In The News

Change is needed in Cook County

Cook County residents and animal lovers:
Please read the petition below as this affects you and your fur loved ones and their return to you if they should get lost.

Change is needed.

Our mission as a rescue has always been to help keep homeless animals out of the shelter. We have also provided help when we can to help others keep their loved ones at home so they do not have to enter the shelter system.

Education is empowering. Educate yourself and protect your loved ones.

The Department of Cook County Animal and Rabies Control (CCARC) does not have a facility. It is incredibly rare for an animal control department with the size of its’ county population to not operate its own facility. Dupage, Grundy, Lake, Kankakee, Kendall, Kane, Will, and McHenry County all have their own facilities to house stray animals, reunite pets with their families and adopt out homeless pets. They are funded by your tax dollars and rabies tag fees.
Read the audit here.

Be a voice for your Cook County animals.

“This is a petition demanding the Cook County Board of Commissioners accept the recommended changes by the Cook County Inspector General as a FIRST step towards fixing the problems with Department of Cook County Animal and Rabies Control (CCARC).

The ASPCA estimates that 40-60% of animals in shelters are lost pets.  Most of these pets do not need a new home; they simply need to go home. Every animal not reunited with its owner costs Cook County money.

Proactively reuniting lost pets with their families should be one of the main focuses of animal control departments.  When barriers prevent people from reclaiming their lost pets, the system fails.  Cook County Animal and Rabies Control fails.

The OIIG report revealed several areas of concern, including but not limited to:

·      No centralized database for posting found dogs and cats for Cook County. Posting photos on a website allows families to search the site when it is convenient for them and with more frequency.  There are many situations that make it difficult for owners to physically visit all the stray holding facilities in Cook County frequently to look for their lost dogs, including:

Work hours

Access to transportation

Language barriers

Physical challenges

·      No facility. Nationally, it is incredibly rare for an animal control department to not operate its own facility.  Kankakee, Lake, Kendall, Kane, Dupage and McHenry County all have their own facilities to house stray animals, reunite pets with their families and adopt out homeless pets.   It is a complete maze in Cook County with 135 municipalities, including Chicago, having multiple facilities and making it very difficult for families to find their lost pets. With the sheer number of shelters within Cook County, a centralized database in lieu of a centralized physical facility is minimally necessary.

·      No central repository system (microchip number and rabies tags number) available to other shelters and law enforcement to reunite pets with their families quickly.

·      Animal Control website fails to provide guidance to pet owners and no listings of the stray holding facilities in Cook County.

·      Disparity of budget and intake: Cook County Animal and Rabies Control Fiscal Year 2015 Budget  $4 million –  2014 intake 262 animals; compared to City of Chicago Animal Care and Control Fiscal Year 2015   $5.5 million – 2014 intake 21,037 animals.

These are just a few of the items pointed out, which are disconcerting for taxpayers and voters in Cook County (including Chicago).  City of Chicago – your rabies tag monies fund this department.  What services do you receive?

There is a disconnect between what Cook County Rabies and Animal Control actually does and what is truly needed for residents and animals alike in Cook County.

It is time to overhaul the Department of Cook County Animal and Rabies Control and reexamine its mission so the department can provide vital services, ensure that funds are spent effectively and allow for an efficient process for owners to get their pets back.”
Please sign here.

It is Now Or Never!

Written by Susan Taney

At the request of Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey, the Cook County Independent Inspector General (OIIG) conducted an 8 month audit of Cook County Animal Control.  On August 21, 2015, the OIIG released its audit summary.    The OIIG found many failures in regards to providing services to Cook County residents and their pets.  Cook County is funded by rabies tag monies, which are paid by Cook County residents (including Chicago).


  • No centralized database for posting found dogs for Cook County.
  • No facility (FY 2015 $4 million budget – 2014 intake 262 animals; compared to City of Chicago Animal Care and Control FY2015 $5.5 million – 2014 intake 21,037 animals)
  • No listing of Cook County stray holding facilities on the Cook County Animal and Rabies Control website  (approx. 37 different facilities in Cook County that hold strays).
  • No central repository system (microchip numbers and rabies tags number) available to other shelters and law enforcement to reunite pets with their family quickly.

