating, dangerous situation,” she says. “Dogs get euthanized, cats get euthanized. They get transferred to rescue groups and then they’re adopted out. The whole system’s a bit of a mess here. I can barely navigate it sometimes, and I’ve been [working in the rescue community] for 11 years. For the general population, it’s super overwhelming. You have no idea what’s going on.”

There’s no question Cook County has a decentralized, patchwork system. Chicago Animal Care and Control, in Little Village, takes in all the animals impounded within the city limits. But in the suburbs, each municipality is responsible for its own animal control, and with 135 municipalities in Cook County, there are a lot of places where a lost animal could end up. Most municipalities contract with shelters like AWL or private facilities like animal hospitals to care for impounded animals. (Cicero and Evanston, which have their own facilities, are the exceptions.) Cook County Animal and Rabies Control is responsible for unincorporated areas and the Forest Preserve District (which together total 234 square miles, just short of a quarter of Cook County’s 945 square miles of land), but doesn’t have a facility of its own either; all stray animals impounded by CCARC—on average about 500 a year—go to the AWL shelter in Chicago Ridge. From there, unclaimed animals may be taken in by other shelters, adopted by individuals, or euthanized. Yet there’s nothing to help owners find their missing animals amid this sprawl.

Four years ago, Susan Taney started Lost Dogs Illinois to help people find their missing pets. She recalls an animal control director in central Illinois telling her, “Wow, you’re going to be surprised at Cook County. It’s a mess.”

That warning turned out to be true. “It’s a maze to find your lost dog,” Taney says. She doesn’t believe that the current system is efficient or effective, and points out that the CCARC website doesn’t even list the stray holding facilities used in Cook County (her nonprofit’s site, lostdogsillinois.org, does, in addition to hosting its own database of dogs that have been lost or found by individuals). “Dogs have four legs, they can’t read signs. They can’t tell what municipality they need to stay in,” she says. “We’ve had dogs found in Wisconsin.”

Last September, Dolton Animal Hospital, the facility the village of Dolton in Cook County contracts with to house its stray animals, was shut down after a police officer found four dead dogs, nine emaciated dogs, and a severely emaciated cat that later died. In the aftermath of the discovery, law student and animal rights advocate Sarah Hanneken started an online petition demanding that CCARC be held responsible for its handling of stray animals. In it, she questioned the department’s use of its $3.5 million budget, particularly the fact that the 24-person department has only six animal control wardens for all of Cook County.

Hanneken sent the petition, which ultimately collected more than 3,000 signatures, to all of the Cook County commissioners, and at the county’s public budget meeting in downtown Chicago last October, she and Taney each outlined their concerns about CCARC.

Cook County commissioner John Fritchey says that the issue was already on his radar—over the last couple years he’s received hundreds of complaints about CCARC. And he says that at the budget hearing Hanneken and Taney attended last fall, some of the answers given by Donna Alexander, CCARC’s director, “didn’t match up to some of the facts I had.” For example, he says, Alexander told him that someone is reachable 24 hours a day. But one evening during the 2014 polar vortex, Fritchey got a call about dogs being left outside in West Town and tried to contact CCARC. It took him several tries to reach anyone, and “when I did, I was told that nothing could be done until the next day, there was nobody they could put me in touch with and nothing they could do,” he says.

“A number of questions [have been] raised about their budget, how they’re using their resources, salaries,” Fritchey says. And “I’ve had multiple instances where routine requests for information from my office to the department have been treated as Freedom of Information requests,” he adds. “That in itself raises red flags to me, and sets a very bad tone.”

In January, Fritchey asked Patrick Blanchard, the Cook County inspector general, to conduct an operations review of CCARC, which is currently under way. (Because the investigation is ongoing, Blanchard was not able to comment.)

“The Dolton case is one example of what’s wrong with the system,” Fritchey says. “It did not involve a facility that the county contracts with. But if we provided our services better, there’d be no need or opportunity for something like that to happen.”

“Dogs can’t read signs. They can’t tell what municipality they need to stay in. We’ve had dogs found in Wisconsin.”—Susan Taney of Lost Dogs Illinois

Fritchey thinks that, in addition to improving animal-control services, Cook County should operate its own shelter or shelters, centralizing the animals currently impounded by CCARC and municipal authorities. For examples of models to follow, he points to Los Angeles County, the only one in the U.S. with a greater population than Cook County’s (it has six shelters), as well as Arizona’s Maricopa County and Miami-Dade County, which are both larger than Cook County in square miles. “There’s no question it’s feasible,” he says.

