CHICAGO — A South Side alderman is calling on the director of the city's Animal Care and Control shelter to resign.
Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) contends that hundreds of animals are at risk of being euthanized as renovations start at the city's animal shelter. While the city disputes those claims — "completely false," said a spokeswoman — Lopez is now calling on shelter executive director Susan Russell to resign.
Carrying signs that read "Susan Russell has got to go," and "How many more pets will die at the hands of Susan Russell?," Lopez was joined by a dozen protesters outside Animal Care and Control headquarters Wednesday.
Animal Care and Control plans to temporarily close two pavilions in the shelter for renovations that will be paid for, in part, by Chicago Wolves board chairman Don Levin. Construction at the shelter, at 2741 S. Western Ave., is expected to be complete in the second quarter of 2017, a city spokesman said.
Lopez said he fears the closing of the pavilions could lead to 200 animals being euthanized since less space will be available to house stray dogs and cats.
"Based on previous experience, we are extremely concerned that Director Russell’s plans for renovation of these pavilions could lead to the euthanasia of some 200 animals in the facility,” said Lopez, a passionate pet activist. “We are holding this protest to send a clear message that we expect her to find alternate housing for these animals — not kill them.”
Lopez said that a number of animals at the shelter are now on an urgent adoption list, meaning they have 24 hours to get adopted or they will be euthanized under Animal Care and Control policy.
Kiera Ellis, a spokeswoman for Animal Care and Control, said the alderman's allegations are "completely false."
"Euthanasia of animals has not increased due to construction, and today euthanasia is at the lowest rate in years," Ellis wrote in a statement. "In fact, since construction began the rates for animal placements, transfers and adoption have steadily increased at the shelter."
Animal Care and Control continues to to use innovative strategies, including off-site adoption events and increasing partnerships with rescue organization, to ensure pets are finding a home instead of coming to the city shelter, she said.
Russell, an attorney and longtime Animal Control volunteer, was appointed to the top Animal Care and Control post in April.
Clutching his rescue pit bull mix Lincoln, Lopez said that Russell could have done a better job placing animals outside the shelter before the renovation work, instead of waiting "until the last possible minute."
He said there have been plans since 2014 to close the two pavilions.
"If she can't do the job, she should resign," he said.
After the protest, dog rescuers who support Russell clashed with demonstrators.
Lisa Hergesheimer, with Roll Over Animal Rescue, said Russell has instituted rescue programs that have made a "big difference" at the shelter.
"She's saved more dogs than you ever will in your lifetime," said Mark Loper, also with the rescue group.
Dog rescuers who support Susan Russell, executive director of Animal Care and Control, clash with protesters Wednesday outside of the shelter. [DNAinfo/Stephanie Lulay]
Chicago Animal Care and Control releases monthly data on the number of animals euthanized in their care on the city's website.
• In October, 441 animals were euthanized out of 1,465 animals surrendered to CACC.
• In September, 370 animals were euthanized out of 1,466 animals surrendered to CACC.
• In August, 426 animals were euthanized out of 1,657 animals surrendered to CACC.
During the same months last year, before Russell took office:
• In October 2015, 451 animals were euthanized out of 1,454 animals surrendered to CACC.
• In September 2015, 585 animals were euthanized out of 1,634 animals surrendered to CACC.
• In August 2015, 591 animals were euthanized out of 1,925 animals surrendered to CACC.
Earlier this year, Lopez sponsored a proposed measure that seeks to make all Chicago shelters "no-kill," which means animal care officials would have the power to euthanize only those pets that cannot be treated by medical professionals or that are dangerous to people or other pets.
"This must come to a stop," Lopez said. "As a city, this is a reflection of our conscience, and we must bring no-kill policies to our center immediately.
In 2015, 64 percent of animals brought to the city shelter were saved. To be considered a "no-kill" shelter, 90 percent of dogs and cats would need to find a permanent home, according to PAWS Chicago.
Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) is shown with his foster pit bull mix Lincoln Wednesday outside Chicago Animal Care and Control headquarters. [DNAinfo/Stephanie Lulay]
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