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A proposed order in the City Council would make Chicago animal shelters no-kill zones. | Sun-Times file photo.

Editorial: Spare Fluffy, Fido from death at shelters — humanely

SHARE Editorial: Spare Fluffy, Fido from death at shelters — humanely
SHARE Editorial: Spare Fluffy, Fido from death at shelters — humanely

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We’re talking cats and dogs here. Fluffy and Fido. Gotta love ’em.

So it would seem a no-brainer to support a proposed order by the City Council to make Chicago a “no-kill” city when it comes to cats and dogs in shelters, meaning that only terminally ill cats and dogs could be euthanized.

But the undertaking is fraught with challenges. Chicago had better do it right, or the unintended consequences for Fluffy and Fido could be worse than doing nothing at all. A vote could come as early as next month.

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The order, sponsored by Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) and Ed Burke (14th), would require the city to spare the lives of 90 percent of healthy animals instead of euthanizing them, Sun-Times reporter Fran Spielman reported Thursday. Twenty-eight other aldermen have signed on to the proposal.

Instead of spending more than $500,000 a year to euthanize cats and dogs, the city would enter into partnerships with community organizations to facilitate adoption, Lopez told us.

“We do not want to achieve no-kill through warehousing of animals, making them live in inhumane conditions,” Lopez, who said he worked with animal-rights advocates on the ordinance, said.

But animal-rights advocates are split on the wisdom of no-kill shelters. In a letter to Mayor Rahm Emanuel in July, a few months after Lopez introduced a resolution to encourage Chicago animal shelters to adopt no-kill policies, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals warned Emanuel of potential trouble.

Animals in no-kill shelters awaiting adoptionsometimes are crammed together in substandard conditions, PETA warned. Animals sometimes are turned away from the shelters — no room at the inn — or the shelter charges the pet’s owner a fee to take the animal in. That can lead to people just dumping cats and dogs on the street, where they are in danger of suffering considerably before they die all the same.

The aldermen covered a lot of ground with the proposed order and an accompanying proposed ordinance for more sweeping changes in the treatment of animals at shelters. Change can’t come soon enoughamid grim reports over the years of animals suffering cruel treatment at the city’s David R. Lee Animal Care Center.

Among the proposed regulatory changes, all of which make sense to us, a certified applied animal behaviorist with the city’s Commission on Animal Care and Control would need to sign off on euthanizing an animal; and a director would write a policy on euthanasia and make quarterly updates to the City Council.

Operators of animal shelters would have to get animal care licenses and provide statistics on the number of pets surrendered and euthanized. And limitations would be placed on breeding.

PAWS Chicago, the animal welfare organization, is on board with the regulatory changes.

“We believe that the changes will improve the treatment of animals and be astep forward in our efforts to build a No Kill Chicago,” Paula Fasseas, founder and chair of PAWS Chicago said in a statement. “Establishing euthanasia standards,instituting professional behavior evaluations and setting a minimum standard of care … will be of great benefit for homeless animals in our city’s care.”

But Fasseas added this caveat: The Commission on Animal Care and Control “must be appropriately funded” to do this work right.

When the aldermen introduced a no-kill shelter resolution in March, one that encouraged but did not mandate no-kill policies, they called for the Committee on Health to hold hearings on the feasibility of making the Lee Animal Care Center a no-kill facility.

The hearings never happened. The City Council should start there. Let’s do this right or not at all.

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