Thank you, Stephanie, for sharing Lucy’s story.
Thank you, Stephanie, for sharing Lucy’s story.
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
This area of the western suburb was very busy with traffic, businesses and restaurants and close to the expressways. It was a dangerous area for her to be lost in because she could have easily darted into traffic and been hit. The owners lived some distance from the area where she got loose and for the first week did not really know how to proceed. A few calls had been made to the local police of sightings but the owners thought animal control would catch Juno. They reached out to the previous foster who reached out for help.
A week later flyering was started and a pattern began to emerge. Juno had settled near a brewery, Ikea and some brush and water. A feeding station and cameras were used to help determine better times when Juno would emerge and show herself. Employees saw her and called and were gently reminded to not chase Juno or feed her because a plan of action was in place to capture her safely.
A humane trap was set up with food for Juno. She was initially interested and realized the food was near. She ate some, circled some, left and came back and tested her surroundings even though she knew the noises, the cars and her routine. She would stick her head in and out. Juno was always alert and would also stretch her legs far out even when engaging the trap. After some time, it seemed she was so close but the door bounced down and Juno spooked! She ran away and did not come back that night or the next day.
We kept the feeding station with a trap set and watched but Juno wanted nothing to do with it. Flyering continued. It was decided to just keep the cameras out and food available without the trap, to give Juno more time to feel comfortable and eat. It worked. She came back several times day/night.
Susan from Lost Dogs Illinois donated their outdoor kennel which her husband had refurbished to make a trap with a guillotine door. These traps are sometimes used for scared skittish pups and or for pups that may have spooked from conventional humane traps). Because the traps are large and harder to transport, there use takes time and planning.
Two volunteers, Frank and Tom worked on the trap and added a laser trip function, which runs on a battery charger and 120lb magnetic door. We were able to transport this to the area where Juno was feeding. We assembled it and got cameras up to monitor Juno’s behavior. Everyone volunteered their time to monitor the cameras and trap. We never leave a trap set and unattended for safety.
After the trap was set up, it took Juno a full two days to get used to it. (This could go quick or for some dogs takes days, weeks or longer of slowly moving food inside). On night one Juno was very aware the food was in and around the trap. She did her dance around the trap and left and came for approximately 5 hours, then left until the following evening. When she returned, she did alot of the same back and forth. But, all kinds of good food eventually overcame her fear and and she safely entered the trap. Gotcha!
Even though Juno got loose from an unfamiliar area she still stuck fairly close ( within a 2 to 3 mile area). Flyers generated calls about sightings, cameras helped track a pattern and feeding stations kept Juno coming back. The patience of using the right trapping procedure paid off. This sweet pup was off the street!
When a good friend and someone I have learned much from, Katie C, reached out to me to help with another loose rescue pup name Leia. I said yes. We followed our usual routine and started a group message with volunteers and the rescue. The rescue was totally engaged in doing whatever was needed and as was the foster family. This in itself helps the whole process in general. Sometimes we use the word “textbook” loosely because when helping with a lost dog anything and everything can happen. But , I do know this. There are some steps that have proven to make the journey easier. Leia went loose on a Saturday and was safely trapped by Tuesday morning
To say this went like clockwork is true. Flyers generated sightings. Sightings told us areas where she was. Homeowners were willing to allow us to use the tools we needed. Finally, patience and observation helped us capture Leia safely.
Thank you, Rosanne, for sharing Leia’s story.
Lizzie’s story as told by her owner…..
My dog was gone for 5 days and authorities still took money from me even though they never had her.
Last Wednesday-Around 2:40 – I let my 2 dogs outside in our backyard to go to the bathroom before I went to work. The gate was closed and there was nothing to worry about.
At 2:43 – I went out to see if they were done and the front gate was slightly open. I freaked out and went to the yard to find our family’s oldest dog there but my other dog was missing. I went inside to get my little brother and he walked around the neighborhood while I drove around. We didn’t see her anywhere. We thought she would be where we usually goes on walks but we couldn’t find her in any yard and nobody had seen her.
At 2:53 – I called my mom. She told me to go to work and my brother and dad would find her. I was stressing out and I could barely work without crying my eyes out.
At 5:30, -my boss let me go on a 2 1/2 lunch to see if I could find her because my dad and brother weren’t able to yet. I knew that they looked on every block in Broadview. So I decided to head to Broadview Police station and give them my dog’s information. I then went home and called the microchip company to report her missing and to make sure all my contact information is correct because she didn’t have a collar on since she was going to take a bath that day. I then went to go search Maywood since we live 2 blocks away.