Asked about CCARC’s responsibilities and goals, department spokesman Frank Shuftan (who said he’d collaborated with Alexander, CCARC’s director, on the e-mailed answers) emphasized rabies control: “The department’s main goal is to protect the public health from rabies and other diseases transmitted from animals to people through vaccination, registration and education.” (This is essentially identical to the mission stated on its website.) The e-mail addressed the spaying and neutering of pets, but discussed stray animal control only in relation to the training in animal control techniques that CCARC provides for Cook County municipalities.

That’s because in the department’s view the present system making each municipality responsible for its own animal control is the most efficient one. “Strays are most easily apprehended by local animal control or properly trained law enforcement who are familiar with the terrain and who can be deployed rapidly due to proximity,” wrote Shuftan. Moreover, CCARC maintains, placing lost animals in shelters close to their homes increases reunification rates with owners: “Best practice holds that a centrally located facility does not increase owner and animal reunification as well as locally based housing.”

As for a central, searchable database, CCARC’s reply again focused on rabies: the department’s discussed creating a password-protected one to allow law enforcement officials to access rabies tag records, but it’s a “technical and capital issue” that hasn’t come to fruition, Shuftan said. He didn’t address the question of creating a database of animals impounded by CCARC that, like Lost Dogs Illinois’s, is publicly accessible.

Fritchey, who owns a rescue dog himself, doesn’t think the “technical and capital issues” CCARC refers to are necessarily insuperable. He points out that Cook County has quite a few buildings that are currently standing empty; it might be possible to retrofit one as a shelter. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re able to do that for less money than we’re spending now, with better results,” he says.

“If Cook County wants to say, hey, we are doing what we are supposed to do under the law, OK—that’s fine,” he adds. “But just following the law doesn’t meant that you’re doing things right. Can’t we do this better, even if we need to make legislative changes to do it?” Fritchey realizes that, especially in the midst of city and state budget crises, he may be criticized for focusing on animal control, but shrugs that off too. “When you look at animal welfare issues, it’s not just about the animals, it’s about the owners and families they came from,” he says. “People care about this issue. It’s not a frivolous issue.

“There’s few people I like better than my dog,” he adds, “so this is an easy one for me.”

Reprinted from The Chicago Reader

 

 

What To Do If You Find A “Stray” Dog

If you find a lost dog, please follow these steps to find his/her family:

– Check for a license or ID tag. – No tags? Ask around your neighborhood in case the dog lives nearby.
– Take the dog to the nearest veterinarian or shelter to have the dog scanned for a microchip & look for a tattoo. – Call your local police (non-emergency line) to report the dog found.
– Call your local animal control agency (ACO), complete a found dog report or bring the dog to them if you are unable to keep the dog while searching for the dog’s owner.
– Post found dog flyers around the neighborhood and animal service businesses even if you take the dog to the animal control or stray hold facility with the facility’s phone number. Create a sign like a yard sale sign and post in your yard or the nearest intersection.
– Post on your local Craig’s List (under both the Lost and Found and Pet sections), place a newspaper ad, other lost and found internet sites.

Please check Helping Lost Pets or Lost Dogs Illinois to see if this dog matches with any of the missing dogs listed.

How To Search HeLp websie.

How To Search HeLp websie.

Tips for Returning a Found Dog to the Lawful Owner:

When someone calls in response to an ad and/or flyer, ask the caller’s name and telephone number and tell him/her, you’ll call back right away.

Do not offer a description of the dog, let the person inquiring describe the dog including unique identifying characteristics. (i.e. scars, tattoo, behaviors, color patterns, etc.)

Ask for Proof of Ownership ( one of the following):

· Vet records (call their vet to confirm)
· Rabies certificate or license
· Adoption papers, registration papers, transfer of ownership or bill of sale
· Photos (dated and w/family members)

Observe the meeting of the dog and person; does the dog show familiarity with person.

Meeting to return the dog; be sure to let a friend or family know where you are meeting or ask one of them to go along. Meet at your local police parking lot, your vet office or any public place in the daylight.

PLEASE NOTE: It is illegal to put a flyer in a US mailbox or attach or hang a flyer on a US mailbox. You could be charged First Class postage for every flyer, postage due. Please go door to door with your flyer.

 

Chicago Pets Benefiting from New ID Tag Engraver at Chicago Animal Care and Control

Misty getting her new tag.  Her family being reunited with Misty

Misty getting her new tag. Her family being reunited with Misty

Chicago Animal Care and Control took one giant leap for petkind recently by adding a high-tech ID tag-engraving machine to its shelter facilities.

CACC Administrative Services Officer Susan Cappello said the non-profit group, Friends of Chicago Animal Care and Control, donated a VIP Pet ID tag machine to the shelter in January 2016.

