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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21 comments
@psa2
@psa2

The funding issues are a real consideration, with regard to rescues-vs-a city run shelter, as ex-emp pointed out. The attitude from the general public needs to change with regard to shelters and the like. They have the impression that these facilities will just be able to take care of everything. They cannot. Stop allowing animals to reproduce randomly. Stop the apathy. ____All of this is indicitative, in many ways of how our society operates as a whole. It doesn't matter what Oprah did or didn't do... the problem still exists.

@psa2
@psa2

I would like nothing better than to see every animal shelter, humane society, rescue (what's next?) disappear because they wouldn't be needed. But that won't happen. Why is is so hard for people to act humanely, responsibly and with the care that animals deserve? Get them spayed/neutered - when the age/health/physical maturity is there, of course. ____Also, people need to understand their pets' breed - and yes, even cats. Each breeds' characteristics are unique, and sometimes more than a person without experience can handle. A border collie in an apartment? A terrier/beagle mix cooped up all day while everyone's at work? Just brief example's of recipes for disaster, when a pet owner can't figure out "Why is Fido misbehaving? Why can they just act better?" Total lack of real understanding, for the most part.____

@psa2
@psa2

I guess that the bottom line is that there are too many animals. Why? Because we, the humans that have the rationale to be able to do something to curb the problem - spay/neuter - hence reducing the number of pets that cannot, and will not be properly cared for. If more people took responsibility and did this, situations like this would be rare. As far as mandatory spay/neuter goes though, it's not enforceable. ____

veryvizsla
veryvizsla

You mean that for once Oprah could have been a "serious" journalist for once? She is the queen of the softball questions. So much, infact, that celebrities in need of "damage control" will only go to her 'cause she'll never ask anything embarrasing or difficult to answer. Oprah do something tough, uncomfortable or hard? Puh-leaze!!

ex-emp
ex-emp

Granted, in the past there has been talk of privatizing CACC. but consider this: After notifying supervisors and administration and getting no results, staff filed complaints with OSHA and IDOL. These complaints were not about working too hard, they were legitimate safety issues. Then the mayor wants to privatize the feeding and cleaning position-the same people that filed complaints. Then there was the report of cruelty and neglect on channel 9 news. And a flurry of activity to spiffy up-finish the ceilings, brighten hall lights,polish floors just in case a V.I.P. drops in. And Travis stays in her office keeping a low profile and waiting. The OPRAH Show airs and co-incidently Travis heads downtown with a plan to privatize. My understanding of privatize is that the entire job title is eliminated then the job is contracted out. Unless she uses budget cuts to rationalize laying off more than half that position-which by the way are the same staff that filed complaints. Now there is an emergency situation- too many animals, not enough staff-and she can contract out, wait until those people are trained, then eliminate that position and get rid of the remaining staff. Could this be called retaliation?

ex-emp
ex-emp

Now there's talk of a plan to lay off 6-8 of the 13 staff caring for the animals and contracting out the work. This is not what privatizing is about. Could this be in retaliation for all the bad publicity CACC has been getting lately?

ex-emp
ex-emp

Yes, there is a need for "euthanasia needs". Animals are dying, too sick and weak to move out of their own feces. Not enough vets, time, money or romm to isolate and treat all of them. Hundreds of animals have been euthanized in the past month just to make room for more coming in. As long as there are dogs in half cages,there is overcrowding. There is NOT ENOUGH people to clean and care for all those animals. Staff is working double shifts just to try to keep up. And for someone to say DO THEIR JOBS, you're aiming at the wrong people. Aim at the top!

alice smith
alice smith

Kind of hard to be a breeder if you cannot sell any animals Kim.. do you suggest that breeders give their animals away? or if you PAY for a breeders license that you then give your animals away.. You are awre that when people pay for things they value them more right? Author.. your words "euthanasia needs" are cruel and unfeeling.. there NO need for killing.. perhaps a cat would rather sit in some feces for an hour or tow rather than be killed.. I know I would .. If animals are not fed.. FIRE the people caring for them..pretty simple..cages not cleaned.. FIRE those people who do not clean cages.. overcrowding is not 24/7 cruelty..it is mismanagement..stop blaming the public and ask those that are being paid to DO THEIR JOBS..

kim
kim

I saw the Oprah show that you are referring to and I must admit that the dire conditions you've described did not come out at all. I don't understand that and I'm very surprised that Oprah's staff wasn't more diligent in their reporting or investigation before having her on the show. In any event, what will solve the problem? The problem is no only enormous but it has also gotten out of control. I don't think just sterilization with solve it but of course it would help - it should be mandatory. But also, every single puppy mill should be shut down, no more selling animals - period - and any breeder out there should be put at a much higher standard. As it is now, it's pretty easy to get a breeders license. But the biggest thing that will solve the problem is to give animals some rights!

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

Nice re-cap Lorrie, and welcome! Although I can't agree that it doesn't matter what Oprah does--it does in this town. But I get your point. The budget for ACC seems to get cut every year. That can't go on without leading to some kind of major incident. It always comes down to money. We can't do much for animals without it, at least not in a sustainable way. Yes there's a lot to sigh about, but nevermind - if we stay active in the pursuit of getting and keeping animals in their homes, we'll be too busy to be overwhelmed by the negative issues. Who was it that said just focus on the things you can change and leave the rest of it =) Oh, and Happy Birthday!

