Evanston aldermen tried to defuse an acrimonious dispute among dog lovers Monday night by naming a subcommittee to try to develop ways to cut the euthanasia rate at the animal shelter.

The committee vote came early on in the discussion of the issue, but that didn’t deter several dozen people from both sides from airing their contrasting views.

The dispute pits the Community Animal Rescue Effort, a non-profit that has long provided volunteers to staff the city’s animal shelter, against a dissident group of volunteers who claim CARE misuses behavioral tests to designate dogs for death that could successfully become family pets.

Thanks to intervention by outside dog rescue groups that, through the city’s animal warden, have recently been able to acquire dogs that failed the tests, the number of dog euthanasia cases at the shelter dropped from 29 in 2012 to four in 2013.

CARE Board Member Gail Lovinger Goldblatt defended the group’s policies.

Gail Lovinger Goldblatt, a CARE board member, said, “We love animals. We love dogs. We want them to pass the test. But we feel a responsibility to adopters and the community to assure them that we are adopting dogs that will be safe and loving companions.”

She said potential new owners “are not looking for dogs that are going to have to be managed carefully to avoid harm to people and other animals.”

Goldblatt said the group’s volunteers “are devastated and demoralized by misstatements” that have attempted to destroy the group’s reputation that’s been built up over a quarter of a century.

Alisa Kaplan, looking at the screen showing her slide presentation to the committee.

But one of the dissatisfied volunteers, Alisa Kaplan, said many other communities have achieved much lower kill rates, including Waukegan, where, she said, only about four percent of unclaimed dogs were euthanized in 2012.

She said CARE is placing too much reliance on two animal behavioral assessment tests and is not properly administering the tests.

She also urged that the shelter work more closely with independent animal rescue groups. These, she said, are “small organizations that don’t have a lot of money, but are successful at finding good homes for animals they pull from shelters.”

Aldermen Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, and Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, volunteered to be on the subcommittee that will meet with activists on both sides of the dispute to cone up with solutions and possible modifications to a proposed updated agreement between CARE and the city regarding operation of the shelter.

Related story

Animal shelter practices up for debate

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Didn’t Wally recently discuss selling the animal shelter?
    All this discussion might be pointless given Wally has at one point trying to sell the shelter for commerical development?. Given all the issues of the city mismanagement whats going on here is not a surpise. As I pointed out at the meeting I would like to understand the entire finanical operation and the lease etc. to see if that is a total mess like Harley Clarke?

  2. Look forward, C.A.R.E.

    It sounds like in order for anything to get better, everyone's defenses need to come down.  Way down.    

    The fact is, the Evanston euthanasia rate (whichever one you use, since the numbers apparently depend on who or when you ask) could be much better.  It's time to look at programs that are successfully homing dogs and understanding why they work.  Two obvious areas of improvement are the appropriate use of behavior assessments, and establishing good relationships with rescues. It's also time to end the adoption of intact animals.     

    People have cited Waukegan as a good example, and I would definitely add the work of Safe Humane Chicago, which partners with Chicago Animal Care and Control.  They have a robust program of working with dogs – and people – and getting them off death row, working on good behavior, and into homes.  It takes work, knowledge and manpower, and I think C.A.R.E. has all the potential in the world to turn things around for the dogs in Evanston.  Let's hope they can look forward and become a success story.   


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