“The Pet ID Tag machine will be used to provide free pet ID tags to all customers who adopt a new pet, find their lost pet, and attend our monthly low-cost pet vaccine clinic,” Cappello told Lost Dogs Illinois via email. “In less than one week of use, CACC made over 10 tags already to new or existing pet owners.”

Cappello added that CACC’s next low-cost vaccine clinic will be held Feb. 17 and that “[W]e plan to provide a pet ID tag to every customer” that day.

Providing pets with ID tags can help shelters reduce overcrowding. A 2010 study conducted by The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals suggested that pet ID tags containing owner contact information make it easier for people to help get that animal home should it become lost. That allows a shelter to direct its resources to supporting true homeless pets.

ID tag and collar

ID tag and collar

“Having a microchip is a great safety measure for emergencies or if the pet loses a tag or collar,” Dr. Emily Weiss, vice president of shelter research and development for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals told New York Times blogger Tara Parker-Pope in 2011. “But an ID tag is the simplest, easiest way to assure your pet is going to get home.”

Chicago Animal Care and Control strongly recommends that all pet owners microchip and obtain a collar and tag for their pets, Cappello said.

Cats that get lost are nine times more likely to be reunited with their owner if they arrive at a shelter with a collar and tag or microchip,” Cappello emphasized.  “Dogs are five times more likely to be returned home to their owner if they have a collar and tag or microchip.

“If your pet gets lost and is found by our shelter, we will research the tag and microchip information and contact you as soon as possible,” Cappello said. “Collars with identification are your pets’ fastest ticket back to you should they become lost.”

Joliet ID machine 5.2015

Engraving an ID tag at Joliet Township Animal Control

CACC joins Joliet Township Animal Control as two major Northern Illinois municipal animal control programs now offering ID tags as part of the adoption/retrieval package. JTAC, which serves Joliet, Joliet Township, Crest Hill and Rockdale, used part of a $20,000 grant awarded it by The Petco Foundation, in partnership with Natural Balance Pet Foods, to purchase its machine in March 2015.

ILresearch

Thank you Lydia Rypcinski for writing this article!

 

 

 

ASPCA’s Position Statement on Shelter Responsibilities Regarding Lost Pets

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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.

 

Follow-up: Cook County Commissioners Meeting – November 3, 2015

DSCN0833

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.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/daily-southtown/news/ct-sta-cook-county-dog-snafu-st-0805-20150804-story.html

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/editorials/ct-animal-control-audit-pets-edit-0909-20150908-story.html

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.

Follow-up on to LDI’s Blog “To Hold or Not To Hold”

 

Posted on LDI's Post by Page section

Posted on LDI’s Post by Page section

Our follow-up to our blog To Hold or Not To Hold – Is it the law? – That is our question

The topic generated a great discussion on our Facebook page. It inspired one of our fans to write an email to the Department of Agriculture. Copy of her email:

“Hi, I was wondering if you could tell me what the legal responsibility is if one finds a lost dog.  I have heard you have to do our due diligence in finding the owners before keeping it as a pet or finding it a good home.  Specifically, if the dog has a microchip, does the vet or animal control who reads the microchip legally bound to keep the dog while the owners are contacted.  Can the finder of the dog, keep it until the owners are contacted.  I searched through legislation and your website and could not find information on this.  If you can cite any laws or regulations, that would be great.  Any info you can provide would be greatly appreciated.”

The response to her email:

“Lost” or stray dogs should be turned over to Animal Control.  The Illinois Animal Control Act requires them to scan for a microchip and search for any other identification and then notify the owner.  Once the dog is identified, the animal control is then required to allow the owner 7 days to pick up the dog.  Keep in mind that people who lose their pet will check with animal control to see if it has been picked up or turned in.  If you keep the dog, the owner may never be reunited with their pet.

Mark J. Ernst, D.V.M.

State Veterinarian / Bureau Chief

Bureau of Animal Health and Welfare

Illinois Department of Agriculture

The  response to our fan’s email really didn’t answer the question.  We would still like to see the law in writing.

PLEASE SUPPORT House Bill 4029 – A Bill That Would Help Reunite More Lost Pets With Their Families

Dot 2015

WE NEED TO PASS House Bill 4029

We can’t quite understand it.  Why would a common-sense piece of legislation that would require animal shelters to scan all dogs and cats on intake and notify owners be opposed by an animal shelter organization such as the Illinois Animal Welfare Federation?

We can’t figure it out. This  Illinois Animal Welfare Act pretty much mirrors the Illinois Animal Control Act, which already requires animal controls to scan all dogs and cats for microchips and notify owners.

