Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Chicago's City Pound Reviewed By Nathan Winograd...

During my visit to Chicago to screen Redemption, I had the opportunity to visit the pound. This is a city with 2.8 million people and an intake of about 30,000 animals a year. That may seem like a lot, but it is a per capita intake rate roughly half the City of Austin, which saves 93% of the animals. But unlike the City of Austin (which has a law specifically banning the practice), the City of Chicago kills despite empty cages. And there were lots and lots and lots of empty cages on my visit. When you look in the intake areas, you will see dirty cages and stale food, you will see—in fact you will hear—animals needing care, fragile baby kittens who should have all of their needs met crying for attention even though it is already 1 pm in the afternoon.
Thankfully, you will see volunteers who are working, at no pay, to pick up the slack against overwhelming odds. I saw a volunteer syringe feeding a couple of the tiny kittens. I saw volunteers socializing with the dogs. I saw a volunteer trying to get cats adopted. And even though the volunteers offer to do more, to do the job that needs to be done but the staff do not do—claiming they do not have the time, resources, or manpower to do so—the union will say “No” and demand that the job continue to go undone rather than allow volunteers to do it, even though such obstruction means more animal suffering and a larger body count.
It is September and there are kittens in the shelter. And you can say, “People should sterilize their animals.” And you can say, “People are irresponsible.” And you can say, “People should make a lifetime commitment to their pets.” And I would say, they should, they can be, and it is a travesty that they do not. But they are not to blame for the indifference I witnessed at the shelter. There are shelters taking in more animals per capita that do not kill despite the empty cages, that do not allow fragile kittens to languish until 1 pm in the afternoon, and more importantly, that offer solutions—lifesaving solutions—rather than excuses.

Mayors in these cities, agency officials that oversee the shelter, shelter directors themselves, and their staff understand that while people surrender animals to shelters, it is the shelters that kill them and one does not necessarily follow or excuse the other. They understand that once those animals are in their custody, what happens to them is up to them, not the person who surrendered them at the door. But not in Chicago.
Volunteers and rescuers will tell you it is better than it used to be. There was a time in Chicago when the pound killed animals despite rescue groups willing to save them. There was a time when animals suffered much more than they do now. But the lack of those things are not proof of caring. It is the volunteers and rescue groups who are saving the lives the pound should be. And working with rescue groups and feeding the animals should be a given. That we are still fighting for those things in other communities does not mean the City of Chicago is doing a good job. It just means other shelters are worse. Being “better than the worst” is not an excuse when lives hang in the balance.
The killing ends when the good people of Chicago demand that it does:http://bit.ly/RB7B5a
Photo: Empty cages at Chicago animal control. Despite them, the killing continues. The people and animals of Chicago deserve better.

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