Getting By With a Lot of Help from Our Friends - Little Orange Buddha
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Getting By With a Lot of Help from Our Friends

Part six in an ongoing series about saving Chicago’s healthy and treatable animals

To get the good stuff done, there’s nothing like the power of partnership. And a bunch of folks with common life-saving goals are a pretty powerful force for change. This I’ve witnessed first-hand at the City shelter over the past few years.

Chicago’s municipal shelter is funded for the bare basics in control and sheltering: It has control officers and inspectors; it has employees for front-desk service, cleaning, medical, animal placement, and administration. It has an innovative partnership with the Department of Family Support Services for an innovative reentry jobs training kennel attendant program, so at least 20 hard-working trainees come every morning to clean and feed the dogs in the seven pavilions. And that’s about it.

Everything else — dog enrichment, cat enrichment, bottle baby feeding, the showing of adoptable pets, the marketing of the animals, on and off site events, fostering, the rescue of the animals of all feather and stripe — is all done by volunteers, non-profits, and private donors.

When it comes to innovation, and working to raise the level of internal programming to best practice, the City shelter has partnered with local and national organizations that have put considerable funding into making the good stuff happen.

This next series of posts will talk about the various partnerships that have powered improved performance at the City shelter.

Did you know that because of Safe Humane Chicago, CACC has a first of its kind program in the nation: the Court Case Dog program? This program focuses on assessing and saving those animals that get caught up in the court system and land at the City shelter after being confiscated from abusive or neglectful owners. Best Friends Animal Society provided the initial $50,000 grant back in January of 2010 when the program began and other funding besides. Since that time, more than 1,100 Court Case Dogs have been saved, which prior to the program would have been euthanized. Check out A Ruff Road Home: The Court Case Dogs of Chicago to learn more about the incredible stories of survival — all because of these partnerships.

But it’s not just Court Case Dogs that have benefited from Safe Humane’s programming and funding, and the funding and consultation of national organizations Animal Farm Foundation, National Canine Research Council and Best Friends Animal Society — it’s now MOST of the hundreds of dogs at the City shelter:

  • Playgroup lots in the big back yard of CACC where Safe Humane Chicago runs playgroups to encourage dog-to-dog socialization, funded by Animal Farm Foundation and other private donors through Safe Humane Chicago;
  • Training for playgroups through Dogs Playing for Life (most recently funded by the ASPCA and PetCo Charities, and by Animal Farm Foundation previously);
  • Safe Humane’s Reentry, VALOR, and youth programs that bring Chicago’s dogs together with veterans, at-risk youth, young leaders, and other City residents to learn dog handling skills and safe handling practices;
  • In-kennel enrichment to help the dogs stay stimulated and reduce stress;
  • Manners classes so that dogs can work toward becoming their best selves;
  • Behavioral assessments to learn more about the dogs in CACC’s care, and internal process to implement a more comprehensive and fair approach to assessing the dogs, which was funded by Safe Humane Chicago, Friends of CACC and Animal Farm Foundation.


If this City’s goal for homeless companion animals is to focus on saving those that are healthy and treatable — there will be some, especially the medium and large sized-dogs with beautiful blocky heads and great smiles — that will be more at-risk than others and that will spend more time in shelter awaiting their opportunity for rescue or adoption. These programs are essential for keeping the dogs stimulated for the duration of their stay.

CACC needs to continue its path toward best practice, and thus it will need to continue to foster these invaluable partnerships. And these partners will need the community’s support in the form of volunteers and funding.

I believe these partnerships are as newsworthy as can be, and deserve a lot more media attention — and attention from the City itself. I also believe that if you are interested in helping the shelter’s animals get that coveted second chance, you ought to know which organizations are providing significant support toward this goal!

My next post will discuss other shelter partners that are making great things happen for Chicago’s dogs and cats at the City shelter. Please check out CACC’s Continual Improvement Plan to see a list of these partners, including Friends of Chicago Animal Care and Control, the Chicagoland Rescue Intervention Support Program, and CACC’s Homeward Bound rescue partners.

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Susan Russell
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