Around 6:50 – I was driving down 10th avenue in Maywood when I saw a group of men. I asked if they had seen a black dog and they said they saw a dog that was black with brown stripes walking down 10th. I called my dad and started going block to block to see if I could find her. I didn’t have any luck and I got nervous and wondered if she went on the highway. I checked the other side of the highway and saw two Cook County sheriff officers. I told them what happened and if they received a call for a dog. They told me that they don’t receive those calls, but if Maywood finds her they have a scanner so she would be brought home the same day if they scanned her.
At 7:14, – I registered her on helpinglostpets.com after my mom gave me the website.
At 7:32 – I called my dad and told him my progress and he said that they will go and search Maywood. I went back to work
At 10:38 – I messaged Lost Dogs Illinois and told them what happened. They said to fill out the sheet, which I did and her post went on their page. I finished work at midnight and I still didn’t have my little girl.
Thursday- 11:30 – I started my extreme search to all shelters around the neighborhood. My first call was to Animal Care League in Oak Park. They stated that they receive dogs from River Forest, Oak Park, Forest Park, and North Riverside so if she went in those areas they would have her. I gave the lady my information and Lizzies chip number and hoped she would be found. They told me to call the police stations to see where they brought dogs if they were lost. Broadview and Maywood takes their found dogs to Broadview Animal Hospital.
At 11:43 -I called Broadview Animal Hospital. They said they never received my dog but if she was found, they have a microchip scanner and I would be called.
At 2:51 – I called the Forest Park police station before work. They said they never received a dog but if they did they would take the dog to Animal Care League.
At 2:53, I called Melrose Park Police and they stated that the only dog they have is a small brown male dog. I gave them Lizzie’s information
On my lunch break at 7:00, I drove around Maywood and to see if anyone else saw her and no one did. Went to bed around midnight without Lizzie girl
Friday-At 8:00 am – I went on a walk through Maywood and these two men told me to call Maywood Animal Control. I tried and couldn’t get a hold of them.
At 11:42 – I called The Code Enforcement Department and the lady at the front desk named Karyn said that she would have animal control call me back because he was in court.
At 2:00 – everyone was telling me to call them back so I did and no one was answering. I then called 8 times from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. and never had anyone answer.
At 4:00 – I told my dad that we needed to go to the village hall because I didn’t feel right and no one was calling me. We arrived around 4:17 and the lady at the front desk yelled at the animal control man for not calling me after she gave him my number to update me. He showed me a picture of Lizzie and asked if it was my dog and I said YES! And he went to the radio to ask if the dog is at the Broadview Animal Hospital and the man said that there is a pitbull at the hospital not a retriever and the man looked confused and asked again if that was my dog and I said yes and she is not a pitbull. “Trust me I have a pitbull at home.” He then told me I had to fill out release papers and pay a 65 dollar fee for 2 days that she was in the Hospital. He stated that a family found her on 7th avenue on the 1900 block and she let 4 little kids surround her and pet her. I filled the paperwork out, paid the cashier and my dad and I went to the animal hospital.
At 4:53 – we arrived and no one was there. We called the number and nobody picked up so we called back to the code enforcement (which close at 5) at 4:54 and no one picked up so I had to wait another day to go pick up Lizzie.
Saturday -The day we finally thought we were going to have her. I worked 7-4 that day, but I asked my manager if I could take an early lunch to pick her up at 9:00 when it opens and he allowed me. My parents and I arrived at 9:04. They opened at 9:00 and no one was there. The lights were on so we thought someone had to be there. I called them 8 times, then I called the village hall which was closed.
A man finally came in and made me fill out paperwork for 30 minutes and he went to the back to get the dog. He brought out a small black dog and a pitbull. Neither were my dog. We showed him a picture and he stated that he never seen that dog and he doesn’t know “why the hell they made you pay”. He instructed us to go to the police department to see what happened and we went over there. The dispatch said they have nothing to do with this and we would have to wait for animal control to go back to work on Monday.
I had to go back to work, so my parents dropped me off and went back. The man showed them the intake records they keep and no dog was received from the location they told me. He told my parents that Maywood has sent multiple families there searching for dogs that has never been there but this is the only time that he has ever seen someone pay for a dog that they didn’t have. They went to Animal Care League and looked at the dogs and didn’t see her.
At 2:57 – I called North Riverside police and they never caught a dog.
At 3:02 – I called Berwyn police and they also had not seen or gotten a call about a dog.
The rest of the day we were watching the Facebook pages hoping someone would see her and driving around the neighborhoods to try and get a glimpse of her. We had a close family friend print out flyers that someone made for us and we posted them on the poles of the street she was found and put a flyer of each of the houses mailbox or door hoping someone would call to tell us what happened.
The man at the Broadview Animal Hospital called the cops, which said that an Officer named Guzman answered the call for Lizzie. Someone on Facebook found his number. We called and left a message. Many people emailed other officials including the mayor of Maywood. No one received a message back. My mom went to the police station to talk to a Sgt. Fairley and he said that it is not his problem.
