Mayor Rahm Emanuel proposed policy changes Wednesday aimed at speeding animal adoptions, bolstering animal identification and relieving Chicago taxpayers of the costly burden of sheltering 12,000 stray animals each year.
At a City Council meeting, Emanuel introduced an ordinance that would empower the city to declare any impounded animal that remains unclaimed after three days to be the “property” of the city’s Commission on Animal Care and Control.
That would pave the way for adoptions after three days and “any other disposition” after five days, the ordinance states.
Currently, strays cannot be adopted by individual owners or otherwise removed from the city pound for 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.”
Last year, less than 1 percent of the more than 5,000 stray cats were claimed by an owner. The same goes for less than 15 percent of the more than 5,000 stray dogs.
“Families, individuals or rescue groups that want to adopt strays are currently forced to wait for five full days before the stray can be removed from shelters,” Emanuel was quoted as saying in a press release.
“Making residents wait to take home animals that we want to place in loving homes doesn’t make sense. …This ordinance will help stray animals find their forever homes faster.”
Sandra Alfred, executive director of Animal Care and Control, noted that strays with no micro-chip or tags have an “extremely low chance” of being claimed by an owner.
“Making these animals available for adoption and transfer to rescue agencies more quickly increases the chances that these animals will find a new home,” Alfred was quoted as saying.
Noting that adoptions, transfers and redemptions from the city pound have increased for six straight years, Alfred said, “This ordinance will not only help facilitate our lifesaving programs, but also incentivize animal owners to obtain micro-chips, city dog licenses and county rabies tags for their pets.”
The proposed ordinance does not affect lost pets that arrive at the city pound with some form of identification, including a micro-chip, dog license, county rabies tag or any other name tag.
Those animals are held for at least seven days while the city researches ownership information, calls owners or tried to contact them by email or traditional mail.
The change in adoption policy comes as Chicago’s Animal Care and Control facility gets an $8.2 million face-lift that could dramatically improve the much-maligned quality of care for dogs and cats.
The long-awaited overhaul of the David R. Lee Animal Center, 2741 S. Western, is being paid for, in part, by a $2 million donation from the family foundation created by the co-founder and board chairman of the Chicago Wolves hockey team.
Earlier this year, Donald Levin publicly demanded sweeping reforms at the city pound “so I can continue to give” donations. He was responding to a Better Government Association investigation about accidental dog deaths.
The BGA has since filed two lawsuits seeking to compel the city to release surveillance video of a city employee allegedly choking a dog to death while trying to bring it under control and emails exchanged by top mayoral aides scrambling to deal with the media fallout.