All these failures lead to an ineffective system of reuniting lost dogs with their families.  Pets are family members.   They should be treated as such.

Cook County Residents (including Chicago)

Please contact the President of Cook County Board and each County Commissioner Board Member and let them respectfully know that you support the recommended changes presented by the Cook County Inspector General as a FIRST step toward fixing the problems of Cook County Animal Control.

Here is the listing of the President and the County Commissioner Board.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle  – Phone: 312.603.4600

Commissioner Richard R .Boykin  – District #1

Phone: 312.603.4566           

Commissioner Robert B. Steele – District #2


Commissioner Jerry Butler – District #3

Phone: 312.603.6391           

Commissioner Stanley Moore – District #4

Phone: 312.603.2065           

Commissioner Deborah Sims – District #5

Phone: 312.603.6381           

Commissioner Joan Patricia Murphy – District #6

Phone: 312.603.4216           

Commissioner Jesús G. García – District #7

Phone: 312.603.5443           

Commissioner Luis Arroyo Jr. – District #8

Phone: 312.603.6386           

Commissioner Peter N. Silvestri – District #9

Phone: 312.603.4393           

Commissioner Bridget Gainer District #10

Phone: 312.603.4210           

Commissioner John P. Daley – District #11

Phone: 312.603.4400             

Commissioner John A. Fritchey – District #12

If you would like to thank Commissioner Fritchey for initiating this investigation, please contact him.

Commissioner Larry Suffredin – District #13

Phone: 312.603.6383           

Commissioner Gregg Goslin – District #14

Phone: 312.603.4932           

Commissioner Timothy O. Schneider – District #15

Phone: 312.603.6388           

Commissioner Jeffrey R. Tobolski – District #16

Phone: 312.603.6384           

Commissioner Sean Morrison – District #17

Phone: 312.603.4215           

We need to let the President and Cook County Commissioners know that the residents of Cook County overwhelmingly support changes to provide better services to the Cook County Residents and their pets.

Why lost pets stay lost in Cook County

A recent investigation of Cook County’s Department of Animal and Rabies Control revealed the agency lacks a system for reuniting lost pets with their families. (Jeffrey Coolidge, The Image Bank)

Editorial Board

Your best friend, Bowser, is missing.

You’ve plastered the neighborhood with fliers, posted his mug on Facebook, circled the block for hours while holding a can of Alpo out the car window. You’ve offered up a prayer to St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals, and cursed yourself for not registering that microchip. Now what?

It’s time to make the rounds at all the local shelters, come up empty, and repeat. If Bowser’s been picked up and you don’t find him quickly, he could be offered for adoption or, gulp, euthanized.

Don’t expect much help from Cook County’s Department of Animal and Rabies Control. It doesn’t operate a shelter and doesn’t consider reuniting lost pets with their families a big part of its mission. In a report last month, the county’s inspector general made a good case that it ought to, and we agree. Especially since the IG’s six-month review left us shaking our heads at what the department actually does.

 Animal Control is about rabies, mostly. It gets most of its funding from the sale of rabies tags — and spends much of that money to pay employees to type the rabies tag data into a very old computer system.

There are 22 full-time employees, and 13 of them spend most of their time processing tags, often earning comp time for working during their lunch hours, according to the IG’s report.

Most of the data is submitted by clinics, shelters, veterinarians and rescue groups that perform the actual rabies vaccinations, but Animal Control’s system is so dated that the information can’t be uploaded easily, if at all. So staffers do it by hand. If this reminds you of the Cook County clerk of the circuit court office, join the club.

The IG recommends a web-based system so veterinarians and others can input the data themselves, freeing up resources for more meaningful services (like helping you find Bowser).

Animal Control also holds low-cost rabies and microchip clinics and runs a spay/neuter rebate program to encourage pet sterilization.

The office is closed nights, weekends and holidays, and the IG’s report notes that law enforcement agencies throughout the county complain that they can’t access rabies data or find an animal control officer except during banking hours.

There are six employees who patrol the unincorporated area for strays. Their workday includes time spent commuting to and from work in their take-home government vehicles. For one employee, that’s three hours a day. If heavy traffic means their door-to-door workday lasts longer than eight hours, they get comp time.

What do they do in between? The report doesn’t say, exactly, but it sounds rather aimless. The IG recommends more supervision, along with a patrol strategy based on analytics, “not left to the discretion and judgment” of drivers. It also says work schedules “should be adjusted for improved coverage and reflective of the needs of the county.”

The big takeaway from the IG’s report, though, was the notion that Animal Control should take responsibility for unwinding the frustrating “maze” that prevents lost pets in Cook County from finding their way home.

Animal Control contracts with a shelter in Chicago Ridge to take in animals impounded by the county. Chicago sends its strays to a shelter in Little Village. A few suburbs have their own facilities. Then there are more than a dozen nonprofit shelters and rescue groups. Together, they take in 50,000 animals a year. Bowser could end up at any one of them.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says fewer than 30 percent of dogs that come in as strays — and fewer than 5 percent of cats — are claimed by an owner. Those odds are likely worse in Cook County, because owners don’t know where to start. It makes sense for them to start with Animal Control, the IG says.

The agency’s website should provide a road map for the search, the report says, with a list of all the shelters and rescue groups, including phone numbers and Internet links. It could also include a registry that can be accessed by the public to upload posts and photos about lost and found pets, and a database of microchip registrations and rabies tag numbers to help shelters and local police identify animals they pick up.

That would be a real service to the people whose rabies tag fees fund Animal Control, and the costs would be more than covered if the agency adopted the efficiencies recommended in the IG’s report. That would be a tail-wagging outcome for everyone. Especially Bowser.

Copyright © 2015, Chicago Tribune

Did Cook County Animal Control investigation go deep enough?

A recent investigation of Cook County’s Department of Animal and Rabies Control revealed the agency lacks a system for reuniting lost pets with their families. (Jeffrey Coolidge / Image Bank)
Contact Reporter Chicago Tribune

Members of the animal welfare community are pleased that a Cook County inspector general’s report has highlighted shortcomings in the county’s Department of Animal and Rabies Control. The question now, though, is whether the report went far enough and whether anything will come of it.

Released Aug. 21, the report confirmed frequent criticisms that the department falls short in reuniting lost pets with their owners, is hamstrung by outdated technology and doesn’t operate in an efficient manner. It also recommended the department work with shelters and other animal groups.

“I think they covered the important things — a centralized website, have it accessible so animal control officers or law enforcement officers can scan a (found) dog and go into the system, and that dog doesn’t even have to go into a shelter,” says Susan Taney, founder of Lost Dogs Illinois, an organization that works to unite pet owners with their lost animals.

One problem, she says, is that the Animal Welfare League, where many of the strays the county collects end up, does not post photos of found dogs or dogs that have been brought in. It does post photos of adoptable dogs. So if a dog is brought in and the owner does not claim it, in three days it’s made available for adoption. There have been recent cases of dogs being found and then adopted out to new homes before their owners could find them, she says.

Taney also points out two areas that the report didn’t address — standardizing fees and stray hold periods. Both vary widely.

“By doing what the audit report suggested plus standardizing fees and hold periods, it would go a long way to improving the animal control system in Cook County,” she says. “Pets are family members. We need to keep these families together.”

Jay Pennington, a Texas software designer and animal advocate who has worked with other municipal animal control departments, agrees. He started his nonprofit, Pet Search and Rescue, and set up a system to track animals 12 years ago after his cat was lost in San Antonio. He says he spent days going to various shelters and animal control facilities looking for the cat because there was no central database.
“Soon after I developed my system, the San Antonio pound received national attention as putting down more pets than any other major city,” he says. “The city manager called me in to help, and my central database system has been in use ever since. Every pet that comes into a pound situation is photographed, identified and uploaded to my database the same day they arrive. The general public also uploads their lost pets and also when they’ve found a pet. The area adoption entities also upload their adoptable pets. The result is that if you think your pet has been picked up by any pound facility, you check one website.”

He estimates “hundreds, probably thousands” of pets have been returned home and says the number of pet deaths at pounds has been greatly reduced. He has offered Cook County the use of the system.

Justin Shlensky, an associate attorney at Kozar Law Office and a member of the Chicago Bar Association’s Animal Law Committee, says he is “highly disappointed” that the report recommended the department “merely comply with the minimum requirements as stated in the ordinance,” such as the requirement for two facilities to hold stray animals. Currently, there is only one, the Animal Welfare League.

Shlensky agrees with the IG, Taney and Pennington that the database needs an overhaul.

“Part of what the Animal Law Committee did was comparables,” he says of the group’s recent work. “We looked at eight of the 10 largest counties in the United States (Cook County is No. 2). We found, of the other eight we were able to gain information from, Cook County was severely lacking in a database. I think Cook County has an obligation to taxpayers and those who buy rabies tags to have a database.”

Pennington, who was interviewed by investigators from the inspector general’s office, is sure he can help.

“When you lose your pet, you would go to the one Chicago pets website,” he explains. “You first check to see if it is at one of the pound facilities. If not, then you look at the general public ‘Found’ page to see if a neighbor has your pet. If not, then you post as a Lost pet and generate a flier that doesn’t list any of your personal data. Each night you get an email of all pets of your pet’s breed that came into Chicago’s various pounds that day and any posted Found pets. Often there are animal lovers who will try to cross reference the Lost pet lists with the Pound lists and message pet owners of their pet possibly being at the pound.”

The report, which followed a six-month investigation by the inspector general’s office, also found shortcomings in other areas. It cited four instances of noncompliance with a policy, regulation, ordinance or collective bargaining agreement; it called for regularly scheduled training for the department’s animal control officers; it concluded there was “a lack of professionalism regarding the intake and dispatch of incoming calls for assistance and complaints” and said the current method of dispatching calls is “inefficient and ineffective”; it recommended a more proactive approach, through the establishment of a hotline and website, to enforce the prohibition of the sale of commercially bred dogs, cats and rabbits in pet shops; and it said that the department’s proposal to build a facility, to be funded by the department at a cost between $6.03 million and $9.9 million, was unsound because of a lack of support or explanations of revenue projections and a lack of cost analyses. It labeled the proposal “speculative.”

The inspector general asked that the board inform him of any actions taken on the recommendations within 30 days.
Copyright © 2015, Chicago Tribune

Illinois HB4029 Has Passed!

We are happy to report that the Bill 4029 has passed.

This bill requires shelters and rescues (the same as animal control facilities) to scan intake animals for a microchip multiple times before releasing the animal. It also includes veterinary clinics and hospitals that provide this same service to do the same.

The bill also requires that if the first person listed on the microchip cannot be contacted, the shelter must notify the second contact if one is listed.  Also, shelters must notify the owner when they are identified and transfer dogs with identified owners to a local animal control or law enforcement agency for the animal to be reclaimed.  If they cannot transfer the animal, they must hold the animal for at least 7 days prior to removing the animal.

Thank you to Senator Thomas Cullerton, the key sponsor of the bill.

House Sponsors
Rep. Deborah ConroyStephanie A. Kifowit, Silvana Tabares, Robert Rita, Sue Scherer, Frances Ann Hurley, Laura Fine and Kathleen Willis

Senate Sponsors
(Sen. Thomas Cullerton – Michael Connelly, David Koehler, Don Harmon, Toi W. Hutchinson and Karen McConnaughay)

Cook County Inspector General Releases Scathing New Report on Animal Control Conditions

The report called the department’s website inadequate in helping pet owners find lost or missing animals

A report released Friday by the Cook County Inspector General identified several issues at the county Animal Control, including a website the report said inadequately helped pet owners find lost or missing animals.

The review, sent to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and county commissioners, focused on the department’s operations, administration, budget, programs, officer practices and policies.

The report said Animal Control has accomplished its mission to offer low-cost rabies clinics throughout the county and identified numerous conditions and practices that reflect an efficiently operated department run by a dedicated staff, but it also pointed to outdated computer systems, inadequate dispatching practices and insufficient aid to pet owners looking for lost or missing animals.

