Animal Care & Control, No Kill, Tough Decisions – Part II

by Mary Haight on September 22, 2010

There’s a new model of how to take a city no-kill and what has made news in Chicago is not something that is only a local matter to be dealt with, but should be useful for others to watch as no-kill open admission (taking all relinquished pets) moves across the country. 

Introduction

I’d like to use what’s happening in Chicago, as parties allow, as a kind of real time  informal case study of what occurs in transitioning a major municipal shelter to no-kill.  We’ll ask inside sources and those in charge to contribute their useful  perspectives to see where communication, language, outreach to experts, and more volunteers on board can assist in implementing a change management plan, which I learned today is going to be done by experts from a management consultants firm.

The difficulties of conducting change without a budget to manage it is another serious problem that will require creative solutions.  However many “parts” this series may or may not have, the issue of teamwork between management, employees, community volunteers, and other helper organizations in and outside the industry will be key to making this work and what works will be included here.  If we get that far in this series.  As I said, this will require the time and cooperation of others. 

Animal Care and Control’s Transition Glitch

ACCs all have a central mission - accept every animal that is relinquished, protect public health and safety by keeping strays off the streets, redeem lost owned dogs, and end the lives of animals when space is no longer available in the facility.

Chicago’s off to a rocky start.  There are many factors involved, not the least of which is getting a handle on over-crowding. Starting the no kill program before a plan and it’s elements are in place to help handle volume will bring unnecessary pain and suffering to the animals and to the people trying to keep them healthy during the process. 

Over-crowding is a significant stressor on the animals and diseases accelerate in these conditions.  Steve Dale, syndicated columnist and host of a weekly WLS radio pet show (author, certified behaviorist and trainer) was just commenting on the previous post about feline distemper and how it develops in over-crowded conditions. 

According to sources, there are only thirteen cleaners for CACC with approximately 700 cages, many of which have been used with their dividers in, making cage space smaller. That means cleaning takes twice as long and is not as thorough as it needs to be. With a cleaning detail of 13, how likely is it that all cages are cleaned every day? This affects the health of all the animals in that pavillion.

Site Visit – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

I went to CACC recently just because I thought it incumbent on me to see things for myself.  They just finished cleaning the dog pavillions; floors were wet. Several rooms of dogs were toured.  There was the occasional urine in the (empty) food or water dish the vet tech in the WGN report spoke of, and some poop here and there. There were cages with dividers used to accommodate more animals in smaller spaces. Overall, the majority were clean.

What wasn’t in good condition were the cat and mixed species areas.  The cleanliness of cat cages near the public area were maybe 50/50. The water was clean and food was provided, unlike some of the temporary cages in the hallways or the couple of cat cages in the public reception area that were barely big enough to contain the cats, with no room for a litter pan. I asked how long they were sitting there, and was told they had been there for several days.  Sunday sources reported two more dead cats found in their cages.

The loading area has a hodgepodge of mixed species in the small cages seen in vet clinics.  This was by far the worst area for cleanliness.

 What is sad but true here is this: While some cat carriers may have  contained animals brought in for TNR, there were several cage banks set up in hallways that looked neglected given the absence of food and empty water bowls. Granted, I don’t know the status of these animals. They may have been surgical candidates, but nothing indicated that.

Dying animals are better off euthanized. Tough decisions will need to be made by all directors.

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39 comments
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ex-emp
ex-emp

If you thought things were bad before, multiply that by three or four. all dogs are in half cages, lucky to get cleaned every other day. not enough staff to clean 800 animals. animals still dying in cages. at least four fights because dogs have gotten out of broken cages which should NEVER have been used. cats are lucky to get clean litter daily, forget about really cleaning cages. No real back-up from Dept of Labor-safety issues or IG. The last hope is that Travis won't be kept on under the new mayor

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

Many have been living in hope for a very long time on the resignation/firing of this ACC director, in my opinion the least competent appointment to Animal Care and Control in Chicago in the past decade, maybe more. The wall of silence in this City acts to stop people from advancing the conversation (witness the quashed WGN stories), which might fix what's wrong before it gets out of hand. This appointment has been trouble from the start and what's been done? Incompetence rises to the top - you just need to know the "right" people.

dogedog
dogedog

How is the state of Chicago Animal Care and Control Now?

public
public

animal control director dont know anything about animals.i dontknow who give her job.she made a mess there.

sheldon
sheldon

I read the PDF from Austin, that is bad news. There are far to many unanswered issues in that document. My vote goes to the ex employee, Outside consultants are seldom the answer. They don't live with the consequences of their decisions. Look what happened in Indianapolis, please for the animals sake.

