This story is courtesy of the Better Government Association:
Two dogs allegedly killed in recent weeks by Chicago Animal Care and Control workers, in latest turmoil at long-troubled city agency.
"Chance" had a shot at the good life, until he accidentally received a lethal shot from Chicago’s Animal Care and Control.
"Chance," a stray dog rescued last month, was supposed to be adopted or fostered.
But in the latest sign of trouble at Chicago’s taxpayer-funded animal pound at 27th and Western, the young male mixed-breed was accidentally euthanized by injection when a city employee neglected to "do an appropriate hold" – in other words, the employee failed to put the dog on a do-not-kill list, the agency confirmed Thursday.
And that’s not the only problem in recent weeks.
The Better Government Association and WBBM Newsradio learned another Animal Care employee may have choked a dog to death – apparently using a "catch pole," a pole with a noose-like rope at one end often enlisted to get animals under control and prevent bites – as the dog was being brought into the pound.
Sandra Alfred, executive director of Animal Care, said "we don’t know exactly how" that dog died, but added "the staff could have acted more appropriately than they did."
Between the two cases, four city workers have been or will be disciplined, Alfred said. The employee involved in the possible dog choking has "pending" discipline that may involve a "severe" suspension of 20 days or more, she said.
Meanwhile, the incident involving Chance is having larger implications: Don Levin, a wealthy benefactor of Animal Care who co-founded the Chicago Wolves hockey team, said he learned of Chance’s demise and became so upset, he voiced concerns to city officials.
"There have to be changes in the way dogs are euthanized, it has to be more than one person" making those decisions, Levin said. "It’s poor controls."
Levin has committed $2 million or more toward massive renovations at the city pound, where plans call for new dog cages, better ventilation, heating and cooling, a new roof to fix one that currently leaks, and other improvements.
Animal Care has been a source of wider frustration for years – beyond the physical structure and into the workforce, which is known for patronage, dubious supervision and a seeming indifference by some employees toward the plight of the abused and neglected animals that are supposed to be cared for and, when appropriate, euthanized or adopted out. Over the years, the city’s inspector general has looked into numerous allegations at the agency.
In March, WBBM Newsradio reported that Animal Care allowed hundreds of calls to languish for months – calls about possible inhumane treatment of animals.
Levin said he still has confidence in Alfred and believes Animal Care has fewer problems than in past years, but he added he wants internal reforms so "I can continue to give" donations.
"They put down the dog that was scheduled for being picked up," Levin said of Chance. "But it’s not a problem of one dog, it’s systemic problems. . . . Part of why I’m putting my money in is to make" the facility better for the dogs, cats and other creatures that end up there.
Meanwhile, other concerns voiced Thursday at a meeting of the Commission on Animal Care and Control – an advisory board for the city’s Animal Care agency – highlighted a series of potential problems at the pound:
+ Dog dishes that aren’t filled enough with water or food, and dirty cage conditions.
+ Leashes left on caged dogs, which puts them at risk for strangulation.
+ Poor vetting of people adopting animals.
"I think Animal Care and Control is a small department with a large mission," Alfred said. There are "concerns and issues like any department . . . we have to make sure we’re doing it the right way as much as we can."
This story was written and reported by the Better Government Association’s Robert Herguth, and Steve Miller of Newsradio 780 and 105.9 FM. They can be reached at (312) 821-9030 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Help the BGA shine a light on government and hold public officials accountable by becoming a member, contributor or tipster. Details at bettergov.org.