The report called the department’s rabies tag data system “archaic” and “manually intensive.” It concluded the outdated technology prevented Animal Control officers, law enforcement and animal welfare agencies from accessing the important information in the field.

It also cited that Animal Control officers lack regularly scheduled training. It said the practice of dispatching calls is “inefficient and ineffective.”

The report called the department’s website inadequate in helping pet owners find lost or missing animals.

Among other complaints the Inspector General said the department lacked professionalism regarding the intake and dispatch of incoming calls for assistance and complaints.

It also claims some of the department’s budget estimates were exaggerated.

Animal control said it spends $400,000 on private veterinarians to spay and neuter animals, but the report says the amount is significantly less.

The Inspector General released a list of recommendations with the report, including a central registry that includes microchip and rabies information that can be accessed from the field. It also encouraged Animal Control to continue its partnership with animal welfare and rescue organizations.

Leaving pets in extreme weather now against the law in Illinois

By Tamara | August 10, 2015
It’s now against the law to leave pets outside in extreme temperatures in Illinois. Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed legislation which makes it against the law to leave pets in hot and cold weather that will cause them injury or death.

Lawmakers had already passed the bill through the state Senate and the Illinois House earlier in the Spring, and the bill was awaiting the governor’s signature. If a pet is hurt or dies as result of being left in extreme weather, a pet owner can now be charged with a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a $2,500 fine or up to one year in jail if they are found guilty.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, said the law is a response to the high number of dog deaths last winter after dogs were left outside in subzero temperatures. It is hoped that the law will lead to fewer pets dying and becoming injured and help raise awareness about the animal welfare issue.

The bill number is SB125. The new legislation takes effect on January 1, 2016.

Surge in Canine Flu Cases Demands Extra Precautions by Pet Owners

Cook County Department of Animal and Rabies Control (CCDARC) is cautioning dog owners that a recent increase in reported cases of canine infectious respiratory disease (CIRD) could last for several weeks before it subsides.

Dr. Donna Alexander, CCDARC administrator, said voluntary reporting to the Department of disease surveillance conducted by veterinarians has identified more than 1,000 cases of CIRD, or canine flu, unrelated to “kennel cough”, as well as five fatalities. CIRD is distinguished from kennel cough by its severity, possible consequences and diagnostic confirmation.

The age of the animals presenting with CIRD symptoms vary, but more severe forms are being seen in dogs under 1 year of age and greater than 7, she said.

Symptoms include persistent and lingering cough, lethargic behavior, a poor appetite and a fever. If you observe or suspect your dog may be suffering from any or all of these symptoms, the animal should be seen by a veterinarian, Dr. Alexander said.

Additionally, she recommended that until incidents of the disease diminish, dog owners should avoid pet friendly areas such as dog parks, not allow their dogs to play with other dogs, avoid group dog training activities, and, if possible, not board their pets. Dogs can be contagious even if they are not showing any of the CIRD symptoms, Dr. Alexander said.

While CIRD is highly contagious for dogs, it is not contagious for humans or other household pets such as cats. However, the virus that causes CIRD can live on fabrics and hard surfaces and can be transmitted from person to dog if the person has come into contact with a dog carrying the virus. To avoid such transmission, Dr. Alexander recommends thorough hand-washing after touching or petting a dog.

A vaccine that counters CIRD is available and can be administered by a veterinarian. This vaccine is separate from the kennel cough vaccine.

Puppy Lemon Law Protects New Pet Owners

An Illinois law protecting new pet owners is just a day away from going into effect. The Puppy Lemon Law allows owners to return a new dog or cat or be reimbursed for veterinary costs if the animal is sick.

The mission of the new puppy lemon law holds pet stores and puppy mills accountable. We spoke with a local veterinarian who says it’s not uncommon for a new pet owner to come into his office with a sick cat or dog–sometimes with a disease that cannot be cured.

Purchasing a new cat or dog is an exciting moment, but not knowing the medical history of the animal can be a risk.

