With two aldermen raising questions about the plan, Evanston’s Human Services Committee Monday postponed action on a recommendation for a new volunteer group to manage the city’s animal shelter.

The Board of Animal Control had recommended that the city accept the proposal from Saving Animals for Evanston, the group that’s been organizing volunteers at the shelter since the city ended its relationship last year with the former shelter group — Community Animal Rescue Effort.

But aldermen Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, and Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, asked for more information about the plan. Under the City Council’s rules, a request for postponement by any two aldermen results in a one-time, one-meeting delay in action on an agenda item.

Fiske said she was concerned that representatives of Tree House Humane Society, the only other group that responded to the city’s request for proposals, were not present at the meeting.

Alderman Judy Fiske.

“I believe they have a very strong interest in serving Evanston and have helped us out so much regarding the crisis with our feral cat population,” Fiske said. While it would be a new approach for them to also take care of dogs, Fiske added, “I believe they could do a good job in doing that.”

Tendam said he appreciated the passion and sincerity of the SAFE volunteers, but added, “I have some concerns about history repeating itself. What sort of protections will be have that this will differ from the former VAO — which ended up walking away with a large amount of money” raised in the name of the city’s shelter?

Alderman Mark Tendam.

Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, responded that any VAO — or volunteer animal organization — would be under contract with the city and that formal written agreement would determine how funds were raised in the name of the shelter.

Grover said the terms of that contract would be worked out once the city had decided which group it wanted to work with.

Alisa Kaplan, co-president of SAFE, said the group isn’t interested in raising funds for itself — but only for the Evanston shelter.

She added that until now the group hasn’t had the authority to do fundraising for the shelter, so its lack of a fundraising track record shouldn’t be held against it. And, she said, the organizers of the new group had been instrumental in raising funds for CARE in the past.

But Fiske said, “Fundraising is a huge part of this. When other organizations are willing to partner with us, I think we need to explore that a little bit.”

“Tree House,” Fiske added, “has 1,000 donors that live in the City of Evanston.”

Jill Cabot, vice chair of the Animal Control Board, said Tree House didn’t mention fundraising in its proposal to the city. “Its only mention of support was marketing support to help recruit volunteers,” Cabot said.

“If we could establish SAFE as the VAO now, they could start fundraising and alleviating some of the costs of the shelter to the city, Cabot said. “Why can’t we explore relationships with other ogranizations once SAFE is established as the VAO?”

Alderman Delores Holmes.

Alderman Delores Holmes said she didn’t want to send the issue back to the Animal Control Board. “They’ve done their job, and now it’s in our court.”

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said city staff could come up with answers to the questions aldermen raised in time for the next Human Services Committee meeting on May 4, and that in the meantime “any expense of the shelter is an expense of the City of Evanston.”

Once the committee takes action on the board’s recommendation, it will still require approval of the full City Council.

Related story

Board backs local start-up to run shelter (4/6/15)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Tree House had it’s chance
    I can’t understand why the city isn’t following it’s own rules for how it would select the VAO. The request for proposals was made, with specific deadlines, and very detailed questions. The Animal Control board looked at the responses, from SAFE and Tree House and made its recommendation. Isn’t Judy Fiske on that Board? Where was she when the responses were being reviewed? Jill Cabot was very clear in explaining how the Board reached the conclusion it reached, and stated, many times, that Tree House was not at all forthcoming with additional information when asked for it. From reading Tree House’s response (something it was painfully clear not too many of the Committee members had done!) it seems they want to leave the grunt work (running the shelter) to SAFE. I guess they used the term day to day operations, but it’s grunt work. And by their own admission Tree House has no background in canine care. Reading between the lines it seems Tree House wants access to fundraising potentional in Evanston without a commitment realy working with the animals in the shelter. What a sweet deal that would be for them! Why are Fiske and Tendam changing the rules in the middle of the process? And how dare Alderman Fiske chastise SAFE for not having done any fundraising in the last ten months when the city has not given them the authority to do that!! Watch out Ms. Fiske – your bias is showing.

  2. City politics at work
    I volunteer at the shelter, and recently adopted a cat (foster fail!) from them as well. I can tell you first hand that the commitment of the entire volunteer group currently caring for the animals at EAS would be the envy of any organization, large or small, and most certainly any municapal shelter. The individuals who showed up at the committee meeting were, as you can imagine, frustrated by certain of their elected officials’ seeming indifference to or lack of understanding of, what was happening. An organization that essentially thumbed it’s nose at the RFP process and didn’t respond (Anti-Cruelty) and one that essentially said “we’ll answer the questions we want to answer but will ignore you when you ask for details” (Tree House) are being allowed – no, BEGGED, to come back into the process. It seems the Animal Control Board’s recommendation wasn’t the one Alderman Fiske or Alderman Tendam had hoped for, so like a jilted lover, drunk dialing in the middle of the night, they’re pleading with these groups to please please please give them another chance. Give SAFE the authority to raise money, get out of it’s way, and allow it to continue the good work it has been doing.

