Tag Archives: City of Chicago Animal Care and Control

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

 

 

Paving the way to keep Pets in their homes!

At the Brighton Park Area Free Pet Health Fair (Saturday, 10/1) approximately 390 dogs, cats & bunnies received a personally engraved IG tag donated by Lost Dogs Illinois. As each dog left the clinic, their tag was attached to their collar or harness.  They also received free vaccines and microchips which were registered to the owner at implant. Food and toys were also donated.  This event was generously sponsored by the Chicago Wolves organization.  Lost Dogs Illinois would like give a special shout out to Realtors to the Rescue who have generously donated over $6,000 to LDI this year to allow us to provide ID tags, collars, harnesses and leashes.  Thank you to staff and volunteers of City of Chicago Animal and Control who came to help.  The new face of sheltering is prevention and preserving the human/animal bond.  Lets keep these pets in their homes!

For us to continue this kind of program, a small donation of $10.00 will purchase an ID tag and a collar/leash. You can donate by clicking here. http://www.lostdogsillinois.org/support-ldi/donate/

These series of photos say it all……

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Free Pet Health Fair – July 30,2016

Jackie, Lydia, Susan, Alderman Lopez & Rebecca

Jackie, Lydia, Susan, Alderman Lopez & Rebecca

What happens when a City funded animal control (City of Chicago Animal Care and Control), not for profit organization (Lost Dogs Illinois) and a professional hockey team (Chicago Wolves) join together for the second time?  They put on a Free Pet Health Fair sponsored by Alderman Raymond Lopez.

As quoted on Lopez’s Facebook page:  “On average, the rabies vaccination as well as the five main canine vaccines can cost up to $150 per pet. Thanks to this collaborative effort, not only was I able to keep our pets current on their shots & healthy, but also save 15th Ward Residents over $105,000 in required vaccination costs!”

Also each dog was microchipped and received an engraved ID tag that was attached to their collar.  Over 400 ID tags were donated by Lost Dogs Illinois.

These pictures say it all….. preserving the human/animal bond.

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Free Health Fair – Englewood Area (Chicago) – April 2nd

What happens when a City funded animal control (City of Chicago Animal Care and Control), notfor profit organization (Lost Dogs Illinois) and a professional hockey team (Chicago Wolves) join together?  They put on a Free Health Fair!  Over 300 residents dogs and cats received FREE microchips, vaccines and ID engraved tags. Working together keeps families together!

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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.”

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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.

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Thank you Lydia Rypcinski for writing this article!

 

 

 

IT ALWAYS TAKES A VILLAGE!!

This amazing reunion story is being shared for a couple of reasons:

  1. There is a need for a centralized lost and found dog database in the US.  Lost Dogs Illinois is already partnered with this FREE service called Helping Lost Pets (HeLP).  It can pull found dogs from any organization’s shelter management software system.  We need the major shelter management software suppliers to connect with HeLP so that all Found Pet Data is visible on one website. Vet Clinics, Police Departments, stray holding facilities shelters, etc. can all use HeLP for FREE.  HeLP is already connected with rescuegroups.org and sheltermanager.com. It is simple!  Just think how many more pets could be reunited!
  2. There needs to be a staff person or a group of volunteers who are trained to research dead end microchips and ID tags. Volunteers could do this right from their own home!
Riley at home.

Riley at home.

The story about Riley is no exception! It is an amazing story with many facets to it. This shy cocker spaniel got lost from his Mom while visiting friends in Palatine. Somehow he was brought into CACC in Chicago! Riley’s Mom contacted all the local PD’s and shelters from near where he got lost but she never thought to go as far as CACC in her search!!! Riley was lucky enough to have a microchip, however when he and his Mom moved from Pennsylvania she didn’t understand how it worked and she did not update her contact info which was unlucky for Riley. Consequently, CACC, animal control sent a letter to the only address on file, which was no longer valid, an old address in Pennsylvania. Riley was on a 7 day ‘letter hold’ at CACC awaiting a response from his Mom who did not receive the letter that was sent to the wrong address. Meanwhile, a fellow rescuer, Jacyln, noted this handsome dog who clearly had a home and took some photos and shared them with the rescue community. She also noted he looked like another lost dog out of Ohio belonging to, Laura . While she and I worked on that angle we hit a brick wall when the microchips did not match. The letter hold was nearing its end. Riley would be city property on 1/16/16, only available to rescues or perhaps the euthanasia room Another rescuer, Juliette was desperately seeking refuge for Riley and also convinced he was missing his family. Inspired by Juliette, I decided to do a little research on the chip and within an hour I had found Riley’s Mom. The wonders of Google and Facebook messaging had Riley’s Mom, Diane, in contact me within minutes. This was her dog, no doubt! Diane would be at CACC at noon armed with her paperwork and proof this was her Riley. However, another rescue trumped my hold request and they were going to pull him and place him in their rescue! Thankfully, both Juliette and I frantically contacted CACC via emails/phone calls and told them the story. CACC contacted the rescue, Furever Rescue, who graciously backed away and let the owner take her dog home. ( In addition to this, Furever has kindly offered to send a groomer to RIley’s home to care of those mats!)

