By Trish Bendix
No single approach—or single agency—is universal enough to end overpopulation or euthanasia or cruelty alone. To be successful, there is a strong need to diversify and collaborate.
In the not-so-distant past, animal welfare agencies focused most of their attention and resources on adoptions, specifically adoptions of the animals in their immediate care. This worked well enough, but it was obvious that more measures needed to be taken. In the mid 1990s, The Anti-Cruelty Society opened a spay/neuter clinic, offering low-cost spay/neuter procedures. Other organizations followed suit, and in 2001, the PAWS Chicago Lurie Family Spay/Neuter Clinic opened its doors. Located in the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago, they are able to target under served communities, where a majority of Chicago’s homeless pets originate. Preventing unwanted litters is the most effective way to stop hundreds of thousands of animals from dying each year due to a lack of good homes. One female cat and her offspring can produce over 420,000 cats in seven years.
Thankfully, these larger organizations have the ability to offer spay/neuter surgeries not only to thousands of Chicagoland residents with pets, but also extend their low-cost services to other groups, specifically smaller shelters, rescue organizations, and feral cat groups that would not otherwise be able to afford the procedures. It has become clear that by sharing resources and using them to achieve common goals (in this case, animals who can no longer add to the overpopulation problem) we all move closer to seeing those goals realized.
This collaborative model is also evident in many shelter transfer programs. In that same not-so-distant past, shelters concentrated on finding homes for the animals specifically in their own charge, leaving other shelters to deal with their own animals. However, the animal welfare community in Chicago has re-evaluated its thinking. They all agree that finding good homes for dogs and cats is an important component of the work they do. Whenever an animal finds a good home, it is a success for everybody. Many local shelters actively transfer adoptable animals from Chicago’s Animal Care and Control facility as well as smaller shelters from the city and suburbs to larger shelters for the sole purpose of adoption, blurring the limiting lines between organizations.
Furthermore, recent citywide success—a combined euthanasia rate of 6.9/1000, the lowest rate between the coasts except for Denver—can be attributed in part to the collaborative efforts of citywide shelters working together toward common goals. The Chicago Animal Shelter Alliance (CASA) unites area shelters with the mission of forming cooperative working relationships to reduce area-wide euthanasia rates and promote rescue and adoption. These efforts will be achieved by promoting educational outreach to the public concerning pet overpopulation and the importance of neutering animals, assisting in spay/neuter efforts, and working to increase the overall number of animals adopted through shelters rather than being purchased through breeders or pet stores.
CASA members have been meeting once a month to openly discuss how to work together to find a home for every animal. They are also working towards a common goal: applying for a grant from Maddie’s Fund. Maddie’s vision is to help build a no-kill nation where all healthy and treatable (underage, sick, injured, and poorly behaved) shelter dogs and cats find loving new homes. They work towards this by supporting collaborative efforts in which entire cities and counties pool their talents and resources to build a safety net of care for the community’s dogs and cats. The foundation awards millions of dollars through multi-year grants to animal welfare coalitions to end the killing of healthy and treatable shelter dogs and cats community-wide.
The grant money must be used to increase both adoptions and spay/neuter surgeries, and must have the support of all area shelters, as well as the Chicago Veterinary Medical Association. Maddie’s Fund looks at creating a no-kill city much like a business. In order to receive grant money, CASA needs both short- and long-term sustainability plans, accurate data reports, and a commitment and guarantee that the money will be used to achieve the mission of saving animals.
CASA has already been approved to move forward with a formal application, and has begun the process of adding the city of Chicago to the country’s “no-kill” list. Chicagoland Tails looks forward to keeping the public updated. It is an exciting endeavor for everyone involved, with the saving more animals’ lives being the biggest benefit of all.
CASA shelter members include: The Animal Welfare League, The Anti-Cruelty Society, Chicago Animal Care and Control, Chicago Canine Rescue, Felines, Inc., Harmony House, Lake Shore Animal Shelter, New Leash On Life, P.A.C.T., PAWS Chicago, Red Door Animal Shelter, and the Tree House Animal Foundation. Visit www.CASAChicago.org for more information.
John Caruso is the vice president of Community Outreach for The Anti-Cruelty Society, and editor of the quarterly magazine, Animal Crackers.