  3. Delay on Animal Shelter Operator Vote
    I am concerned with the possibility of Tree House Humane Society managing our shelter. Two reasons which stem from Bill’s article…. First – Fiske said she thinks this group has a strong interest in serving Evanston, and yet she points out her concern that they have no representatives at the meeting to discuss the topic of which group would run the shelter. Not having any representative present at the meeting to discuss this important topic shows a BLATANT LACK OF INTEREST. C’mon Fiske! Second – Fiske points out that taking care of dogs is a new approach for Tree House Humane Society, yet she feels they could do a good job. I am not sure I want the litmus test of how well anyone could do something for our city be JUDY FISKE’s “belief that they could do a good job.” We shouldn’t be basing ANY decisions on someone’s belief or gut feeling. Again, c’mon Fiske!

    I understand Tendam’s concern with a repeat of the past. Our household had donated A LOT to CARE over the years and assumed it was going to help our Evanston shelter. That they absconded with our funds is a lesson we can and should learn from. Let’s give SAFE a chance and have our city lawyer, Grant Ferraro, create an airtight contract that requires all funds raised stay with our shelter. A short contract of 2-3 years should give us an idea of how well SAFE can do the job. Many of the SAFE volunteers are Evanston residents with a vested interest in our community and I’m interested in supporting my neighbors and our local community by giving them a chance to perform. Also, many of the volunteers at SAFE have been volunteer for years at our shelter (albeit under CARE), and therefore they do have a track-record in caring for BOTH cats and dogs.

  4. Evanston Animal Shelter – SAFE RFP

    It is utterly ridiculous that this was put on hold. CLEARLY, Treehouse is NOT invested in either taking over the shelter nor partnering with SAFE. If they were, they would've been there last night. REGARDLESS, of some 'formal' invitation – this was a public meeting. Have you researched the euthanasia rate of Anti Cruelty? It's outrageous. There are rescue organizations that pull animals from Anti Cruelty who are listed to be euthanized. Anti cruelty society is not a no kill shelter. They regularly euthanize unadopted or surrendered animals that show even the mildest sign of treatable aggression. They turn animals around in under 48 hours without having the slightest idea of their temperament and sensitivities.

    The city council had room full of passionate volunteers there that the council basically dismissed all of their hard work; for an organization that did not complete their RFP, had no plan in place for the care of the dogs, that did not care enough to follow through and attend that meeting that was intended for the very purpose of this vote – for an RFP that THEY themselves submitted. You really want an organization that although Treehouse is wonderful and I have a lot of respect for them, they are not EVANSTON, nor invested in Evanston, to take over our shelter? They may have a lot of followers that are Evanston residents, but I can garauntee that all of those followers went to CARE first and CARE turned them away with their toxic treatment of the public and dogs. Judy Fiske stated that SAFE did not do anything about fundraising, when the council specifically stated that they were to NOT do any fund raising during this past year. Anti Cruelty Society has just as bad of a euthanasia rate as CARE does. So why bring other organizations that would do the same exact thing as the organization that you needed to sever ties with? Not to mention the question of where exactly WAS Judy Fiske during all of the Animal Control Board Meetings? She wasn't there – so how exactly is SHE invested in what is best for the Animals and Evanston? 

    SAFE is more than happy to work with the city to ensure that what happened with CARE never happens again. SAFE has some amazing fundraising ideas that are yet again on hold b/c 2 council members that clearly are displaying enabling behavior to have yet another organization that would have a blatant disregard for their relationship with the city, which was demonstrated last night by their absence. A partnership with Treehouse or Anti Cruelty would only increase the odds of that CARE toxic mentality to happen, yet again. Not to mention that so many undeserving animals would be euthanized if Anti Cruelty took over. Evanston residents would be outraged and disgusted. 

    Wake up Judy Fiske and Ted Tendam and stop putting your issues with CARE onto this amazing organization that makes the city of Evanston look damn good as they are leaders in their innovative thinking about animal welfare. 

    Over the past year, I've watched the shelter team grow and I am so proud to be a part of this amazing group of people. SAFE is a role model for how small shelters can thrive for the animals, in their relationship with the city, and can be a shelter that the council and the Evanston residents can be proud of. 