Diane was the first person in the door at CACC today ready to take her guy home! Riley has kennel cough and was stinky and matted from his ordeal but he has gotten a bath settled in and is done with any more adventures to Chicago says his Mom, Diane. Riley proves that lost dogs can find their way home in spite of the hurdles. Riley’s story tells us lost dogs can be anywhere not just near the place they got lost from and we must look everywhere. Riley reminds me that every rescue must fully explain the importance of the microchip to their adopters as well as to keep them up date and to call them when their dog goes missing Riley’s story is also about the power of networking and sharing lost dogs on Facebook and all of us working together. You never know who will see your post that end of saving a life. Please don’t just “like” a post, please “share” it ! To everyone whose life he touched we are all the richer for it! Riley’s story involved a village to get him back home. Thanks to everyone who brought him home!!!.

Thank you, Maria Therese!

Follow-up on LDI’s meeting w/the Mayor’s staff and Cook County President’s staff

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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.

 

 

 

Update: Revisiting the ordinance to reduce the stray hold for cats and dogs in Chicago

 

Slide1We, at Lost Dogs Illinois, feel it is important to keep you informed on what is going with trying to revisit the ordinance to reduce the stray hold of dogs and cats in Chicago.

Last Thursday 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:

“Good Morning!  I am Susan Taney, Director of Lost Dogs Illinois.  As many of you know, LDI is a not for profit organization that provides resources and tools to help families find their lost dogs.  We saw the need to help Illinois residents in the recovery of their lost dogs. Many people give up, do not have the resources to help them, do not know where their animal control facility is located or the money to pay for a professional “pet detective”.  In less than five years, over 15,000 dogs have been reunited with their families.

We were very dismayed to learn after the fact that the City of Chicago Budget committee had passed the ordinance to reduce the stray hold.  On LDI’s Facebook page, we asked our supporters to contact the Mayor and Aldermen.  I attended the City Council meeting with our supporters to only find out that there was no public discussion allowed at the meeting.  Another aldermen also had told us that the ordinance was going to be tabled for more discussion.  The ordinance was passed with no public comment.

After trying to find out when the ordinance was going to be implemented.  I FOIA’d (Freedom of Information Act) City of Chicago Animal Care and Control and received the following message – “See Attached and the link to the ordinance” Then I asked the City Clerk’s office – they gave me the link.  Again, no implementation date was set.  I did not find out the implementation date until the Prince Charming blog. There was nothing provided to the hundreds of thousands of Chicago residents with beloved family pet members letting them know that the ordinance had been changed.  Chicago citizens pay taxes; their taxes fund CACC. CACC is supposed to provide services to the citizens.

I also want to share that two years ago Kathy Pobloskie, Director of LDOW, and I met with the CACC senior management staff to provide suggestions for free and low cost ways to increase the return to owner rates.  We offered to train their volunteers.  I also presented a PowerPoint presentation to CASA about Lost Dogs Illinois in regards to our program.  Our goal is to make Chicago shine and be one of the best cities to live in and know that the Chicago residents who have animals as loved family pets will be treated with respect and dignity. We have received so many testimonials from families saying they did not know what to do, where to look and now CACC has only made it more difficult for residents to find their lost animals. There needs to be a balance between people who have lost their dogs and the truly homeless dogs that needs to be rescued.
To conclude, we are very disappointed that there was no public discussion allowed when this ordinance was passed.  There has not been any kind of public information campaign.  This ordinance is vague.  There are so many unanswered questions.   I have attached my blog in regards to questions about this ordinance.  I request that all these questions be answered in a public forum.  Thank you for allowing me to speak.”

Attached are the handouts that was given in the packet to the members of the Commission for the City of Chicago Animal Care and Control .

LDI Blog – Revisit the ordinance to reduce the stray hold period for cats and dogs in Chicago.

LDI Blog – Where Oh Where could my lost dog be held in Cook County

LDI Blog – Part 2 Where Oh Where could my lost dog be held in Cook County

LDI believes that knowledge is power. Be sure to read our blogs. Be informed.  You are your animals’ advocate.  They are depending on you!  The Mayor and Aldermen have the power to change this ordinance. We ask that you continue to call, email, and even set up appointments to discuss your concerns. Continue to share the petition.

City of Chicago Aldermen

rahm.emanuel@cityofchicago.org  Mayor

Together we can make an impact for Chicagoans and their loved cat and dog family members.

Former Director, Mitch Schneider

Former Director, Mitch Schneider