Three injured pit bulls were turned away from Chicago’s chronically troubled Animal Care and Control shelter this week, in violation of the city’s policy to accept dogs at any hour of the day or night so long as they are accompanied after hours by a uniformed police officer.
The incident occurred about 1 a.m. Monday. Somebody called 911 to report that three pit bulls had been released from two cars at 83rd and Artesian and that the dogs were running toward the Dan Ryan Woods.
The dispatcher contacted off-duty Chicago Police officer Barbara Kitzerow, who doubles as an animal rescuer. Kitzerow called Frank Guiliano, another animal rescuer.
Kitzerow and Guiliano arrived on the scene, rounded up the dogs and took them to the David R. Lee Animal Shelter, 2471 S. Western.
They also called the Chicago Police Department’s Ogden District, where the city pound is located, to ask that a uniformed police officer meet them at the pound, as required by the city.
But an overnight security guard at the city pound refused to accept the dogs. Instead, Guiliano said he was forced to take the dogs to the Animal Welfare League in Chicago Ridge.
“These dogs were all cut up. They were injured. But the guard said, ‘You can’t bring these dogs in here.’ We told her the protocol is to let CPD bring in dogs at any hour of the day or night. But she said her supervisor never told her that and, even if the dogs were not injured, she only had two cages left,” Guiliano said.
“The dogs were found in Chicago. They were abandoned by people who don’t want them. We get them to a city shelter and they don’t want them. It’s absurd.”
Guiliano was even more incensed when he heard what the executive director of the Commission on Animal Care and Control had to say about the incident.
“Susan Russell said we should leave them alone and Animal Care will be out the next day. But no dog is gonna be in the same spot. Someone will pick them up, use them for fighting and you’ll never see them again,” Guiliano said. “It’s gonna be awfully tough to continue doing what I do and have nowhere to bring these animals walking around overnight.”
Russell acknowledged that there was “some confusion with the security guards” and that “additional training” would be conducted to ensure city policy was being enforced.
But she made no apologies for the decision to turn away the three injured pit bulls.
“We don’t offer a 24-hour service to the public. We simply do not have the capacity to provide that kind of care overnight,” she said.
“There were members of the public attempting to enter the building with animals that they found in the wee hours and they subsequently called police,” she said. “Our policy is that only on-duty Chicago Police officers who find animals during their shift are allowed into the facility during that time.”
Ald. Ray Lopez (15th) said the latest in a series of embarrassing incidents at the city pound adds urgency to his drive to shake up Animal Care and Control and “order” Chicago to become a “no-kill” city where animals brought to shelters are euthanized only if they are terminally ill.
“If Susan Russell had her way, these three pit bulls would have wandered around the Dan Ryan Woods for days. There’s a high probability that, injured and afraid, these dogs could have attacked someone jogging or walking through those woods with their children,” Lopez said Thursday.
Referring to Russell’s testimony at budget hearings, Lopez said, “It’s outrageous for someone who told the City Council that Chicago has an open shelter that accepts any animals, regardless of condition or age, to be putting up these types of barriers — not only for the average citizen, but for the Chicago Police Department.”
Animal rescuer Katie Campbell said Russell’s demand that only on-duty police officers who find animals during the course of their shifts be allowed to turn them in overnight is unworkable in a Police Department overwhelmed by a 50 percent surge in homicides and shootings.
“The Police Department is under their own stress with their own [crime] issues. If a citizen finds a dog in the 7th District, a police officer there is not likely to get time off the street to take somebody or meet them at Animal Control,” Campbell said.
“In the 5th District, sergeants and lieutenants are already telling their officers that they’re not allowed to have stray animals in their squad cars. It happens quite frequently. Animals are wandering around at night all over the city. They need to be taken to Animal Control. But we had someone call 311 recently, only to be told, `Animal Care can’t come tonight. Tie the dog to a post and someone will find them in the morning.’ ”
In January, Inspector General Joe Ferguson disclosed that three Animal Care employees had been suspended for leaving a dog in a city vehicle for five days and nights after a mix-up at an adoption event last spring at a Chicago Wolves hockey game.
Three months later, Lopez demanded a “culture change” after the death of a female pit bull at a city pound that, Russell warned, was “full to the brim.”
The latest in a series of unexplained deaths of dogs in the custody of Animal Care and Control infuriated Chicago Wolves Board Chairman Don Levin, a dog lover who is one of Animal Care and Control’s biggest benefactors.