Many people were sharing and giving advice (which we thank) and we had my friends and others posting on news channels such as WGN, ABC, FOX, and NBC. My mom even emailed those said news stations to see if they can help
We started to run out of options. We contacted media, posted on Facebook, talked to unwilling police officers in Maywood and the only thing we had left was to go to the village hall to demand my dog back as well as my money
A few people told us to look at the Bellwood shed to see if she was there and we decided to go over there. The only dog they had was a pitbull who was very excited to see us.
The rest of the day I planned out what I was going to say because I wanted to be as calm as I could be to receive my dog without any problems.
Monday at 8:30 – my dad and I went to the village hall. Everyone looked at us confused as to why we were there. I looked an officer in the face and said “my dog was not at the animal hospital.” He went to the back and asked what happened. He came over to me and stated that she was not taken to the animal hospital. The front desk lady said ‘Oh yea! Guzman, you couldn’t take the dog right? Because you didn’t have the truck” In which he replied that he was instructed to leave the dog.
The officers went to the house where they left her at with my dad and my dad showed the family the flyer that was on their door and they were saying “Oh yea that’s the dog we found.” They gave her away to someone in Melrose Park because they have 2 small dogs.
I was told I would receive a phone call which I did at 9:34 a.m. which was from the family that originally found the dog. They said they called code enforcement 3 times and no one answered so he told me the man’s number and said that the man gets off at 5 so we could get the dog then
I went to the code enforcement to get my refund and they stated that they were going to the man’s house at 5:30 to get the dog and that they would bring her home
I went again at 11:00 to see what was going on with my refund and they said it would come on Friday. I asked if I could go with to get my dog because I didn’t trust them and they said they don’t allow people to meet because something could go wrong. (This doesn’t make sense because they asked if we wanted to go with to the family that had her and gave us their address). A man pulled me in his office and apologized and stated that someone should have picked up Lizzie and dropped her off at the animal hospital. He said he had a meeting with everyone to see what happened but didn’t give me any details.
At 5:00 – I received a call from a teenager stating that we needed to meet earlier because they have other things to do then watch over a dog and to pay up because they took care of the dog.
Right after, I called the Maywood police and they stated that it is not their problem because it now involves Melrose Park police. I told them that it actually does involve them because it was their code enforcement that screwed up in the first place and they were the ones picking her up. He said that he can’t help and there’s nothing he can do.
I received a call from the code enforcement at 5:30 and they said they had the dog outside. I went out and Lizzie was finally home.
At 9:14, I received a call from the man that pulled me in his office and he wanted to make sure his employees dropped my dog off.
Lizzie is now back at home and so happy. We appreciate everyone that posted about her and helped us along the way because it kept me sane. What Maywood did not go unnoticed and I hope that this doesn’t happen to another family. Thank you so much and hug your fur babies a little tighter tonight because you never know what can happen.
From Lost Dogs Illinois…..
Many long time fans and supporters have read our numerous blogs about how dysfunctional the system is in Cook County.
To refresh your memories, here they are the blogs:
Knowledge is POWER! YOUR Taxes and Fees pay the government officials and employees. What the government seems to forget that these are loved family members and they should be doing everything possible to reunite “found” dogs with their owners.
Susan Hochgraber was so thrilled to see her Belgian Malinois again after 11 days that she almost didn’t mind the “guests” Rosie brought home with her.
“Ugh, the emergency vet found 20 ticks on her the day we got her back,” Hochgraber said. “Then 10 more the next day, and our regular vet found eight more after that. Other than the ticks and a few cuts on her paws, though, she was OK.”
Hochgraber, a canine massage therapist from Midlothian, Ill., had barely had time to get to know the dog she rescued January 15, 2016 before Rosie escaped on April 12.
“Rosie had been rescued from the streets. It took a week and a half just to get her comfortable living with me,” Hochgraber said. “We had just finished her third week of obedience training when she escaped.”
Hochgraber had noticed that Rosie was beginning to jump at fences, so she instructed her dog walker to take off Rosie’s leash only after she had gotten the dog into the house. But the dog walker unleashed Rosie in the yard that day.
Rosie promptly jumped Hochgraber’s 4-ft.-high fence into a neighbor’s yard, and then double-jumped the neighbor’s gate fence into the street. She was gone in a flash.
Hochgraber turned to Lost Dogs Illinois, FindFido’s service, Facebook, friends and neighbors, police departments in surrounding suburbs, and Perfect Pooches, a Chicago-area dog rescue and adoption agency, for advice on getting Rosie back.
“I did everything everyone suggested – flyers, postings, everything,” Hochgraber said. “People reported a lot of sightings, particularly around a park about two blocks from my house, and especially around one of the five ball fields at that park.”
