Anti-Cruelty Society sees uptick in adoptions after fees waived

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Landyn DeWitt and his dog Pistachio walk around the Loop on Dec. 13, 2023. DeWitt adopted Pistachio from the Anti-Cruelty Society on Tuesday. (Trent Sprague/Chicago Tribune)
From the moment he saw him, Landyn DeWitt had his heart set on adopting Poseidon, a 9-week old shepherd mix puppy taken in by the Anti-Cruelty Society. DeWitt recently moved to Chicago from Indiana to attend college and felt a pull to adopt after hearing that his family’s dog was experiencing health issues.
He met the puppy, who he now calls Pistachio, on a walk-in visit to the shelter. The puppy was surrendered by a previous owner because the adoption wasn’t a good fit for either of them. That walk-in turned into five subsequent visits by DeWitt to check in on Pistachio as he waited for the dog to complete necessary medical examinations.
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“I just felt really bonded to him,” DeWitt said.
DeWitt was given the all-clear to take his new pet out of the shelter and back to his apartment on Tuesday. Pistachio playfully tugged on his leash as he began his walk home with his new owner.
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Pistachio is one of 158 animals that has been adopted from the Anti-Cruelty Society animal shelter since it waived adoption fees for the month of December in its “Home for Howlidays” promotion to encourage and remove one financial barrier to adoption.
The large-scale promotion aims to combat overcrowding at the shelter, which has seen in the past two years animals, particularly big dogs, linger at the shelter.
Overcrowding at the Anti-Cruelty Society mirrors other shelters in Chicagoland and across the country, leading shelters to work together to find solutions to get animals out of shelters and into permanent homes.
A sign at a window of The Anti-Cruelty Society, 510 N. La Salle Drive, on Dec. 12, 2023, announces waiving of adoption fees for the month of December. (Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune)
“We are working nationally to try to find the reason for the slowdown and we find ourselves running into walls,” said Vice President of Mission Impact Lydia Krupinski. “No one can explain or pinpoint a specific reason why this is happening.”
[ Euthanizations up 25% in Chicago animal shelter; city director points to post-pandemic return to work, inflation ]
Waiving adoption fees is one way the shelter can remove a financial barrier for potential adopters, especially those who are considering adopting. Adoption fees for adult dogs start at $200 and fees for puppies are $350. Fees to adopt cats typically start at $100 and go up to $200 for kittens.
“We want to ensure that there are as few barriers as possible for someone looking to adopt,” Krupinski said. “If that means waiving that adoption fee so they can spend that money on extra treats or toys for the animal, that’s really important to us.”
The Anti-Cruelty Society reported that 56.3% of its dog kennels were filled as of Wednesday, down from 84.4% of kennels filled on Nov. 30. In the first 12 days of the month, 158 animals had been adopted from the shelter, and 51.1% of them were adoptions of big dogs.
The shelter aims to keep its kennels at or below 76% of total capacity so workers can give full care to each animal, , Krupinski said. The shelter defines big dogs as canines that weigh 30 pounds or more.
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Nationally, animal shelters have been struggling with overcrowding and a decline in potential adopters since the boom of adoption that occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In October, the leader of Chicago’s city-run shelter said euthanizations were up 25% and the shelter was on track to put down more animals than it had in years, a result of rising pet care costs as well as owners simply not having time anymore after returning to the office post-pandemic.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker lauded the efforts of the Anti-Cruelty Society in providing care, temporary shelter and paths to long-term homes to shelter animals.
“We encourage every Illinoisan to consider welcoming a new best friend and what better place to start than your local animal shelter,” Pritzer said at a news conference at the shelter Wednesday.
[ Dog reunited with owner after 15 months in Evanston Animal Shelter ]
As an open-door shelter, the Anti-Cruelty Society accepts all animals brought into the shelter, including pets surrendered by their owner, strays found on the street and transfers from other shelters.
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Recently, big dogs are staying in shelters for extended periods of time compared with during the pandemic, Krupinski said. Average length of stays before 2022 ranged from 20 to 30 days, but since 2022, big dogs have remained in the shelter for an average of twice as many days, with some there for up to 80 days.
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Caiti Lyons, an adoption experience guide at the Anti-Cruelty Society shelter, with 4-month-old Chase on Dec. 12, 2023. (Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune)
Animals that stay at the shelter for prolonged periods of time are more likely to harm themselves and undergo emotional stress, Krupinski said.
“When we see animals lingering, they’re more prone to developing shelter-induced stressors and committing self-harm in their kennels by rubbing their noses on their grates or wagging their tails repeatedly against the wall,” Krupinski said.
To offset the stress for animals living in kennels, the shelter invites people to come in and take dogs on walks for a few hours at a time or foster animals. When people foster, the shelter provides food and supplies needed to take care of the animal being fostered.
[ Northern sea otter pup rescued in Alaska finds new home at Shedd Aquarium ]
People looking to adopt can drop in to the Anti-Cruelty Society and spend time with dogs in the adoption room to see which animals they bond with, said adoption experience guide Caiti Lyons.
Adoption experience guides ask visitors questions about their lifestyle and living situation to try to help determine which animals would be a good fit. The shelter tends to a large number of “high-energy” dogs. The shelter also undergoes a consultation with each adopter, going over training that animals already have and if the animals need medication.
The Anti-Cruelty Society updates its website with information and photos of available pets.

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