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Peacock On The Loose, Judy Baar Topinka's Critters And More: An Animal News Round-Up

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Our first round-up of animal-related news two weeks ago received so much positive feedback that we've decided to bring the feature back on a semi-regular basis. We decided to name it "Critter Beat." Here goes:

First, a peacock mysteriously emerged on the city's West Side, in the 3000 block of West 19th Street on Sunday, as ABC 7 reported. An Animal Control officer was called to the scene and followed the bird for several blocks before capturing her. Three separate individuals claimed to be the bird's owner after the story ran on the evening news but a West Side family was reunited with the bird, reportedly named "Fluffy," after they said that it loved to eat hot dogs. After the family offered the bird some encased meat and it chomped it down, Animal Control officers were convinced Fluffy belonged to them.

In a less happy encounter, an alligator bit an 11-year-old North Carolina boy's finger at the Zao Island amusement park in Valparasio, Ind., Sunday, according to the Chicago Tribune. An as-of-yet unidentified man had reportedly lifted the gator from an adjacent enclosure with a noose and told the boy and other children near him that they could pet it. While parents supervising the kids originally thought the man worked for the amusement park, that was not the case. The man fled the scene after the gator chomped down. The boy's injuries were not serious.

While one would think Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka has had her hands full getting the state's revenue situation under control, the animal lover has added a new project to her plate: The Comptroller's Critters program. Announced Monday, the program was created with the goal of giving more individuals the opportunity to adopt a pet and reduce the costs of doing so at both the state and local level. "I believe that it is always important to keep a pet companion in a loving family environment," Topinka wrote on the program's website. "Specifically, [we have] partnered with shelters throughout the state to help reduce the number of animals waiting to be adopted. Through this effort, we hope to address animal overpopulation and save on animal control costs."

Finally, in a happy update to our previous story on the theft of an Animal Welfare League South Side shelter's air conditioners, an AP story last week reported that WGN Radio listeners chipped in more than $23,000 to help the shelter replace the equipment that was stole or damaged by vandals late last month. The shelter had estimated that it would cost some $25,000 for the repairs and replacements it needed and the Humane Society of the United States had already donated $2,500 to the center's cause.

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