Like many people familiar with Chicago Animal Care and Control, I was dismayed by the termination of the Executive Director Susan Russell by the Mayor’s Office on June 29.
To express my disappointment and to support the cause to reinstate her, I joined hundreds of supporters at the July 3rd rally. There I heard first-hand from Alderman Sposato, Steve Dale, volunteers, and rescue representatives of the progress the shelter had been making under her leadership. They believed she was saving healthy and treatable animals, was doing the necessary work within the community to become a resource, and was rightfully fostering partnerships with other organizations that assist under-resourced communities.
The 8,000 signatures on the petition to reinstate her are proof of her successes in a challenging environment.
Ms. Russell, even with limited resources, was able to make improvements and put effective systems in place. See the Plan for Continual Improvement: www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/cacc/supp_info/PlanforContinualImprovement.html Unfortunately, she is now unable to employ some of the essential best practices like communicating transparently in regards to marketing the animals, engaging stakeholders, and discussing the multitude of challenges the shelters face in their efforts to save healthy and treatable animals, not kill them.
In addition to her plans to develop a foster program to ease capacity issues, she was ready to implement additional, effective methodology she learned from the Austin City and Pima County shelters, her mentors at these respective institutions, and from national organizations like Best Friends Animal Society. Prior to her dismissal, she was working to improve how dogs are accessed and enriched at the shelter in order to make more effective and fair decisions about adoption transfers and euthanasia. Safer, more humane communities are possible when we strengthen the bonds between people within a community and the bonds between people and companion animals. I agree with Ms. Russell’s Op-Ed that we can become a city that saves its healthy and treatable animals (a “No Kill City”).
Austin, Texas is an example of how a proactive vision, combined with a commitment of resources and ongoing community engagement, can benefit a city’s residents, pets, and economy. Chicago, like Austin, can become a city known for its commitment to humane communities. But in order to do so, we must adequately fund the center’s public safety, animal control, and sheltering functions, and we must support under-resourced communities. Unlike the current administration, I would not ignore the issues affecting Chicago’s people and companion animals. I would listen to stakeholders. I would ensure that the City shelter is adequately funded. I would support community outreach organizations and organizations that thoughtfully partner people and companion animals.
I would encourage conversation between the many stakeholders so we can reach an understanding of what we really want this city to be, what programming would be the most effective, and how we, together, can help those most at-risk of coming to or perishing in a municipal shelter.