Chicago Pound Transferred More Than 1200 Cats to a Small Rescue Group

Chicago Animal Care & Control killed more than 8000 animals in 2012. Since 2006, the pound’s rescue transfer program, Homeward Bound, has seen a 230% increase in the number of animals transferred.

Chicago ACC gave an average of more than 200 cats every month for 6 months in a row this year to a rescue group called Purrs from the Heart which participates in the Homeward Bound program. They stopped giving cats to the group after a written complaint was received by the city in September, alleging mistreatment of cats left at an apartment. The state has opened an investigation:

Now, a week into its inquiry, the state says it cannot account for 1,216 cats that Purrs From The Heart took between April and September. The number of animals involved, spokesman Jeff Squibb said, ranks the case among the largest animal welfare investigations ever conducted by the department.

Like many rescue groups, Purrs from the Heart uses a network of foster homes to care for the cats it saves from death row at the pound. The group’s state license allows for it to use up to 7 foster homes in order to provide care for a maximum of 28 animals. The rescue has spoken with state investigators to explain their side of the story:

As many as 150 cats were left at the South Side apartment at a given time, said Brian Przybylski, one of the shelter’s founders, in an interview. Its tenants agreed to care for the animals in exchange for weekly payments of $150, he said.
[…]
The founders said they learned some cats in that apartment were killed or starved, but that others were adopted or too sick to survive.
[…]
Brian Przybylski also blamed the city for allowing the organization to take too many cats from the shelter.
[…]
“We were trying to save as many as we could,” he said. “Basically we had too many people who had the authorization to (rescue cats).”

State investigators visited the apartment in question and found no cats there. The rescue group also referred investigators to a rural barn where they said a large number of cats were being housed but it too was empty.

Neither the apartment nor rural barn were authorized foster providers, the Department of Agriculture said.

The Chicago ACC spokesman declined to comment on the pound’s transfer and subsequent failure to track more than 1200 cats via Purrs from the Heart.

Purrs from the Heart reportedly intends to dissolve and transfer the cats who remain in the group’s care by the end of the month.

Clearly the overriding issue at this point is determining what happened to the 1200 cats and getting help to any still living.  Local shelter pet advocates will need to hold the Chicago pound accountable.  At the very least, Chicago ACC should be made to answer for why it transferred so many cats to a group it knew was licensed to care for only 28 pets at a time and why it failed to follow up on the fate of these animals.

(Thanks Clarice and Arlene for sending me this story.)

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13 Comments

  1. haffordg

     /  December 16, 2013

    Are there any indications these missing cats were sold to
    Labs to be used in experiments?
    That was a thought that came into my mind when such
    large numbers of cats
    were mentioned as bring unaccounted for.

    Reply
    • None mentioned in the article but the investigation is ongoing. I take it as a very bad sign that the rescuers admit some of the cats starved or were killed.

      Reply
      • haffordg

         /  December 16, 2013

        You are so right — that is no “rescue” operation
        when animals are unaccounted for and
        It has been admitted that some starved
        to death or were killed. That is just awful.
        I do feel such anguish when any animal
        suffers pain due to the actions of “humans”.
        Animals are so innocent and loving – they
        deserve love and kindness in return.
        I know you will keep us all posted on this
        the progress of this investigation. Thank you
        for always being a voice for the voiceless.

    • That was the first thing I thought about – or to places that sell to schools, etc. I hope that the investigation is a TRUE investigation and they get some answers. My money is on not finding any of these cats alive and well.

      Until we stop considering our companion animals and ferals as disposable commodities, these horrors will continue to happen.

      To the affected cats – I am so sorry for you. You did nothing to deserve this.

      Reply
  2. mikken

     /  December 16, 2013

    So much about this bodes very badly for the cats.

    “Applicants to the program are required to provide a list of veterinarians used, facility information and references from animal shelters. The city reserves the right to request statistical information on transferred animals.

    Powers said the Animal Control Department verifies an applicant is licensed by the state, checks its references and will try to inspect an applicant’s facilities if based in Chicago.”

    “Facility information”. I wonder if anyone said, “Hey, we’ve sent these people 1200 cats and they’re operating out of an apartment and possibly a barn, I wonder what kind of living conditions are happening there?”