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

Hi Sheldon, and welcome! Thanks for your previous comment - I like this blog's commenters, too:) I think we can have radically different ideas, but we all want to get to solutions so we have a common mission. Learning from each other, taking experiences from others and amending programs to suit the needs of our circumstances saves us time which helps us get to saving more lives a little quicker than if we had to reinvent the wheel. Thanks for adding to the conversation.

sheldon
sheldon

An excellent blog, and the posters are civilized. Usually when going into the aniamal arena it gets nasty. I will be back.

ex-emp
ex-emp

It's not that the city can't handle ACC, Travis can't handle ACC and the city can't or won't handle Travis . If PAWS takes over, then how can they say they're no-kill? How will they rationalize the number of animals that need to be put down?

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

That's a good question, I don't know but it could end up as a partnership with PAWS in charge of adoption and the City in charge of the taxpayer services.

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

That's an interesting question you pose. We will have to wait and see how all this turns out, but I think what's important going forward, and what has been sadly lacking to date, is transparency. I don't know if that's possible given those involved, but I think if we all keep asking questions about what's happening, sharing information, working to keep the public informed.

Also ex-emp
Also ex-emp

It seems as though this is all being done so that Cherie Travis and her puppetmaster Paula Fasseas can go to the mayor's office and show how the city CANNOT handle the shelter and it should be privatized. It's common knowledge that Paula Fasseas and PAWS wants to take over and make Chicago no-kill. Funny thing is, PAWS won't pull the sick and dying animals and take care of them - they pull the cute fuzzy ones who are highly adoptable and sell them at their Lincoln park "adoption" center. This is all being done by design, people!

ex-emp
ex-emp

When trying to change to no-kill, CACC should be used as an example of what NOT to do. You need to know what resources and limits you have NOW. You can't take a staff that's hard pressed to clean 500 animals and expect them to clean 700-800. Then there's the budget that the city cuts 5 to 10 percent each year. Friends of CACC have been buying paper food trays for the cats and supplementing litter pans. Staff have been buying bowls and spending their own money on canned food for kittens and sick animals. without them there would be many more dead animals found daily. You can't look for ways to suspend or fire employees then use that money to add more animals then bully the remaining staff to do more. There's a limit to how far people can be pushed and it sounds like CACC has gone beyond that limit.

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

Yes, I'd like to know if any announcement has been made to the employees on the transition to no kill, or if this has not yet been discussed. People can only stretch themselves so far until they break, and I have not seen a time when so many employees, current and past, speak out - volunteers, sure - but not employees. Thanks for your comment.

Animal Defender
Animal Defender

How about getting someone in there to run the place that actually knows what they are doing? Instead of someone with political clout....and an agenda.

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

Now there's an idea! Seems ACC has been a place where people are sent until another more appropriate position opens up for them elsewhere in the City structure. Of course, there were Vets that acted as directors of the animals during other tenures. Thanks for your comment.

ex-emp
ex-emp

Why a "change management" consulting firm? It would make more sense to bring in experts on animal sheltering. And who will be paying for this?

ex-emp
ex-emp

According to HSUS reccomendations, there should be 17 people on duty each day to get every cage cleaned properly. Which means a staff of 24 (allowing for days off, vacations,etc). ACC knew they were short-staffed in December. Why would Travis continue to collect animals when she knew there was no staff to care for them? By the way,Mary, those animals in cages in the hall with no food or water are waiting for days to be impounded and no-one had fed them yet that day.

