Chicago's dog crisis: Euthanasia rates rise as Animal Care and Control faces overpopulation

Chicago dogs are in need. The city's animal rescue organizations are raising the red flag about a serious population problem at Animal Care and Control.

Unfortunately, more dogs are coming into animal control, which has led to an increase in euthanasia rates compared to last year.

In total, animal control officers have picked up more than 4,000 dogs since the start of 2022. That is on top of the dogs being brought directly into the shelter.

"There are a lot of animals coming in the shelter right now. Either coming in as strays, owner surrenders, confiscates.  It's definitely an influx right now," said Armando Tejeda, the public information officer for Chicago Animal Care and Control.

A lot of it is also the economy.

"A lot of people aren't working right now. Some people went back to work, and they don't have time for their pet anymore," said Tejeda. "Evictions started again, so that's a part of it too, that we're seeing."

According to a FOX 32 Chicago Freedom of Information request, roughly a third of those dogs came from three zip codes: Roseland, South Chicago and Chatham.

"We found that these are areas, just going on our data, matched up with places that were just underserved areas in general in Chicago," said Tejeda. "So if you look at places like Roseland and Austin. There's not a lot of green spaces there, for the people in general, but also for dogs. There's not dog parks. These places are basically deserts when it comes to pet care."

Animal control officials say that overall, they have been faced with a large dog population since pandemic restrictions began to lift.

"There's just so many coming in that we're just trying to find other avenues of where these dogs can go to," said Tejeda.

Tejeda adds that during COVID a lot of surgeries weren't happening due to either social distancing restrictions or just different veterinary practices not being able to get the drugs they needed to perform these surgeries.

Chicago Animal Care and Control says efforts through partner organizations go a long way to managing the issue, like the spay-neuter partnership they have developed with PAWS Chicago.

"So, we've partnered with Animal Care and Control because there is a bottleneck in large dog adoptions," said Susanna Wickham, CEO of PAWS Chicago. "There are actually a couple of bottlenecks.  One is that they take longer to spay and neuter, especially the female large dogs, so we began a couple of months ago offering weekly slots to Animal Care and Control for free out of our clinic.  We've been taking 10 large dogs a week here for surgery, supplying the surgery, so that those dogs can get adopted."

All the organizations that FOX 32 spoke with say that getting more spay and neuter surgeries done and making them more accessible would go a long way to helping with the dog overpopulation problem.

"If someone's here looking to adopt a dog and that dog is already spayed-neutered, that dog can leave that same day, which means that kennel now opens up for the next animal in need," said Tejeda.

Another big step is helping to keep dogs out of Animal Care and Control in the first place — something the Garrido Stray Rescue Foundation has been playing a key role in since it got its start in 2014.

"We are able to defer anywhere from 250 to 300 dogs a year from going to animal control," said  John Garrido with Garrido Stray Rescue Foundation.

Garrido says because his organization is a stray hold-approved rescue, they're able to take in dogs that come into Chicago police stations, often having great success reuniting many dogs with their owners.

"We're getting these animals home fast.  And we're at like an 85-89 percent return to owner rate," said Garrido.

And of course, adopting, fostering or volunteering can all go a long way as well in getting dogs out of Animal Care and Control.

"So when someone takes a foster animal that means that creates space here at the medical center. We can pull another animal from animal care and control. So the fosters are really saving two lives," said Wickman.

If you're interested in helping support the dogs of Chicago Animal Care and Control and the rescue community in the Chicago area, click on the following links: