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Chicago's Animal Shelter May Go No-Kill, If It Can Afford To

By Mae Rice in News on Apr 4, 2016 3:40PM

Photo via Eric Danley on Flickr

Last year, Chicago euthanized 46 percent of the dogs and cats that passed through the only city-run animal shelter, according to the Tribune. Right now, animal rights activists and City Council are pushing for that number to drop dramatically—but given the ongoing budget crisis and the fact Chicago can barely fund its schools, it's unclear if the shelter can find enough money to revamp its policies.

A few weeks ago the City Council passed a non-binding resolution that the lone city-run animal shelter should implement no-kill policies. (The resolution also encouraged other Chicago shelters to follow suit.) To be clear though, "no-kill" is an approximate term; to meet national "no-kill" standards, shelters just need to euthanize 10 percent or less of their animals, according to the Tribune.

To reach even a 10 percent euthanasia rate, though, would require expensive changes to Chicago's animal control practices: heightened levels of coordination between the city pound, other state-licensed shelters and rescue groups, not to mention a non-stop citywide marketing campaigns encouraging animal adoption.

Paula Fasseas, founder of PAWS Chicago—the city's largest no-kill shelter—told the Tribune that Chicago's animal control budget is short about $10 million. For best progress on no-kill efforts, she said that doubling Animal Care and Control's most recent $5.59 million budget would be "ideal."

This is especially true because a "no-kill" policy could also require expanding the city's current shelter. The Tree House Humane Society, Chicago's first no-kill animal shelter, outgrew its facility and broke ground on a new one last June. (You may have heard of this new site because it's been approved as the location for the city's first cat cafe.)

However, Fasseas added that going no-kill doesn't happen overnight—the goal is for the city to be "on the path to no-kill."

"There's no reason why Chicago can't," she said.

Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th), who sponsored the bill with Ed Burke (14th), said he's open to creative cost-saving measures, like merging some city and county animal care operations.