“Nothing is sadder than someone adopting a puppy, and getting it home, and you’re usually attached with them within minutes, and then finding out they have a congenital defect that will decrease their life span or decrease their ability to be a good pet to the family members,” said Dr. Byron McCall, a veterinarian with Capitol Illini Veterinary Clinic.

Under Illinois’ new puppy lemon law, pet stores are now required to give customers some disclosure.

“Where the animal came from and different vaccines it’s received. Also, if they have an outbreak of a disease like parvo or distemper, they will be required to notify people who have bought animals from them,” said Sarah Moore with the Animal Protective League of Springfield.

McCall said pets can appear healthy at the store, but within days show signs of a disease or defect.

“We usually see them in higher population densities where pets come in from multiple sites and they bring a disease with them. And when they expose the other pets, then the other pets, if not protected with vaccines, can get sick from it,” McCall said.

Now, under the Puppy Lemon Law, if a vet deems a pet unfit for purchase, owners are given some options.

“Within 21 days of purchase, they can return the pet and get a full refund, they can exchange it for a new refund, or they can be reimbursed for their medical bills for the pet,” Moore said.

The new law does not apply to breeders or shelters, but McCall says he recommends all new pets get checked over by a vet as soon as you get them.

Officials with the Animal Protective League say because they don’t know the history of their animals, they do offer free veterinary care at their facility if a pet becomes sick within the first seven days.

Liz Bagley Makes a Difference

By Jan Larsen | Email the author | November 24, 2010

Liz Bagley Makes a Difference

Making a Difference Rescue is imperative to this Channahon woman.

Sometimes, Liz Bagley is dog-tired – just bone-weary from her after-work activities.

Liz and her volunteers have found homes for more than 400 cats and dogs since she started Making a Difference pet rescue in Channahon in the spring of 2006.

But, every time she reaches the point of wanting to take off a little time, another pup presents its face. And she cannot resist.

“It’s another sad story,” said Liz, who is a sucker for sad stories and sad faces.

It’s those faces she cannot turn away from.

“I get 30 e-mails a day,” she said. “It haunts me; I know they’re gonna die if I don’t do something.”

Someone once asked her with all the problems in the world, all the unemployment and families hurting, why she devotes her time to rescuing animals.

“I took offense at that,” she said.

Oftentimes, she is helping families. She helps families who can’t keep their beloved pet any longer, and she helps new families find joy in a precious new arrival.

“The only thing that keeps me going, is that out of the blue I will get a picture of a dog I saved,” she said.

A lady dying of cancer was worried sick over her German shepherd, also dying of cancer. Liz somehow cobbled together $1,100 to pay vets bills that gave the dog many more good months of life — and gave the woman her loyal companion for those months.

Making a Difference has good volunteers, but bills like that one plunge the rescue into debt.

Most times, adoption fees don’t begin to cover expenses, and the only formal fund-raising the group has done is letters and e-mail/Web site appeals. The group always struggles with medical bills.

Liz herself had breast cancer in 2001 and made a vow that when God healed her, she would help the helpless. It was the rock-solid attention of her Min-Pin, Chrissie that helped her get through the gray days.

She started by calling people who were running free “Free to a Good Home” ads in a local daily newspaper to warn them that a price like that only cheapens lives. Most didn’t realize these dogs would go to laboratories or fighting rings as bait.

I first met Liz when I started The Ark, the pet page at my former life, The Herald News. Liz was a hard person to say no to. I thought about her a lot. I fostered two dogs for her rescue– then kept the third one, whose name is Frosty.

That’s how I re-met the incredible Bob Waters, a Santa Claus double I had written about several years earlier. He’s the cat man of the rescue.

Liz and her volunteers have always been rigorous about screening homes before pets are placed. All pets are spayed or neutered before being placed and almost always have their shots. Still, her adoption prices are usually lower than most.

At the time of this interview, Making a Difference had 14 dogs and seven cats to place.

Contact her at, text her at 815-258-5892 or see the Web site at The rescue is always in need of foster homes.

Jan Larsen coordinates volunteers at Joliet Job Corps. She has two Siamese cats, Freya and Friggia, and a Siberian husky, Frosty. She loves to write about and photograph animals more than anything in the world. Except maybe travel. You can reach her at