On June 29, 2018 Susan Russell was removed as Director of Chicago Animal Care & Control with no reason given. Susan has been the best Director CACC has ever seen and leaves the shelter with the lowest euthanasia rates ever.
K9 Enrichment Initiative became a licensed dog rescue in December of 2016. We pulled our first dogs from CACC in January of 2017. During the past year, plus months we have worked closely with the transfer team volunteers, the staff, and the former Executive Director Susan Russell to give dogs their second chances.
My adopters of CACC alumni Pit bulls are heartbroken that dogs like theirs, who just needed a bit more time to find their second chance might not have that opportunity, without Russell there to be their champion.
Working with Susan and the volunteers in pulling dogs who were at their time limit and needed out to make the transition back to being a companion dog have been the most rewarding aspect of our rescue work.
The forgotten dogs in the back pavillions who had been passed over time and time again as there are just so many dogs to choose from at any one time.
Dogs that would have lost their lives are now in loving homes, well adjusted and living the good life, because Susan, her staff, and the awesome volunteers believed in these dogs. In turn, we believed in them, we call them Susan’s Dogs, as she partnered with us in making the decisions about which dogs would fit into our rescue and had a passion for each one of them.
What other shelter do you have the Executive Director walk pavilion to pavilion introducing you to dogs, sharing their stories, their pros, and cons, and being transparent as to not place a dog with a rescue who does not have the resources for that particular dog? None that we work with, except for Susan.
What the mayor, Rahm Emmanual apparently doesn’t understand is that for rescues to pull dogs from shelters, we have to trust that the shelter is being transparent about the dogs in their care. We need to know they aren’t telling us the dog is Benji when in fact he is Cujo.
We had that trust with Susan, this is why we drove the hour to pull dogs from CACC when we have shelters just 20 minutes from us.
As one of my board members said, “not only did the mayor dismiss Susan, he dismissed us, as we were there because of Susan, and it hurts.”
We will keep fighting the good fight as Susan wants us to do, but the level of trust in CACC has been diminished for us.
We will accept nothing less than the appointment of an Executive Director who will continue the programs initiated by Susan Russell and those required to fulfill the goal of becoming a truly progressive shelter. Where care, compassion and a willingness to enrich the lives of the animals within its walls is the norm, not a dream of one day. Susan made it the norm and it must be carried on for the animals sake. We cannot go backward, killing healthy dogs to stay below shelter capacity, is not acceptable.
An open access shelter can not turn animals away as private shelters do and often end up with the worst of the worst abuse, neglect and abandoned animals. Susan’s strength came in her transparency of releasing daily population numbers to rescue leaders, sending out alerts to move medical releases to rescues with vet care to save their lives, in her ability to work with other shelters to lower numbers and of course in her promotion of dogs as individuals.
A miracle is needed for this mayor to admit he made an error, was given false information and reinstate Russell. I am not holding out for a miracle. We joined rescue leaders, volunteers, advocates, CACC volunteers, politicians, and concerned citizens to protest the dismissal of Russell and to let the mayor know “we are watching, we will speak up, we will not accept anything less then what Susan has already built”.
The mayor told an alderman who was protesting Russell’s dismissal that she didn’t “kill enough dogs”, that the shelter reached capacity too many times. Apparently, the mayor doesn’t grasp that it’s Chicago Animal CARE and Control, without the CARE, then there is no being humane.
We ask all animal advocates to stand with us and be the voice for the voiceless against a city administration that just doesn’t get it.
Only Susan Russell could manage to bring together 28 rescues for one cause, “fight the good fight” we shall.
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