CHICAGO — The city's inspector general has issued an audit critical of Chicago's main animal control and shelter office.
The audit determined the city's Commission on Animal Care and Control shelter was "significantly understaffed" according to standards set by the National Animal Control Association and that more than a third of the time it did not meet its own goal of getting neglected or abused animals a veterinary exam within 24 hours of arrival at the shelter.
The audit did find that animals were being kept for the minimum amount of days required by ordinance to allow owners to reclaim them: five days at least, seven days when "There is reason to believe the stray actually has or had an owner," or when the animal has been impounded because of an owner's death, eviction or arrest.
The audit also found evidence of shoddy record keeping, with five animals reported to be housed in the shelter more than a month after they had been adopted.
Yet the primary offense it found was understaffing, and the commission immediately responded that it would work to fill budgeted positions that are vacant.
"Managing the city’s animal shelters can be difficult and thankless work,” said Inspector General Joseph Ferguson. “CACC’s mandated mission of humanely handling and caring for the city’s lost, stray and impounded animals cannot be achieved unless it uses all of the resources at its disposal. This includes ensuring it is fully staffed to meet both national industry standards and its legal responsibilities."
According to the audit, the main city shelter took in more than 14,000 stray animals from January through August of last year. It calculated the shelter would need almost 30 full-time positions to handle that workload. Yet the shelter had only nine full-time employees devoted to cleaning and feeding the animals and their areas. Cook County Jail detainees working at the shelter made up part of the shortfall, but the Inspector General's Office determined it was still about 30 percent understaffed.
In the audit, the animal control commission responded that it already had budgeted for 10 additional part-time positions in 2013, and they would be filled by year's end.
The audit determined new animals failed to receive a vet exam within the first 24 hours 38 percent of the time. The commission said the 24-hour time limit was self-imposed and that a vacancy in the position of supervising veterinarian had caused a backlog. That position has been filled, and the commission said it is working to meet its own guidelines on initial care.
The shelter, at 2741 S. Western Ave., houses 300-600 animals at any given time and typically processes 20,000 impoundments a year, about 92 percent of them dogs and cats. The shelter had a 57.4 percent live release rate during the eight-month course of the audit, with about 43 percent transferred to other organizations, 7 percent reclaimed by owners and 7 percent adopted. Some 42.6 percent of the animals were euthanized.