  5. Alderman Fiske has a nerve

    Alderman's Fiske behavior in this process has been embarrassing. Fiske is supposed to be a member of the Animal Control Board, yet according to the Board minutes she has NOT BEEN TO A MEETING SINCE DECEMBER. This means she has missed at least SEVEN MEETINGS IN A ROW, including ALL the meetings in which the Board evaluated the responses to the RFP. 

    She should have been booted from the Board for this dereliction of duty. Instead, she has the incredible nerve to show up at the Human Services Committee and try to derail the whole process after the Board –while she was absent– put in all the work of evaluating the submitted proposals. 

    If she didn't care enough to go to the meetings, why should anyone listen to her now?

    You can see the meeting minutes for yourself here

    Ald. Fiske was absent week after week, on the following dates:

    1. 3-23-15 
    2. 3-16-15 
    3. 3-9-15 
    4. 3-2-15 
    5. 2-23-15 
    6. 2-9-15 
    7. 1-5-15 
    8. 12-8-14
  6. Alderman Fiske’s hypocrisy
    Since Alderman Fiske is so concerned about SAFE’s lack of fundraising over the past months, I trust she’ll be reimbursing the city for the $3000 in medical care her cat received before she agreed to adopt him?

  7. Evanston Animal Shelter

    The aldermen who requested that a hold be placed on the final recommendation are seeking information that has already been requested. SAFE replied; Tree House did not. Tree house was not present at the committee meeting because they chose not to be there — and not because they were not invited.

    a) SAFE states that they will undertake a contractual obligation to guarantee that financial security is assured. SAFE will never have control of the money that they raise. The previous VAO walked away with the money because that the city council did not insist on controlling the cash.

    b) Tree House has repeatedly been asked for additional information — and they declined to reply. Why would anyone expect them to reply to queries from staff? In addition, they have no experience with dogs. And they have so special connection to Evanston. Why must we beg them for information?

  8. Why Wasn’t Tree House There?
    Why Wasn’t Tree House There?

    Judy Fiske put the entire RFP process on hold because she was concerned that Tree House wasn’t there? Well Judy, why weren’t they there? If, as you believe, they have such a strong interest in serving Evanston then why weren’t they at the meeting? They didn’t get an invitation? Did SAFE and the volunteers who were there last night get an invitation or did they show up because they care deeply about the future of the Evanston Animal Shelter? And if you are Tree House’s advocate, as you seem to be, then why didn’t you invite them? You are a member of both the Animal Control Board and the Human Services Committee so you must have know this item was on the agenda in advance. If you felt there were questions that needed to be addressed couldn’t you have reached out to them and advised them it would be good for them to be there? And in another article about this meeting I read that you said you had to put the process on hold because “we are still wearing our fiscal responsibility hats.” Really? How much does it cost the city to now engage staff to follow up on questions that you should have asked as part of the Animal Control Board, whose meetings you apparently couldn’t be bothered to attend? How much does it cost the city to delay the issuance of a contract for another month? SAFE is ready and willing to start fund raising and they are just waiting for the green light. Now the City will continue to absorb those costs.

    And Mark – I don’t even know what to say about your love affair with Anti-Cruelty. They didn’t even respond to the RFP process so how would they be considered? You two hi-jacked the committee proceedings for no good reason and Delores Holmes was the only one who spoke up to try to stop you. Shame on both of you.

  9. Mark Tendam’s not making sense
    I like Mark Tendam, but some of his comments at this meeting were very puzzling.

    1. He wants to make sure SAFE doesn’t run away from Evanston with its money like CARE did, but he wants to bring an organization from outside Evanston, like Treehouse or Anti-Cruelty, because they *won’t* run away with our money? Huh?

    2. His continued insistence on bringing up Anti-Cruelty is getting a little weird. They’d be a lousy fit for Evanston (have you looked at their euthanasia numbers?) but in any case they didn’t submit a response to the RFP, so they shouldn’t be considered. Period. Why would you want an organization that doesn’t want you? What does he have with those people? Let it go.

    3. I don’t think he read the RFPs. He kept saying he wanted to hold this decision so they could get more information, but all the information he wanted was already in the RFPs. Do your homework, Mark, instead of dragging everyone else through the mud because you didn’t have the time or inclination to do your job.

  10. Questionable management decision from where I sit

    In my line of work, if I sent out RFQs to qualified companies, I expect anyone interested in winning my work to fill them out, return them, and be available for follow up questions. From where I stand, one organization managed to accomplish that after several were given the opportunity. 

