Here are four questions city officials need to sort out about operation of the city’s animal shelter that seem to have gotten lost in the controversy over dog euthanasia rates.

Does the city need a not-for-profit shelter partner?

Since the city entered into its most recent lease agreement with CARE in 2007, city staff has expanded its ability to manage volunteer efforts directly.

Whether it’s the Community Emergency Response Team managed by the Fire Department or volunteers staffing the information desk at the Civic Center, some projects don’t appear to need a separate agency to accomplish.

It’s been evident through the debate over CARE that a large pool of volunteers is eager to help at the animal shelter.

Perhaps with guidance from the Police Department, which manages the law enforcement side of the shelter now, the volunteers could work directly for the city, instead of for a separate non-profit group.

Among other things, that would give the city much more direct control over shelter policies.

So, can the city go it alone, and what would that cost?

Are there other non-profits that are willing to run Evanston’s shelter?

If the city shouldn’t go it alone, and decides to put out a request for proposals for new shelter operators, as Alderman Judy Fiske has suggested, how many groups are likely to respond and what are their capabilities and capacity to do the job? And what will bringing them on board cost the city?

There’s no point in asking, if you aren’t confident there will be credible responses.

Is the long-delayed shelter expansion really needed?

One of the complaints about the current shelter operation is that dogs are kept there a long time before being adopted or turned over to other rescue groups.

Advocates for change at the shelter claim that time should be dramatically reduced.

If that goal is met, then can the city avoid the substantial expense of expanding the shelter, while at the same time providing better overall care for the animals?

And would the savings in capital costs perhaps justify some addition staffing expense to supervise a cadre of volunteers working directly for the city?

What added legal risk, if any, does a no-kill policy mean for the city?

CARE’s main argument for being selective about which dogs are put up for adoption is that it’s risky to humans to let some dogs back into the community. Aside from the risk of remorse about a dog gone bad, the city needs to assess whether, and how much, it increases its legal exposure by implementing the no-kill policy.

Not sure what the answers are to any of these questions. But city officials need those answers to make the best decisions about the animal shelter’s future.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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1 Comment

  1. A tale of two shelters

    Evanston is clearly at a crossroads, and has two models from which to choose as its future.  The status quo is clearly unacceptable.  Both models provide what CARE currently lacks: services and partnerships.    

    1) Chicago's Animal Care & Control, in spite of exponentially larger volume of animals, manages to provide services and develops partnerships that help keep animals sterile, vaccinated, in homes, and adoptables moved into new ones.  Many are euthanized, yes, but the numbers are decreasing because of thoughtful partnerships, extremely dedicated volunteers (always need more!), humane education, and low-cost services. The work towards fewer euthanized animals is overwhelming and ongoing, but CACC has embraced strategies that work.  For more information, see CASA ( and Safe Humane Chicago ( 

    2) Waukegan, in a city/private partnership similar to Evanston's, managed to become a model for shelters.  The new leadership was knowledgeable about how to effect change, and they did it!  A successful animal welfare organization must have partners, and Waukegan drummed up help from city departments (legislative, police, DCFS), vets, private companies, and most importantly, rescues.  More on their efforts can be found here:

    So the question is less about who runs the show than how quickly the change to a full-service shelter can be made.  Evanston is fortunate to have concerned citizens, and now needs to take advantage of the knowledge and experience in its backyard.  If Evanston wants to continue to consider itself progressive, it will move quickly to correct its animal management strategies.              






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