CITY HALL — A pet-activist alderman is renewing calls to halt euthanasia at the city animal shelter after what he called the "unexplained death" of a pit bull there last week.
According to Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th), a female pit bull named Devyn was impounded at the city shelter, 2741 S. Western Ave., on July 10. No serious symptoms were reported on six veterinary reports over a 21-day period, but the dog was found dead in its cage Aug. 4.
"In the past, we have introduced resolutions calling for Chicago to become a ‘no-kill’ city,” Lopez said in a statement released Tuesday. “It is my fervent belief that because [Chicago Animal Care and Control] has the ability to euthanize for not only medical-behavioral reasons, but also for space, management and employees within the department are not as attentive as they should be to the humane needs of the creatures under their care."
Susan Russell, executive director of Animal Control, discounted Lopez's version of events.
"Contrary to what has been described as an ‘unexplained death’ of a pit bull named Devyn, Devyn’s death was not a mystery," Russell said Tuesday in a statement. "Devyn had an ear wound when she entered the city shelter on July 9 as a stray. She became sick with kennel cough on July 12 and began treatment, [but] her health continued to decline."
According to Russell, the dog's declining health made her ineligible for adoption. She was available for rescue for 11 days, but died of pneumonia before a rescuer stepped up.
In March, Lopez joined with Ald. Edward Burke (14th) in passing a resolution calling for Chicago to become a "no-kill city" at its main animal shelter, 2741 S. Western Ave., although hearings have not yet been held on that issue. The pair has also called for stray pets found with identification chips to be immediately returned to their owners and not impounded, a measure still pending in the City Council.
Lopez said he has submitted Freedom of Information Act requests to the Commission of Animal Care and Control on its procedures and practices. He also questioned the commission's budget, saying, "While many acknowledge more resources are required to provide optimum humane treatment at CACC, I am not convinced the staff knows how to use the $5.7 million they have now."
"Like Ald. Lopez, Chicago Animal Care and Control has the goal of saving more lives," Russell responded. She said the agency "has steadily improved its save rate," and "last month's euthanasia rate saw a decrease of 40 percent compared to 2015."
According to Animal Control's most recent data published on its website, it took in 1,590 animals in July. Seventy were adopted directly, 135 returned to owners and 777 transferred to other animal-adoption agencies. According to the data, 360 were euthanized — 225 dogs and 91 cats — and 41 died, including 16 dogs and 16 cats.
Animal Control added, however, that of those euthanized, 64 animals were killed at the request of their owners, and 42 were classified as wildlife. The remaining 173 dogs and 75 cats that were euthanized were deemed dangerous or aggressive, unadoptable, declined rescues or were unhealthy.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel's Press Office reports the commission takes in about 20,000 animals a year, although impoundments declined 18 percent last year from 2014.
Animal Control has streamlined the process of moving impounded animals to adoption agencies in recent years, but critics have complained that's made stray pets harder to track down.
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