    Thank goodness for the tipster, or they’d have shipped another 200 cats a month out to heaven knows where…

    Reply
  3. anne davis

     /  December 16, 2013

    If this article didn’t state that this is the CACC I would swear it’s one or two rescue groups in Staten Island who have pulled hundreds of cats off the kill list here in NYC in the last couple of months. When I posted my concerns on the Pets on Death Row FB page about these groups and wondering where all those cats are now I was blocked from making any more comments . Apparently, nobody wants to know and nobody cares as long as they are pulled. I would love to know how many cats the Staten Island rescue groups are licensed to care for and where the cats are.

    Reply
  4. Oh. My. God. I thought that pound was bad enough, now to hear that the cats that I and others networked went from that to who-knows-what….I am sick.

    Reply
  5. Piper

     /  December 17, 2013

    This is so incredibly sad. So many unanswered questions… how did the shelter they were pulling these cats from think they could POSSIBLY care for this many? Did they even track how many cats were going to each rescue? After the 1st month they pulled 200 cats, shouldn’t that have been a huge red flag? How did this rescue think a “foster home” (if you could even call it that) could care for 150 cats with $150 a week? That wouldn’t even buy food for a week for that many cats! Considering many of them likely arrived there with all sorts of various health issues, I simply cannot imagine the sickness that must have ran rampant through there.
    I understand how hard it is to say “No” to cats that are going to likely die if you don’t pull them, but you have to live in reality- you can’t take on more than you can handle or they will all suffer. I feel like this situation happens much more often than we all realize, though likely not with these kind of numbers. I think everyone involved in rescue knows rescuers and rescues that are not exactly what they seem- but I AM truly shocked that it got to this point with Purrs before they were reported. Surely someone knew months before that something was not right.

    Reply
  6. Sad Cat

     /  December 20, 2013

    Smelling something fishy here, these people had donation drives active all over the web during this same timeframe. They also “won” 500 dollars from a local dealership. Apparently, lots of well meaning people drank their kool-aid. So sad. Also gives the opponents of no-kill good ammunition to stifle the movement. Even I would find euthanization to be more merciful than a slow death via untreated disease or starvation…. Bad news here in Chicago for the unwanted/abandoned animals.

    Reply
  7. Wonderful article. I’m the assistant director for a shelter (CatNap from the Heart) located several miles from where Purrs from the Heart is based. We have had many dealings with them over the years and would like to say that we are absolutely NOT associated with them. We too have vocalized our concerns regarding their rescue from time to time. Unfortunately, they are not always following Illinois laws with respect to microchipping and we have no way to trace cats back to them. Please read this open letter from our Director/Founder Bobbi Meyer here https://m.facebook.com/notes/catnap-from-the-heart/open-letter-to-purrs-from-the-heart/10151863191853137/? Or you can read it on our blog at http://www.catnapfromtheheart.wordpress.com

    Thank you for sharing this story and thank you for taking the time to read this comment.

    Reply
  8. Kittypurr

     /  December 23, 2013

    This case is one that is known. What about all the others that are not. I know that even “reputable” facilities have had shennigans like this happen and it never made it out to the public but was quietly cleaned up and everyone went about their way for multi million grant funding and reputations were at stake.
    If they can get by with their coverups what does that say about the industry as a whole.

    Reply
  9. Saving Cats

     /  April 7, 2014

    I took 3 cats from CACC through Purrs. Those 3 have all been adopted to loving homes. When I got the first 2 they had a bad URI, the 3rd cat was barely alive. This is due to CACC, so CACC cannot blame Purrs for the condition of these cats. I have heard things CACC does that is also not ethical. I spent near $1000 on these 3 cats vetting them to get them healthy for adoption. Don’t come down on Purrs for all of this.

    Reply
  10. I know this story. The story is that Sherry had a foster who was a drug addict (the apartment), she didn’t know that. They demanded more money from Sherry. Sherry refused to give it then the woman told her she was going to let the cats go. So Sherry caved. It was only after when Sherry went to the apartment that she found that these people did not feed these cats (I will not say what happened). Anyway, Sherry tried to take the cats and the woman wouldn’t let her, then Sherry called the cops and the cops said they won’t do anything. Sherry then got overwhelmed not getting help to get these cats out…

    I have 3 of the cats, well they have been adopted. But this is not all Sherry’s fault, have you seen the cats when they are pulled from CACC??? I have, I had 3 with a URI, one of which was at deaths door. CACC needs to look into their own problem before coming down on Sherry fully. NO I do not condone the apartment thing, but when cops won’t come help what are you to do?

    Reply

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