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Local Hero – It Takes a Village

Chicago’s Animal Care and Control Executive Director sees positive changes for the animals
By Kelsey Duckett

Cherie TravisRelying on her experience and background, Cherie Travis walked through the doors of the City of Chicago’s Commission on Animal Care and Control (ACC) with a plan. The current executive director, who has been on the job since November 2009, has partnered with community organizations and shelters with impressive results to show for it.

It is easy to see why Travis is having success in her new position, as her passion for animals runs deep. She was formerly Associate Director of the DePaul Center for Animal Law, and teaches Animal Law at both DePaul and Northwestern law schools. She is also the former Chair of the Chicago Bar Association’s Animal Law Committee, is the president and co-founder of PACT Humane Society, and was appointed by Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart to serve as Co-Vice Chair of the Cook County Sheriff’s Partners Against Animal Cruelty Taskforce.

It was this in-depth knowledge and work in the field that prepared Travis for her role as ambassador for Chicago’s animals, and the numbers speak for themselves.

In the last year alone, animal impounds and euthanasias fell by 16 percent. ACC also took in 3,000 fewer animals last year, and the decline in numbers helped them to perform over 35,000 free and low-cost surgeries.

“Thanks to the massive spay and neuter programs in Chicago we are that much closer to being a no-kill city,” Travis explained.

Historically the city of Chicago has taken in anywhere from 25,000 to 30,000 animals a year—and with numbers like that, the unfortunate result is that many animals are put down due to lack of resources and space. In light of the recent decline though, Travis said, she has been given a newfound hope for the future.

“The fewer number of animals that come in the door, the more resources we have for each animal,” she said. “If we normally take in 100 dogs, and can reduce that number to 50 dogs, we will have twice as much time with half as many animals.”

Not to mention the space concern. Fewer animals coming in the door means more time and energy can be spent on finding homes for the pets-in-waiting at the shelter.

“If we can do this in 2010 and 2011, when the economy is iffy at best, then there is hope on the horizon,” Travis declares optimistically.

Not only are impound and euthanasia numbers improving, but ACC has been placing animals at an astounding rate. This past March, 782 animals were transferred, which equates to approximately 25 animals per day. Travis said this is a record high.

“In the past we have typically transferred 300 animals a month, so 400 or 500 is dramatic and 782 is unbelievable!” she said.

They don’t do it alone though, Travis stressed. ACC partners with PAWS Chicago, The Anti-Cruelty Society, Tree House Humane Society, and 171 other shelters and rescues to ensure that animals are given a second chance.

“I think it is important for people to realize this is a problem we can solve,” she said. “It is really about spaying and neutering—and adopting from shelters. It is really the people that can make Chicago a no-kill city.”

Travis strongly believes that it takes a community to solve a problem like this. It is through the various partnerships and volunteers, that ACC has been able to make significant changes allowing more animals to stay alive and end up in loving homes.

“It is an exciting time to be in Animal Control—it is a transformative time,” she said. “The city is asking us to do more with fewer resources, and that has helped us to build our partnerships up and really make bold changes.”

There are over 150 people that volunteer with Chicago Animal Care and Control, but they are always looking for more volunteers. To get involved e-mail Susan Capello at susan.cappello@CityOfChicago.org.

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