510 ILCS 5/10, http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=1704&ChapterID=41  Impoundment, redemption for animal control

So why shouldn’t shelters be required to make every attempt to find the owner before placing the animal in another home or facility or euthanizing?

Here’s the new legislation:
See 225 ILCS 605/3.10 new http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/fulltext.asp?DocName=&SessionId=88&GA=99&DocTypeId=HB&DocNum=4029&GAID=13&LegID=90246&SpecSess=&Session=

Seems pretty straightforward. We believe that every facility that shelters animals should seek to verify ownership, even for “owner surrenders” because we can easily imagine scenarios where a disgruntled neighbor, angry ex-spouse  or someone who finds an animal could take it to a shelter to relinquish it

This only makes common sense to verify ownership at the initial intake before transferring, adopting or euthanasia. This also allows the opportunity for a family to claim their animal.

During the committee hearing process, the Committee accepts Witness Slips to enter your support of the bill.  So please take the few minutes to register per the instructions and send in your electronic witness slip for support.  Instructions to register.

Then register your support for the bill through the Illinois General Assembly website.

  1. On the General Assembly’s homepage, click on “GA Dashboard”
  2. Click on “House” in the left hand menu
  3. Click on “Committees”
  4. Scroll down to “Executive Committee”
  5. Click on the gavel icon on the right hand side of the screen to “View committee hearings.”
  6. Click on “View Legislation” box, on the right
  7. Scroll down to HB4029 and click on the “Create Witness Slip” icon, on the far right
  8. Fill out your witness slip and be sure to check “proponent” and “Record of Appearance Only”

The Executive Committee meets this Monday, April 20 at 4:00 pm to consider this bill.

Please register your support by 4:00 on Monday, April 20.

The bill’s sponsors are: Deborah Conroy and Silvana Taberes

Members of the Executive Committee are:

Chairperson: Daniel J. Burke

Robert Rita

Chad Hays

Edward J. Acevedo

Luis Arroyo

Greg Harris

Eddie Lee Jackson, Sr.

Joe Sosnowski

Ed Sullivan

National Lost Dog Awareness Day – April 23rd

ldoasquareWe are gearing up for the second annual National Lost Dogs Awareness Day which is Thursday April, 23rd. We are reaching out all over the nation to increase awareness and to show that not all stray dogs are homeless. Most have a family out there frantically searching for them. They don’t need a new home, they just need help getting back home.

Join us on our mission to spread the word and increase awareness throughout the month of April, Then join us on Thursday, April 23 as we observe the second annual National Lost Dogs Awareness Day created by the founding members of Lost Dogs America.

 

 

Use Facebook to Help Increase Your Shelter’s Return to Owner Rate

dogx-topper-mediumMany animal shelters in America have contracts with local municipalities to hold “stray” dogs for the state-mandated stray hold to give owners an opportunity to reclaim their lost dog. This period of time varies from state to state.

A shelter typically has two windows of opportunity to help people find their lost dog:

  1. When a person who has lost a dog comes in or calls to file a report.
  2. When “stray” dogs are picked up and impounded at the facility.

Today we want to talk about using Facebook to maximum potential to help lost dogs get home. We are thrilled to see so many shelters and animal control facilities (big and small) using Facebook to try to reunite lost dogs with their owners.

We have been in the Facebook game since our inception in early 2010 and we’ve seen a lot of changes along the way. We have gained a large following and have learned many lessons from our successes and failures. We have seen what does and doesn’t work. We have also seen some shelters start to post impounded found dogs on Facebook and then stop, claiming that it isn’t working or that it requires too much time.

We would respectfully like to offer some suggestions that may help make everyone happy:  shelter management, the taxpayer, the shelter donor and volunteer,  the dog’s owner and of course the dog that gets to go back home!

The benefits of posting found dogs on Facebook are numerous:

  1. You will decrease the length of stay for animals in your shelter.
  2. You will free up space for needier animals.
  3. You will increase your shelter’s reputation and goodwill (and possibly generate donations from grateful owners and fans). Nothing tugs at heartstrings better than happy reunion photos when an owner reclaims their dog. Make sure you have a camera handy!
  4. You will become a resource in the community for owners who are missing their dogs. Post articles and tips to help people find their missing dogs. Also post happy reunion stories, microchip clinics in the area, and lost pet flyers for members of your community who are missing their pet.
  5. You will help your community make a “paradigm shift” that not all stray dogs are homeless.

If your “stray” intake is low use your main Facebook page to post them. The beauty of posting lost and found dogs on Facebook is that a neighbor or complete stranger might “happen chance” to see the post of the found dog and know where he/she belongs. Or, they might see the lost dog and then see the post.

