Category Archives: Uncategorized

Cooperation, Patience and Home Cookin’ Brings Bill Back Home

When Bill went missing from Countryside on July 30, 2017, his family posted on Lost Dogs Illinois right away. A LDI fan, Cindy, saw the post, shared it on Facebook, and then checked it again the next day.

“I saw a friend of the family was asking for help,” Cindy said. “I figured I could go talk to them and give a little advice. But I had no idea how involved I was about to become in Bill’s journey.”

Cindy met Bill’s mom, Liz, at the forest preserve where Bill had become lost. They spent the next week putting up flyers in the residential area that was next to the preserve. Cindy gave Liz pointers on what dogs in survival mode may do and go.

“It was heartbreaking when Bill crossed our paths three times that week, but [to ensure we could bring him in] we needed to let him go so he would settle down and not leave the area,” Cindy said.

Cindy and Liz set out feeding stations and cameras where Bill ran into the woods and wherever someone reported seeing Bill. Their big break came August 6, when a neighbor reported that Bill passed through his parents’ backyard that day.

Working with Frank G., Cindy and Bill’s family were able to set up a feeding station/trap/camera on the neighbor’s property and kept it under surveillance. Cameras showed Bill coming to the feeding station daily for another week but wary of entering the trap to take the food.

Not so the feral cats, skunk, opossum and 12 raccoons that Cindy and Frank wound up trapping and releasing instead. “Bill didn’t stand a chance of getting any food with all those critters going into the trap,” Cindy said.

Because Bill seemed to visit the trap at random hours after dark, Cindy decided to do a stakeout one night after 11 pm. After trapping and releasing a couple smaller animals, Cindy dozed off only to wake at 3:22 am to the sound of a dog barking. It was Bill – 16 days after he had run off into the woods.

Note:  To keep the wildlife from visiting the trap, Bill’s owner led a trail of fruit in the opposite direction to keep the wildlife occupied.

 

“It was pitch black so I couldn’t see a thing, not even the trap except for the glow-stick attached to its door,” Cindy said. “Bill barked on and off for a good 45 minutes. I was starting to wonder if he was warning other critters about the trap!”

Cindy placed more food inside the trap and waited two more hours in her car.

“Then I saw Bill cross the street,” Cindy said. “I hurried back to the trap, placed more food inside and got back in my car to wait for the sunrise. I figured the wildlife would be going to sleep then, and Bill would have his chance at the food.”

He was frustrated and hungry; we had chicken legs and smoked ham hocks in that trap and he had to watch the other critters go in, eat and leave him nothing,” Cindy said.

That morning, though, hunger won out over caution.

“Bill went back and forth to the trap several times to eat what he could without stepping in, then he barked at the trap to see what would happen,” Cindy said. “Nothing happened. So Bill sat by the trap, then lay down next to it, then finally took the gamble and went in, tripping the door.”

Cindy saw the glow stock on the trap door drop about 15 minutes later. No ‘possum or raccoon this time – it was Bill!

After calling Liz and her husband, Bob, with the good news and helping get Bill to the vet (“He smelled horrible!” Cindy said), Cindy looked at the images on the camera card. They showed why Bill had been barking so much.

“Bill’s story has a happy conclusion, butCindy knows it might have turned out differently if not for the cooperation, hard work, dedication and trust of Bill’s family.

“Thank you, Bob and Liz Skelly Giacomelli, for trusting me,” Cindy said.

Thank you, Cindy P., for sharing Bill’s Story!

 

Raise the Woof with Sarah Lauch interviewing Susan Taney, LDI’s Director

“The hardest thing is the dogs that people do not know what happened to them. I know they are out there, but they just haven’t found them. ”

The work that Lost Dogs Illinois Co-Founder and Director Susan Taneydoes is so important. There is no worse feeling than losing your dog. We go into great detail about her experiences and what you can do if you have lost or found an animal.

Thank you Sarah Lauch for interviewing LDI’s Director, Susan Taney

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

 

 

When Every Thing Goes Right – Capture of Leia

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

Steps taken:

  1. Flyer. Flyer. Flyer. (This was done immediately for Leia)
  2. Sightings start coming in

    Leia being sighted in a backyard.

  3. Speak with callers and get better details. Leia was seen several times in yards where flyers had been given to homeowners. Guess what? They called.
  4. We established a good area for a feeding station and camera and trap. All the meanwhile still flyering.
  5. Learned and saw for our own eyes Leia in the area and actually engaging the zip tied trap baited with irrestable food. We knew she was comfortable and….
  6. Set and watched the trap.
  7. Safely trapped Leia

Leia checking out the trap!

 

 

 

 

 

Gotcha Leia

 

 

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.

Not All Stray Dogs Are Homeless

Two weeks ago, my brother started to notice a skittish shepherd running loose in his district at night. He began to leave food for her when he figured out her route. This smart girl was going through a hole in the fence of a trucking lot where she likely bedded under a trailer for warmth and safety. Any attempt to approach her was met with her fleeing.

 

FiFi at her feeding station. Using a rubbermaid container to protect the food.

FiFi laying next to her feeding station.

Last week I came to try to trap this sweet girl with my brother. I set the trap up under the trailer where she usually darted under. She’d be hungry and it would be quick. Not so fast! She didn’t even touch a morsel of the warm food trailed in. The trap was new in her spot and spooked her.  So, we placed a camera and bungeed the trap open-ended with food in the middle.

 

Fifi getting use to the trap.

Within 2 nights, it was evident that she was comfortable with the trap; she walked in and out to eat with ease. Last Wednesday night, before the snowfall, we baited and set the trap just at about 1:15am. Like clockwork, she showed up. We pulled away, shut the car off and silenced our phones. Within MINUTES, she was caught! Our patience prevailed!

Fifi caught in the trap.

FiFi trapped.

Unfortunately, she didn’t have a microchip. She was thin, matted and covered in burrs, but walked beautifully on leash and was used to being in a car. I posted her to Lost Dogs Illinois and took her for a check-up and to get cleaned up at the vet thanks to Trio. She was then transferred to a local open-access shelter for her stray hold.
5 days later, I received a phone call, text and email- someone thought it may be their lost dog, Fifi. Fifi went missing on 11/19/2016. After exchanging pictures, it was evident that this was her! Fifi traveled over 4 miles from her home when her gate was accidentally left open. She likely traveled a long running route her owner takes with her that lead her to where we trapped her.
Her owner hung flyers near their house, not realizing the far distance she had traveled. He was then looking through the ‘Is This Your Lost Dog’ album on LDI’s Facebook page when he saw my post. She was missing for 3+ weeks!
Fifi is now microchipped and safe with her owners. She cried out in delight and coated them in kisses when they were reunited at the shelter. It was truly beautiful.

FiFi’s reunion pic!

When shy/skittish dogs are lost, they travel a lot at night, when there are less people out to notice. I am truly thankful for my brother and other CPD officers who spotted her. Without a feeding station being set, she may have left the area. Fifi also reminded us of the importance of patience with lost and stray dogs. She went into the trap on her own time and comfort level. Fifi’s owners never gave up looking for her 3 weeks after she went missing. They were persistent!
Huge thank you to Lost Dogs IL– without your group’s existence, Fifi may have never made it home. Your network has such a large and wonderful impact, and truly made a family whole again. Thank you for continuing to preserve the human-animal bond and helping us remember to think lost, not homeless.
Thank you Katie Campbell for sharing your most excellent trapping and reunion.