    If I told my boss I put off one company that did all the work and answered all my questions just so I could beg two other companies to come back to the table (one that only has experience with half of the work required of the job and then disappared when details were required, the other who couldn't bother to submit bids at all), he'd lose all trust he had in my ability to do my job.

    To me the obvious choice would be the group that not only delivered the required work that was asked of them for a proposal, but has also proven they are capable of the job and have shown how passionate they are to make sure that animals and EAS itself are the priority moving forward. 

  11. Concerns about Tree House
    I read Tree House’s RFP response and am very concerned about the extremely restrictive adoption policies they lay out there. I have been a devoted cat owner my whole life, and my cats have all lived to ripe old ages. But I’m an artist, so I would not pass their adopter test. They require proof of full-time employment, and for anyone who is employed part-time or self-employed they want to see bank statements and “trust fund” stubs. Are you kidding me? This is the kind of thing that deters people from adoption and makes them go to pet stores and breeders instead.

    I would’ve taken one look at those policies and gone elsewhere. I foster cats for other rescues and I know Tree House has a waiting list for give-up cats. How many good homes did they turn away with draconian rules while they had cats on their waiting list? We need sensible adoption screening guidelines, of course, to make sure that homeless cats are taken care of. But Tree House’s rules go overboard, and turning away people because they don’t fit Tree House’s Perfect-Cat-Owner mold just doesn’t seem like the right thing for the Evanston community.

    1. Totally agree with this.

      Totally agree with this. Years ago Tree House would not let us adopt two kittens because they decided my younges child (who was 5) was too young. And they had many many kittens that needed homes. Instead we ended up driving out to Aurora to adopt two kittens from a rescue. CARE was like this too – overrly controlling and irrationally judgemental people deciding who they think should or should not adopt.  I am sure many animals failed to find forever homes because of policies like these.

  12. Residens who have adopted

    Residens who have adopted from SAFE over this past year of their volunteer service to our community need to tell their stories. Stories speak to the heart and tell the truth about what is happening at the Evanston Shelter these days.  Here is one of hundreds:

     ICE, an elderly Siberian husky was rescued by the volunteers of SAFE, last June.  He was 12 yrs old, had two skin tumors, was never vaccinated or neutered, lost the tip of his ears to mites, and lived outdoors all of his life as a backyard breeders dog . Most huskies do not live beyond 12.  A year later, he lives in our home with another Siberian and he is catching up on his life, running at the cities dog park and beach, enjoying long hikes in the city and country, and being loved by his human companions.   Many shelters would have seen Ice as too difficult and costly to save, much less to hope for an adoption. But not SAFE.  At their own expense they gave him all the medical care he needed, they nurtured him back to health and they envisioned the right family adopting this senior.    And they were right.

          As the Human Services committee of the council deliberates on finding the best VAO for our cities animal shelter, it is important that  they consider the stories-   the real life impact that SAFE has had in its 11 months of voluntary service to our community- on the lives of hundreds of dogs and cats and the humans whose lives have been enriched by these abandoned or lost animals.

     It seems that they may be considering some form of privatization of the operation of our cities shelter by organizations with no ties to Evanston. Let us remember that there are times when compassion, commitment, and dedication can not be monetized. SAFE has brought life and soul back to our cities shelter system.   They deserve our gratitude and the trust of the council to continue serving this city in the capacity that their own appointed Animal Control Board has deemed to best suit all of our needs.

  13. Moving Forward

    I wasn't at the meeting last night but I attended every one of the Human Services meetings before SAFE took over the shelter.  It was an extremely painful process but in the end an animal control board was appointed by the city, proceedures were laid out, deadlines set, and the shelter was prepared to move forward in their efforts to continue saving the homeless animals of Evanston.  SAFE is in fact running the shelter right now.  They are doing so very successfully despite having their fundraising hands tied.   I don't understand the aldermen's purpose for derailing the process that they themselves helped to set up.  The other resuce organizations are larger and have their own areas of expertise but are not well suited for running a municipal shelter.  How would funds be raised and distributed with an outside organization with other interests at the helm.    They also seem to have little interest in it as their absence would indicate.  There are many very good points made here in the comments.   I hope that the aldermen are all reading them.  Evanston is lucky to have such a dedicated group of volunteers who's only agenda is saving animals for Evanston. 

  14. Too much drama over stray dogs & cats

    The town of Arlington Heights, a town the same size as Evanston, does not have a city run or sponsored animal shelter. Are the citizens of Arlinton Heights less caring for stray dogs and cats because they do not have their tax dollars going directly to a shelter. Why the taxpayers have to fund this enterprise is beyond me when private no kill shelters exist.