People also reported seeing Rosie along the Metra railroad tracks that run between Midlothian and Robbins. Rosie apparently followed those tracks down to Robbins, where a woman named Charita lives with her family.
“Charita had seen our flyer and called me when she saw Rosie on April 21,” Hochgraber said. “I drove to Robbins, turned a corner and saw Rosie out in a field.”
Hochgraber called out to her dog, which got Rosie’s attention; but when she made a move towards her, the dog bolted in the opposite direction.
Volunteers from Perfect Pooches helped Hochgraber set up humane traps and round-the-clock surveillance in Charita’s backyard and near an abandoned house next to her home. They figured it might be Rosie’s “quiet place,” where she went for the night.
Hochgraber placed Rosie’s blankets in the traps, as well as towels that had the scent of her other dog, a German Shepherd named Buddy. The volunteers baited the traps with some of Rosie’s toys and treats like hot dogs and BBQ chicken from KFC.
The first night, Rosie managed to get the food and even lie on a blanket left inside the trap without tripping the door. The next night, she lay down next to the trap.
The third night, April 23, Rosie lay down inside the trap. stretched out, and tripped the gate door shut. The volunteer on duty waited five minutes to make sure Rosie was inside before calling Hochgraber with the good news.
Hochgraber said she plans to replace her 4-ft. fence with a 6-footer. She put a GPS collar with a tracker on Rosie, “and she is always on leash now when she goes out,” Hochgraber said.
“I’m grateful to Lost Dogs Illinois for all the help and support I got,” Hochgraber said. “LDI suggested things I wouldn’t have thought of doing, such as putting flyers up at gas stations and other high-traffic locations. I am also grateful to all the people who came out and helped me search for my baby girl.”
She added that the people who follow the LDI Facebook page were nothing short of “amazing” with all their reports of sightings and notes of encouragement.
“Their support helped me get through 11 days of hell,” Hochgraber said.
by Lydia Rypcinski
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.
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 Animal Care and Control took one giant leap for petkind recently by adding a high-tech ID tag-engraving machine to its shelter facilities.
“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.
“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.”
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.
Thank you Lydia Rypcinski for writing this article!
When Nala went missing from her Schaumburg, Ill., home in late November 2015, well-meaning people told her family that the 13-year-old Golden Retriever had likely just “gone off to die.”
“We had had her from the time she was eight weeks old, and I didn’t want to hear that,” said Jean Cullen, the family matriarch.
The Cullens had installed an invisible fence around their property so Nala could have the run of the yard. However, the fence had deteriorated over the years, and Nala eventually figured out where the gaps were.
“We would let her out, and she would visit our next-door neighbor and our neighbor two doors down, looking for treats,” Jean said. “She would always come back within 15 or 20 minutes, when she heard us call her name.”
On November 30, though, Nala didn’t come back when called. The neighbors said they hadn’t seen her.
The family put up posters and looked for Nala under bushes and in neighbors’ sheds and garages, all to no avail. Jean also posted a lost-dog alert on Lost Dogs Illinois, on the recommendation of a co-worker.
Although she and her husband both had to leave town on business trips, the Cullens’ teenage son continued to search while they were gone.
He called them Dec. 6 to say Nala had been found – alive – in a basement window well of their neighbors’ house, two doors down.
A window well is a semi-circular area, several feet deep, dug out around an underground basement window that allows light to come in. The family that owned the house said they never heard Nala bark or make any other noise the entire time she was in the well, despite the fact they are in the basement quite often.
It wasn’t until they moved their boxes of Christmas decorations piled in front of the window that they saw her, staring back at them.
“Her groomer said Nala is such a mild-mannered dog, she probably thought she had done something wrong and didn’t want to call attention to it by barking,” Jean said.
It had rained during the week Nala was gone, and she likely drank the inch or two of rainwater that accumulated in the well. Still, “She lost eight pounds and couldn’t stand,” Jean said.
“She had no broken bones, just some scratches and was really weak.”
Nala was back to her usual weight (52 lbs.) within a week of her homecoming. The Cullens now have a long tie-out post in the backyard for her, wanting to take no more chances.
“Her wandering days are over,” Jean said. “It’s the most traumatic thing I’ve ever been through, and I am so grateful to the Lost Dogs Illinois volunteers for contacting us several times to give us support and hope.
“I was afraid that, after a week, she had been stolen or was dead,” Jean continued. “The volunteers eased our pain; they were so concerned for us and for her.”
Jean says she has learned an important lesson from this experience.
“Never give up, and don’t be afraid to go outside your comfort zone to find your pet,” she said.
“Who would have thought we’d find Nala at the bottom of a window well?”
Thank you Lydia Rypcinski, free lance writer.
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.