Yes, the people that are actively matching (the owner, our volunteers and members of the public who enjoy doing this) will seek out the info where ever it is stored, whether it be on a website or a separate Facebook page but that only takes care of the actual matches (where a lost report matches a found report) which is still a fairly small percentage of the reunions.

The best chance for a “happen chance” reunion is to get the posting in front of the biggest audience possible, which is almost always your main Facebook page that you use for all of your shelter Facebook posts. Pictures of impounded pets are one of the most widely shared posts on Facebook (much more than adoptable pets) so posting them on your main Facebook page has the added benefit of driving traffic to your page so that your adoptables, fundraisers, etc. are also more likely to be seen.

A common mistake we see is shelters that try to run a separate Facebook page for found pets and then not actively working to build the fan base of that page. The average person is not going to stumble across the Found or Stray page by accident and Facebook does not make it easy to search.  So you will only reach those that are actively looking for your page and the likelihood of “happen chance” reunions will be greatly diminished.

If your shelter has such a high intake of “strays” that posting them on your main page is not feasible, then yes, perhaps setting up a separate Facebook page is the best solution.

Here are a few suggestions if you set up a separate page:

  1. Make sure that you include your location name and county in the title of the Facebook page. Make it as easy as possible for people to find it. Include it on your website and in any literature you distribute.
  2. Include links to the Stray page in the “About Us” section of your main Facebook page.
  3. Drive traffic to the Stray page at least once per day (more at the beginning) by sharing a post from it onto your main page and reminding your fans that “All impounded pets at xxxx shelter can be seen by visiting our Stray page”. Use hotlinks and Facebook tags whenever possible so that people can just click and be taken directly to the new page.
  4. Ask one or two volunteers to help you with this page and give them full access to it. They should engage with the fans and commenters. It’s called “social” media for a reason!  Make sure they answer every question and respond to comments. Get your community actively engaged in helping reunite found pets!
  5. Volunteer Facebook administrators can also share the posts on other neighborhood pages – including police departments, newspapers, radio stations, vet clinics, dog parks, town pages, garage sale pages, buy/sell pages and popular neighborhood hangouts like bars and restaurants. This can quickly increase the fan base of your page and makes an excellent and rewarding volunteer opportunity for someone who cannot make it into the shelter to do hands-on work.
  6. Do not get discouraged if the public offers to adopt the dog rather than trying to find the owner. Create some standard responses that your volunteers can copy and paste below these comments. And remember! You are lining up potential adopters if an owner does not come forward.
  7. Link your “Stray” page to a Twitter account with a free Facebook app that will automatically retweet everything you post. Once it is set up it is seamless and maintenance free.  You will reach a much broader audience especially if you use hashtags in front of the location. Many police departments and media outlets monitor twitter via hashtag and will retweet your posts for lost and found dogs.

Thank you for helping more lost dogs get home! You can find more tips to help increase your Return to Owner rate in this blog post: Reuniting Lost Dogs with Their Families – How Shelters Can Help

The Top Five Reasons Shelters/Stray Holding Facilities Should Post Pictures of Lost and Found Pets on Facebook Or Their Website

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5. Shelters/stray holding facilities that post pictures and flyers of lost and found pets on Facebook or Websites generate goodwill, positive press and donations.

4. Shelters/stray holding facilities will elevate their reputation in the community from “dogcatcher” to compassionate life-savers. Since “stray” contracts are funded with taxpayer money, they will show that they are using their funds wisely.

3. Pictures and information about lost and found pets are widely shared.  This will increase a shelter’s Facebook “edgerank” making their other posts appear more frequently in their supporters newsfeeds, generating more adoptions and donations. We post a shout out on LDI’s Facebook page  if your organization is posting “found” dog pictures on your organization’s Facebook page.

2. Since an estimated 40 – 60% of animals in shelters are lost pets, proactively working to get them home by posting pictures will reduce overcrowding and disease, and free up kennel space for needier animals.

1. And the NUMBER ONE reason that shelters/stray holding facilities should post pictures of lost and found pets on Facebook and Your Website?   Because it makes reunions like this happen. Need we say more?

Pebbles & Sydney 12.2014

Reunited ~Peebles and Sydney from Chicago were reunited within seconds of their owner posting on Lost Dogs Illinois Facebook page.  One of Lost Dogs Illinois loyal fans checked Petharbor and found their listing on the website.

Thank you to all of the shelters who do post pictures and share flyers of lost and found pets on your Facebook page and Websites.  YOU are saving lives.