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

That's a heck of a disparity from a recommended 24 to what is there - only 13. I wonder if the recent dead cats found were from new intakes or animals that had been been there awhile. The idea that they were not fed or given water is really bad, and you can see that might happen if responsiblity is not clearly assigned.

Mel
Mel

Mary - I am so glad you are continuing to cover this story. It's one that needs to be followed since the main stream media tends to be off looking for the next new shiny penny before "the rest of the story" can be told. 7 people to clean 700 cages is so beyond anything I can comprehend. Our shelter houses up to 30-35 dogs at a time and they have two staff members cleaning them out + volunteers who ome throughout the day and clean up if a dog poops or pees in it's kennel. It's expected and we volunteers reinforce it. If you calculate it out for ACC, they've got 1 staff member for every 53 to 54 cages and that's when 1-2 aren't on vacation. I don't know what the volunteer situation is like, but based on your past report, I can't imagine it is good, especially when they were treated so badly by the director. Wow. This is going to take a while to turn around.

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

Yes, I was astonished at how few people were cleaning, and then what a great job they were doing on the cages they could get to. It's got to be overwhelming. The media need something remarkable to report on in order to continue reporting. An investigative reporter, however, could dig through FOIA information and formulate a series of stories based on findings and source information, and ask for an interview. There has yet to be a public announcement about taking ACC no kill. Perhaps the director slipped when she said that at the Oprah taping. Thanks for your comments, Mel!

Zozo
Zozo

Zozo Thanks Mary for the job you are doing.The problem with ACC is deeper than seen.ACC is mismanaged by aDirector who is anything but competent.She is ignorant and think that it is her way or no way.ACC was one of the best shelter until her nomination .

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

Hi Zozo, sorry for the late response I don't know that I'm doing much good, but shining a light on problems is the first step towards transparency. If everyone can see the problems, at least some of them might get fixed. Thanks for commenting.

ex-emp
ex-emp

The staff is trained in proper cleaning techniques, unfortunately, due to the sheer number of animals they are unable to do so. Cages were designed so that a dog could be contained in one half by the divider while the other half was cleaned. now the divider is separating two dogs and waste from one side is running under to the other side. Just opening the door to sweep out the waste is a feat in itself, especially with an aggressive dog that attacks the brush. CACC is an outbreak just waiting to happen.

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

Sorry for the late response! Yes, I saw those dividers and how the cleaning system works. I can imagine, however good the cleaners, that those divider channels would be a breeding ground for bacteria. Glad nothing has happened so far and hope it doesn't .

veryvizsla
veryvizsla

13 staff members is a pretty small number to clean 700 cages! I'm impressed at how clean everything was. Here's a question. Are volunteers allowed to help with cleaning cages or can only staff trained in proper hygiene techniques do the cleaning?

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

Oops, missed this, sorry! I think that may be a unionized position but that's a good question - I can't imagine anyone would object or not do it when needed anyway, at least the basics if not touching the chemicals or hoses. I'm sure there are insurance considerations too.

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

Thanks for chiming in, anonvolunteer. We can all work to change the picture and take it from something sad to a successful re-homing with the right family.

kim
kim

This was very difficult to read. I ran and directed a no kill animal shelter in Illinois about 5 years ago and it was one of the cleanest, healthiest and nicest shelters around. Everyone that entered our shelter and saw the facility and the animals were always amazed as well as impressed. Of course we started out as no-kill so I have no idea what it's like to change a facility that isn't. I'm not sure I would be able to stomach the process as I don't believe any animal should be put to death due to lack of space or overcrowding. At the same time, I understand the health issues involved when this happens. This is a tough situation and one that will need a lot of assistance from other groups and organizations. Thanks for this post.

anonvolunteer
anonvolunteer

This is another part to a very sad story, thanks for speaking up on behalf of the creatures that are cast off by our society.

Claire
Claire

Here is a link to Austin's plan: http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/health/pets/downloads/... There is definitely a staged process, otherwise issues like the ones you described above occur which is good for no person or animal.

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

Welcome and thanks so much for the link, Claire; very helpful and much appreciated! I agree it's essential when working toward no kill to make sure you follow a plan that will bring success.

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