Chicago’s Animal Care & Control on Oprah

by Mary Haight on October 6, 2010

Oprah had a great show dedicated to animals the other day and I hadn’t had a chance to watch the DVR until last night. Given that I had posted previously on why Oprah might want to look into what’s happening at ACC before putting the director on her show, I must respond, but only because what was said reduced something that was important. 

Oprah asked Travis several times about why she is getting so much flack and focused the question on one point only, that of having too many animals.  The replies offered may have sounded reasonable.  But here’s what people need to know: People who are speaking out against conditions at ACC are not doing so because, and let me get Travis’s quote here right,

 “people aren’t used to seeing a shelter that has, is full of animals I think that people walk into a shelter that’s empty or they don’t see as many animals in cages they feel better about it but all that means is they euthanize more animals…”

People  are speaking out against what’s happening at ACC because cruelty is occurring as a result of overcrowding. Stress in animals in an over-capacity shelter is not the stress you feel from work.  It’s a prelude to a cascade of dead animals, mostly cats. Don’t believe me, ask your vet, or listen to the vet on the original WGN report

  • Overcrowding is not just too many animals in cages.
  • Overcrowding is not having cages for animals accepted.
  • Overcrowding means cats living in cat carriers, without litter pans, without room for water or food, without room to turn around or even move. 
  • Overcrowding means animals are left in their own waste, not fed, not given water.
  • Overcrowding causes so much stress in animals that they can and do die of it. 

That’s 24/7 cruelty.  And that is what overcrowding means. This coupled with several dead cats found in their cages over weeks was alarming.  It was known that three vets, including the chief veterinarian, had left and there were only two part-time vets available for 700 animals. Euthanasia needs had to be shunted to other agencies because no vet left in the facility had the license to order the drugs needed. You bet there was flack. 

When you don’t know what questions to ask, you can’t really know what’s wrong and why. We are still waiting for answers on the cats found dead in their cages. Have conditions improved? We don’t know.  No follow up on the story so far. 

No one is advocating killing healthy adoptable animals here. It is not a case of Travis just wanting to save animals from being killed and anyone who complains about conditions must want to kill them. There are serious management and welfare concerns here. 

Spay neuter is very important in reducing the number of animals that reach any Animal Care and Control facility.  A post at Steve Dale’s blog at ChicagoNow talks about alternatives to mandatory spay neuter, found to an expensive unenforce law.  But equally important are all the other programs that all shelters focus on to keep pets in their homes, not the least of which is shelters working together, as with the Chicago Animal Shelter Alliance, to get more animals adopted.  That is another reason for Chicago’s success in cutting numbers killed in half in five years. 

Is it ever so easy, as Travis stated at the end of her segment, that just one magic bullet -sterilization – will solve the problem?  What do you think?

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