David R. Lee Animal Care Center, 2741 S. Western Ave., operated by the Chicago Department of Animal Care and Control.

Chicago’s Animal Care and Control shelter. | Sun-Times file photo

Sun-Times file

Animal Care ordered to set euthanasia policy, treat dangerous animals humanely

Last month, the Sun-Times reported that Susan Russell, the executive director of Animal Care and Control, was rushed to a hospital over the Christmas holidays after a pit bull she was walking took a chunk out of her arm and leg.

SHARE Animal Care ordered to set euthanasia policy, treat dangerous animals humanely
SHARE Animal Care ordered to set euthanasia policy, treat dangerous animals humanely

The executive director of Chicago’s chronically-troubled and overcrowded Animal Care and Control shelter was ordered Monday to develop a written animal euthanasia policy and follow basic standards for the humane treatment of impounded dangerous animals.

The City Council’s Finance Committee advanced both ordinances — along with a resolution declaring 2018 the “Year of the Shelter Animal” — at the behest of dog-loving Ald. Ray Lopez (15th).

“You genuinely wear your heart on your sleeve when it comes to this,” Ald. Marge Laurino (39th) told Lopez.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported last month that Susan Russell, the city’s $130,008-a-year executive director of Animal Care and Control, was rushed to a hospital over the Christmas holidays after a pit bull she was walking took a chunk out of her arm and leg.

Susan Russell, director of Chicago’s Animal Care and Control shelter was rushed to a hospital over the Christmas holidays after a pit bull she was walking took a chunk out of her arm and leg.

Susan Russell, director of Chicago’s Animal Care and Control shelter was rushed to a hospital over the Christmas holidays after a pit bull she was walking took a chunk out of her arm and leg.

A co-worker called an ambulance to take Russell to the hospital after the Dec. 22 incident.

At the time, Lopez blasted Russell for ordering the stray dog — picked up just eight days before the incident — to be euthanized immediately, in apparent violation of city protocols for dog-biting incidents.

“Generally speaking, dogs are not immediately euthanized when they bite someone. They have to be deemed a dangerous animal. There are protocols that have to be followed,” Lopez, an outspoken critic of conditions at the city pound at 2741 S. Western, said then.

“The fact that it happened so quickly without any kind of fact-finding or determination, in my mind, raises questions about how well we are following the protocols set forth by the Animal Control Commission. This may have been an over-reach — especially if the animal was just reacting to the stresses at the shelter.”

One of the ordinances approved Monday is clearly in response to that incident.

Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) championed an ordinance to set clear euthanasia policies for the city’s animal shelter. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) championed an ordinance to set clear euthanasia policies for the city’s animal shelter. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

“This ordinance requires that Animal Care and Control have written policies in place — permanently in place — that deal with how animals under our charge are euthanized. That they are euthanized for specific reasons under professional standards and that they receive the utmost humane care during their final moments on this earth,” Lopez told his colleagues.

Finance Chairman Edward Burke (14th) said he’s “surprised a policy like that doesn’t already exist” in Chicago.

Russell did not testify during Monday’s Finance Committee meeting.

The second ordinance would require the Chicago pound to follow basic standards for the humane treatment of impounded dangerous animals.

Pressed to define those basic standards, Lopez said, “Ensuring that they are fed, that they have water, that they have all the proper sanitary needs met as well as in-kennel exercise and enrichment to ensure that the animal does not go, for lack of a better term, stir crazy while they are awaiting whatever fate has in store for them.”

Indicted Ald. Willie Cochran (20th) asked whether anything has happened at the city pound to lead Lopez to believe those basic decency standards are not already being met.

“We have seen instances where the care has not been as consistent as we would like. We want to ensure that we have it codified that bare minimums are in place for these animals while they are in our custody,” Lopez said.

That wasn’t good enough for Cochran, who argued that the city pound “has been doing an outstanding job, given the circumstances they’re operating under.”

“Just to say, `We have seen’ without any consideration of what is actually taking place is not adequate, without proof, as far as I’m concerned,” Cochran said.

Lopez then backed off.

“There’s no accusations in this ordinance. We are just codifying what I believe to be the bare minimum. … We are setting a standard for care,” Lopez said.

Cochran seemed satisfied with what he called the Lopez “retraction.”

After Russell was injured, Lopez warned that biting incidents were a mounting threat because the shelter is overcrowded.

“We have a shelter with close to 300 animals barking and stressed out because they’re not in a familiar environment and they’re not being socialized properly because they’re left in these cages for days on end,” Lopez said then.

“When dogs become de-socialized — they revert back to more of an animalistic state. They are going to be hyper-aggressive. That can put them on a more dangerous path.”

Rescue groups were subsequently offered a $100 incentive for every dog they took that was already spayed or neutered, vaccinated and micro-chippped and $200 for dogs that were not.

The incentive, bankrolled by a $10,000 donation, applied to dogs that had been at the shelter for at least 30 days.

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