Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to speed animal adoption sailed through a City Council committee Monday after animal-loving aldermen were assured the goal was to euthanize fewer stray dogs and cats — not more of them.
“I would like to ask the department to verify that this will not result in the increase in euthanization of, particularly dogs,” retiring Ald. Tim Cullerton (38th) said, prior to the Budget Committee vote.
“Some of my constituents were concerned about that and I talked to the commission [on Animal Care and Control] beforehand, who told me that was not the case. So, I’d like to clarify that for the record.”
Sandra Alfred, executive director of the Commission on Animal Care and Control, said the goal is to put fewer dogs and cats to sleep — not more of them.
Alfred noted that the city impounds 23,000 animals a year and euthanizes about 6,000 of those, many for “health reasons and behavior” issues. As tragic as that seems to animal lovers, the percentage of stray animals euthanized has actually dropped — from 70 percent just a few years ago to 26 percent, she said.
“The goal of this amendment is to make sure we’re able to move adoptable animals through our facility quicker,” Alfred said of the mayor’s ordinance.
“Our goal is not to increase euthanasia. Our goal is to continue to mark a decrease in euthanasia as we’ve done in the last several years by allowing rescue groups to come in and pull these animals after the third day—especially if they’re highly adoptable. And we can also adopt them to city residents.”
Ald. Ray Suarez (31st) was not appeased by the drop in euthanasia. He demanded to know why the figure was still “so high.”
“Couldn’t you find other agencies willing to work with you guys and take some of those pets and see if they can find a home for them?” Suarez said.
“I’d like to know exactly what percentage of those animals were pets that we tried to find a home for, but we couldn’t, so we had no other choice but to put ‘em down. “
Alfred replied that the city was already working with “over 200 rescue groups” to place stray dogs and cats with responsible owners.
The mayor’s ordinance would empower the city to declare any impounded animal that remains unclaimed after three days to be the “property” of the city. That would pave the way for adoptions after three days and “any other disposition” after five days.
The mayor’s plan would also allow for the “immediate” adoption or transfer to an animal shelter or “similar facility” of any impounded cat of unknown ownership and any impounded litter of puppies under four months old along with the puppies’ mother.
Every year, the city pound places more than 1,000 animals in new homes after outreach programs that include daily lost pet tours and posting photographs of lost pets on line. But the cash-strapped city is still forced to bear the burden of providing “humane shelter for more than 12,000 stray animals,” the city says.
Also on Monday, the Budget Committee approved a catch-all “management ordinance” tied to the mayor’s 2015 budget that could set the stage for a long-awaited crackdown on Chicago’s more than 600,000 unlicensed dogs.
The changes impose new display requirements on dog owners and imposes stiffer fines if they don’t comply.
“The owner of each dog required to hold a license shall, when the dog is on the public way, either ensure the license is visible and securely attached to a collar, harness or similar device worn by the dog or, upon request by an authorized city official, make available the license for inspection,” the ordinance states.
The mayor’s plan would also allow tickets to be “served by hand upon the person in possession of the animal at the time the violation is identified.”
Currently tickets can only be sent by first-class mail “addressed to the owners of the most recent address show on county rabies vaccination records.”
Yet another change would dramatically increase the fine for unlicensed dogs on the public way — from a one-time penalty of $30-to-$200 to the same amount for every day until a dog license is purchased.
Mayoral spokeswoman Elizabeth Langsdorf insisted once again that there is no crackdown in the works and that the changes were “just meant to clarify the language.”