If you've set foot in a Chicago shelter recently or been in touch with local rescues, one thing is apparent - they are overflowing with homeless dogs. At Chicago Animal Care and Control, the city's largest open access shelter, a group of volunteers on the dog transfer team works against the clock to network dogs of all ages, breeds and sizes before their time runs out. There is not enough room in rescue for all the dogs. With this in mind, I'm a bit surprised to see a post in Crain's Chicago Business about a Chicago puppy shortage.
While I'm happy to see a positive story on adoption, what is troubling is that if you read this particular article, you'd never know how many thousands of dogs are still living on borrowed time in Chicago and it's suburbs every single day. I wish that the reporter that had done such a wonderful job featuring the work that The Anti-Cruelty Society does every day that has helped make dramatic changes in Chicago would have also given a little more space to the vast number of pets that never get a second chance.
There are strays, owner give ups, dogs taken in by animal controls in cruelty investigations. At open access shelters, no dog (or cat) is ever turned away. At open access shelters, when the cages are full decisions need to be made and someone dies. It's not just pit bull mixes fighting for their lives. It is puppies, pregnant moms and dogs of all ages and breeds. It puts a "Chicago puppy shortage" in a slightly different perspective.
In the past 15 to 20 years, our community has made great strides in cutting the euthanasia rate. Spay and neuter programs have made a dent. No kill shelters and rescues have stepped up to pull many animals from open access shelters like Chicago Animal Care and Control, the Animal Welfare League and DuPage County Animal Care and Control. The numbers are down dramatically from 20 years ago.
However, out of the three organizations listed here - just one - DuPage County - has reached zero euthanasia for space. In 2013, every adoptable dog, cat, kitten and puppy at that open access facility was saved through rescue or through adoption at DCACC. Even after reaching zero, there still isn't a shortage of homeless dogs in Wheaton. Chicago has a long, long way to go to hit those numbers.
Throughout our community, organizations of all size have worked hard on spay and neuter initiatives. Because of that, it is true, we are seeing fewer puppies than in the past. True, the overall number of dogs and cats coming into open access shelters is down from in the past. However, there are still way too many homeless dogs of all ages for anyone to be talking about any shortage here in Chicago. It's more than just homeless pitties. And, the day we have a shortage of homeless cats and kittens is the day the unicorns will be jumping over rainbows all over Chicagoland.
I know everyone loves the puppies and kittens - but when you look at the large number of pets between the age of 1 to 5 at shelters...you'll realized that a lot of puppies and kittens didn't even get a short term commitment (let alone a forever home) with the first family that took them in. If you look beyond the headline, you'll realize that the true shortage that we have is number of permanent homes with responsible pet owners.
There are hundreds of organizations of all sizes - One Tail at a Time, Be Fido's Friend, Young at Heart Pet Rescue, It's A Pittie, Chicagoland Bully Breed Rescue, Alive Rescue (and so many more I don't have room to list) - that have done great work on adoption, education and getting people out in the community to work to keep more pets with their families. More senior pets than ever before are being taken in by shelters and rescues. Whole communities have rallied around injured and abused dogs that would have never had a chance before. We have come a long, long way.
Here's the deal - if you're writing an article for Crain's, you don't even have to get in the car and go down to Animal Control or the Animal Welfare League to see the shear number of dogs still needing help. Just look at social media.
Everyday, my Facebook feed is filled with photos from the dog and cat transfer teams at CACC - pets with little time left before they may lose their lives. I also see daily feeds from Waukegan, North Chicago and a couple of other communities. While Waukegan and North Chicago have had an incredible track record of networking their dogs to rescue so that they don't have to euthanize, it still hasn't stopped the flow of homeless dogs through their doors or the urgency of the dogs they take in. It just doesn't stop. The alleged Chicago puppy shortage hasn't translated into a dog shortage anywhere.
Animal control facilities that were set up to take in the strays and to rescue pets from bad situations have become the dumping ground for the unwanted. Until I see a photo like the one below all over Chicago, I'll hold onto my confetti, streamers and champaign that's being held for that party we get to throw when we really do run out of homeless pets in Chicago and it's surrounding communities.
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