    Evanston is facing serious problems over the water plant, pensions and possible loss of school funding from Springfield and a recent rash of shootings yet our city council is wasting time on this issue when more pressing issues like growing our own economy should be front and center.  A tax supported animal shelter in Evanston's in light of our dire financial situation is an extravagance.

    1. Maybe this information will help explain

      First, the whole point of this discussion is to contract with an organization to alleviate taxpayer costs. That is why the Council is spending time on this issue. Second, when a city contracts with a "private shelter" to take care of its stray animals, that usually also comes out of taxpayer funds. Depending on the terms and the city's animal population, it may well be less cost effective than having a shelter. Third, Arlington Heights is not Evanston. Different population, different animal issues. Skokie does not have a shelter and I can tell you it is a big problem. At the Evanston shelter we routinely get people trying to find a place for animals from nearby suburbs. Fourth, compared to the rest of the Evanston budget, the shelter costs next to nothing. Look it up. Evanston spent four times the shelter's latest annual budget on a one mile asphalt path through the Ladd Arboretum. Finally, lest you think this is "just" an animal issue – come to the shelter sometime and see Evanston residents who've lost their homes and their jobs and are desperate to find a safe place for their pets to go. This is a human issue and a social issue that's rightly important to the Evanston community.

    2. Money for animals

      Hard to know where to start in a response to "Publius". Yes, there are private shelters around. But they aren't required to take in any animal they choose to reject – so the neglected, stray animals helped by a municipal shelter just get refused. A private shelter wants the prettiest, healthiest, most adoptable animals. As for taxpayers funding this "enterprise" one of the main points brought out at last night's meeting was that SAFE very much wants to be given the green light to start fundraising. SAFE is cognizant of the financial stress this, and most cities, find themselves in. They want to be able to do what's best for animals without putting a burden on Evanston.  But I do have to say, I'm not clear how recent rash of shootings is somehow the the result of the city spending a tiny amount of time (and a VERY small amount of money) trying to do right by our city's stray animals. 

    3. Not Too Much Drama Over Homeless Animals

      Dear Publius,

      As a taxpaying resident of Evanston, I champion some of my tax dollars supporting our local animal shelter.  I am thankful that we care about trees, animals and quality of life for things beyond humans.  I recognize there are people in the community who care little for helping our four-legged friends, but there are also revenues spent on thinks you in a likelihood support that other residents do not.  THAT is what being part of a community is all about…. our tax dollars pay for things everyone may not always support, and we do it because some of our other community members have a belief in their importance.  Things like this aren't always about you and they aren't always about me.  What they just might be about is community



  15. The stupidist person in Evanston

    That be me.  When I saw the headline for this article, followed by 15 really lengthy comments (that I scrolled down), I thought I was going to read about a homless shelter for HUMANS.  Can one be any dumber than that?  My bad !

    1. We also have shelters for humans

      Those are discussed in different newspaper articles.

  16. I’m do happy to know that MY
    I’m do happy to know that MY hometown has so many animal lovers. There can never be too many people invested in the welfare of these voiceless cats, and dogs that do so much for people.

    I hope that there is a concerted effort on the part of all parties concerned to remove any interpersonal, irrelevant bias. The process is an important one. A decision not to be taken lightly. Nor one to be clouded, or slowed by the mechanism of pedestrian/day to day politics.

    As it is unfortunately a process executed by humans well intentioned and imperfect. It is also a process dependant on humans compassionate and driven. Is there an acid test to tell whether or not one party happens to be fit to execute the duties of caretakers at the Shelter? No.

    It seems to me that a group as devoted to the cause of the shelter organization, as those currently in place… A group of animal lovers so devoted to strays, and and abandoned animals as those currently at that job… There is no demonstration at hand other then the care and success of the systems necessary that is greater than those who do so in an emergency with no guarantees of recognition or support.

    I don’t think any demonstration, of rhetoric, politics or legalese surmounts the commitment of those currently in place and on the job.

    I am sure of an informed, and carful decision. I know the lifetime of pride I have long had, and continue to have in my hometown, my Evanston is very well earned.

    I am very invested in the prosperity of the shelter, as animals have always been a huge part of who I am. I see there is the prosperity and growth of organizations at stake. I also see those hardworking, effective, and committed people currently in place, beholden to no one but themselves and these animals.

    I don’t see the issue. There is no question. Maybe I’m missing a whole a world of issues. I’m simply seeing what is.

    Thank you for the care and energy you put into this issue. The welfare of these wonderful creatures should never be taken as a commodity. Never be taken as a growth opportunity. These animals lives are not to be taken for granted.

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