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No Pet Should Ever Be Named Homeless

Bert Macklin, a troubled 1-year-old male Bengal cat, was given a fresh start on life when Olivia Taylor brought him home from one of Paws’ adopt-a-thons. Taylor is his new foster parent and is in the process of adopting him.

“He makes me feel so much more comforted,” she said. “I live with my boyfriend, and he travels overseas a lot for work. So when I am left alone, I like having Bert there for company. I feel safe with him there.”

Taylor is one of many adoptive pet owners who have found animals through the no-kill shelters in Chicago. She found her cat at Paws, located in Lincoln Park. Other agencies include the Anti-Cruelty Society, a shelter in River North, the Chicago Animal Care and Control, a shelter in Pilsen and One Tail at a Time, a dog rescue organization that shows animals in stores and other locations.

On Dec. 2, Paws Chicago, which also offers dogs and cats as well as training sessions and other services, hosted a 36-hour adopt-a-thon that featured homeless cats, dogs, kittens and puppies. There were 124 pets adopted by the close of the event on Dec. 3 at 11 p.m.

Taylor said she attended the event in the hopes of finding a furry friend to take home.

First, the volunteers at Paws asked her to fill out a questionnaire to make sure “she was not a person that would abuse an animal,” she said. After she looked at all the animals, Taylor said she felt a strong pull toward Bert. She was told Bert had a history of behavioral problems. Still, Taylor knew she had found the perfect cat for her.

But unfortunately, finding more future pet owners, like Taylor, is a struggle citywide.

The number of animals in shelters in Chicago has increased. In a report recorded in the Chameleon Shelter Software Database on Feb. 4, 2014, the Chicago Animal Care and Control’s (CAAC) shelter statistics show a 40 percent increase in impounded animals from 2006 to 2013.

A One Tail At a Time puppy in need of a loving home. Photo Credit: Nicole Evans

According to CACC’s website, animal placements include: animals reunited with their owners through a redemption program, animals adopted from CACC and animals transferred as part of the homeward bound transfer program.

Although the number of impounds increased, the number of euthanized pets decreased.

From 2012 to 2013, the number of dogs humanely euthanized decreased by 4 percent. In the same time frame, the number of cats humanely euthanized decreased by 41.9 percent. Instead of being put down, the animals are being placed in homes.

“We work with our community partners toward the goal of minimizing the number of homeless and abandoned animals that come into our shelter,” according to the CACC’s website.

There are many volunteers who have helped the CACC achieve increases in animal placement and  decreases in euthanasia.

Katye Novinski has a paid day job of head vet tech at the Emergency Exotic Animal Hospital, but in her spare time she does volunteer rescue work for animal shelters.

In 2004, Novinski started working in kill shelters, and she said she could not bear the thought of animals being euthanized due to lack of space, so she decided to start fostering.

“I finally had my own house, and I knew that the one room in my house that was empty could save lives, so I started fostering,” she said.

Novinski usually fosters special needs animals or kittens that require bottle feeding and a lot of care and skill – something she said her vet tech experience helps her with. With this training, she said she has saved many animals that otherwise would not have had a chance to survive.

Similar to Novinski, Annoliesse Dohe is a volunteer too.

Dohe volunteers at One Tail at a Time Dog Rescue, which is a non-profit organization that sends volunteers to local animal shelters like the Anti-Cruelty Society. The volunteers take a few impounded dogs at a time, bring them to pet stores like Kriser’s and put them on display to interest the public in adoption.

Dohe said her major in public relations during college gave her the skills she needed to help bring homeless dogs into the public eye and find homes for them.

“I select two of the cutest dogs and set up my adoption desk at pet stores. People see the cute puppies and become interested in my cause. When the two puppies become adopted, I direct people toward other impounded dogs,” Dohe said.

The Anti-Cruelty Society at 157 W. Grand Ave. is also filled with volunteers. The volunteers walk the dogs, clean the cats’ litter boxes and play with and feed the animals.

Tina Goodman is one of those volunteer caretakers of the society’s homeless dogs. Although she is only able to devote one day a week to volunteering at the Anti-Cruelty Society, she said her work there is very fulfilling.

Goodman said she chose to volunteer at the Anti-Cruelty Society because animals get euthanized only if they are seriously ill or if they have serious behavioral issues.

“Even if the animals have behavioral issues, we first try and work with that animal,” she said. “We do everything we can to try and train that animal.”

There are also full-time paid employees at animal shelters who help find homes for impounded animals. Jenny Nahrwold is the assistant intake manager at Paws Chicago.  It is her job to conduct spring and winter adoptions. She organizes Paws’ adopt-a-thons.

“It is very important to maintain a balance. The amount of animals coming in always has to be in balance with the amount of animals finding homes,” Nahrwold said. “I coordinate the adopt-a-thons to clear the cages for new impounds. Sometimes other shelters will transfer their animals here. It is also my job to educate first-time pet owners on the importance of spading and neutering their pets.”

And Brianna Larson is the humane educator at the Anti-Cruelty Society. It is her job to go into schools and teach children how to be safe around their pets. She also shows children how to properly care for their pets.

“My last field trip was at Lincoln Elementary School,” she said. “We lectured the children about how to properly care for their pets and we also talked to them about animal abuse. Usually, there is a high correlation between animal abuse and child abuse.”

While it is important to find families for the pets, Larson said it’s important that those families know how to care for their pets properly – something she said is an enjoyable part of her job.

“The best part of my job is knowing I’m educating the public about animal care. If people know how to better care for there pets, they will less likely be relinquished and brought back to animal shelters,” Larson said.


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