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

Huh, I did not really think about that. But it makes sense given the history of her show - it's, in balance, a feel-good show to my mind. There was that sensationalist period with the murderers, pedophiles. prison interviews that popped up again recently, but outside Lisa Ling's reports which are always thoroughly journalistic and very engaging, however gruesome, much of it is about what's good in the world. Given that view, it's hard to pin a guest to the wall unless, like that author, he lies to her and her audience. We all tend to believe our friends over others and I understand that. Had to pipe up and say something given the surrounding circumstances, though, regardless of outcome. Tired of silence and cover ups that leave animals in life-threatening situations. Thanks, Karen!

Mel
Mel

I really hate people who can't be transparent. Based on what you've written, I would say Travis and her buddies are overing their tracks as fast as they can and retaliating against those who would want the truth to be told. You can run, but you can't hide. The truth ALWAYS comes out eventually. I am just sorry that some people will be sacrificed before that can happen. It makes me mad.

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

Sure looks that way, doesn't it! Thanks for clarifying the sequencing of events for readers:)

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

If a HSUS study showed that 24 people is the number needed to get the job done and there are only 13...how does laying off people and contracting out change or help anything unless the numbers are right or close to being right? It would be odd if employees were retaliated against for a situation they had nothing to do with and did not cause, but not surprising. Of course, hiring outside contractors means getting people who don't necessarily care about the animals, just the contract for work. Maybe that's the point. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

alice smith
alice smith

sick dying or animals with REAL temperament issues should be killed..you don;t kill animals you already have to make room for new ones

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

Hi Alice! I don't agree that suggesting sick and dying animals be euthanized is either cruel or unfeeling. I think it's the opposite. Of course there is a need for killing, what are you suggesting?That there are no insane animals that need to be put out of their misery? There are no animals in such terminal condition that they can't come back from it? You won't get very far in arguing your position if your standard is "life above all else". As I have said in this blog before, this is not a religious movement. It sounds like you haven't read the other posts - there are not enough people to clean, there are not enough cages to put animals in, and we are not talking about keeping animals in carriers for an hour or two - maybe you didn't read this post either and just skimmed things. Please re read and you will see I am talking about mismanagement and have been since Sept lst. This is not due to "bad" staff at ACC. It *is* the fault of management, and that's the point of my posts. But I do appreciate the time you took to comment and respect your right to voice your take on things. I just hope you would read the series of articles so you can see you have made a snap judgment and come to some conclusions that are not based in fact. Thanks!

EdieJ
EdieJ

Um, it's hard to fire volunteers. And I don't think Kim was asking reputable breeders to give their animals away. If breeders can't be held to the higher standard Kim suggests they should be "fired" -- your words.

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

Hi Kim! I do understand why Oprah didn't get into it - it just wasn't the show for that and why ruin the idea of helping ACC animals. It is too bad that many will now think "must be nothing wrong, Oprah had her on" though it's good she didn't ignore that there's been negative news - which she could have. I think when employees complain as loudly as they have that it is a little bit amazing no media but WGN gives a fig. The mandatory spay neuter legislation you may be referring to doesn't work anywhere they have tried to install it as law. It has raised the kill numbers at municipalities where the ordinance passed, and cost the townships and cities that have tried it a fortune. It is unenforceable. Since dogs skeletal and internal organs grow at different rates for different breeds, the hormones provide the body are much needed until growing stops. Great Danes take longer to benefit than Shih Tzus. Medical procedures shouldn't be decided by legislators. AVMA has taken a negative position on MSN, and that goes against their own financial interests. Bone cancers and other diseases have been traced back to early spay neuter. If you check out the link to Steve Dale's blog, he's got some alternatives listed as well as some commentary. I also have several posts on the topic with citations I believe if you want to search. It will be really interesting to see if San Francisco ends up passing that "no selling of pets" ordinance - they shelved the vote a couple of months ago because of a fake flap about "big government making sure your kid can't have a pet." Thanks for stopping by:)

ex-emp
ex-emp

Unfortunately CACC does have to kill to make room. and not just the sick, dying and animals with issues. The longer an animal is held the more likely it is to get sick or develope issues. It's also a matter of space for rescues, they're full,too. It's also a matterr of money. Rescues are funded by donations and can't take more animals than they can afford. CACC is city funded. It charges $8 per day housing fee and is holding at least 200 animals legally city property. Ask any tax-payer -does he want to spend over $1600 a day on those animals? Does he want to spend over $1000 a month to hold 30 pitts for months for a rescue to re-hab and maybe someday get them transferred out? Or would he rather see that money spent on schools for his kids, safer neighborhoods, better streets? It's sad to say when it comes to priorities, it's the animals that suffer.Keeping them with no reasonable hope of getting them out simply prolongs the suffering.

alice smith
alice smith

not every shelter only has volunteers.. ans even they can be "fired" and um.. what Kim said was in her own words: ," no more selling animals - period - and any breeder out there should be put at a much higher standard. " of course that higher standard is something Kim does not state. so what is that "higher standard'..because to people like Kim there is never a high enough standard for anyone to breed an animal and actually sell it

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

Hi Edie, thanks for stopping by!

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