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.)