The city has drafted a new policy that requires greater oversight and accountability from whichever organization is chosen to assist in managing Evanston’s embattled animal shelter.
After rejecting a recommendation by Ald. Judy Fiske (1st Ward) and Ald. Mark Tendam (6th Ward) that the city sever its ties with Community Animal Rescue Effort, or CARE, at the last Human Services Committee meeting on March 3, the committee directed city staff to draft a new partnership agreement.
An email from Evanston city manager Wally Bobkiewicz indicated that the draft policy was sent to CARE’s leadership on Monday evening.
Read the “Animal Control Policy” draft.
CARE has partnered with the city in managing the Evanston Animal Shelter for more than 25 years. Questions about CARE’s management, particularly its volunteer-administered of canine behavioral evaluations that resulted in euthanizing of almost half of the approximate 100 unclaimed dogs, have been at the center of several contentious public hearings.
At the March 3 meeting, CARE’s leadership was questioned about the board’s longevity -- Linda Gelb has been CARE’s board president for over 20 years -- which some aldermen on the Human Services Committee said defied best practices.
Ald. Coleen Burrus (9th Ward) expressed her concerns about the CARE board, stating, “I find it suspect when an organization has had the same leadership for so many years [because] it doesn’t lead to any opportunities to innovate or grow.”
She also admonished CARE’s long-time board members to “look within themselves” and give new volunteers a chance to lead.
The City of Evanston’s proposed partnership policy includes four recommendations “to provide consistency and predictability” in the animal shelter’s operations.
Included are recommendations for establishing a new Animal Control Board, an “Evanston Animal Shelter” fund to receive donations specifically to support the animal shelter, disclosure by the partnering animal rescue organization’s yearly financial audits and tax returns, and volunteer background disclosures.
While some city aldermen asked that the city put its expectations for a continued partnership with CARE in writing, CARE’s name is left out of the draft, and is referred to as the “VAO” or “volunteer animal organization.”
The volunteer animal organization chosen to partner with the city, in addition to opening its financial books, must disclose background information about certain board members, criteria for board election and establish term limits.
The policy also grants final decision-making authority to the city’s chief animal warden on adoptions, foster care, rescue and euthanasia of animals in the shelter’s care. Also, no animals may be removed from the shelter without the chief animal warden’s written authorization.
The volunteer animal organization also will no longer be able to perform canine behavioral tests. Instead, the city will assume responsibility. Those participating in the testing, including the chief animal warden, must also undergo training and obtain certification from an organization, such as the ASPCA.
Test protocol will be selected and recommended by the animal control board, such as the ASPCA’s SAFER test. The volunteer animal organization will pay all fees for evaluations and training, the draft policy says.
Two hired animal behavioral consultants had also recommended that CARE volunteers stop giving behavioral evaluations.
Fiske, who co-chaired a subcommittee to resolve some of the ongoing issues between the city and CARE, claimed many residents have donated to the Evanston Animal Shelter, only to be told to make out new checks payable to CARE.
CARE has amassed a $1.3 million nest egg over the years, according to their last available tax return from 2012. Some of those funds were to have gone toward building an addition on the current facility located at 2310 Oakton St. The group has also recently scrubbed its website and literature of all references to the Evanston Animal Shelter.
Gelb, the co-president of CARE, has both publicly stated that monies from an escrow account were withdrawn because of aldermen were talking to volunteers without going through the board, and a “rebranding effort” by CARE with the purpose of starting its own animal rescue facility modeled after PAWS Chicago with money it has collected through the years.
CARE can accept the city’s proposed policy, renewable for a year, or walk away from its decades-long partnership with the city and the Evanston Animal Shelter.
The city is seeking public feedback on the proposed partnership policy that will be discussed during a special meeting of the Human Services Committee scheduled for 6 p.m. March 31, in the council chamber at the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center, 2100 Ridge Ave. If you can't download the document on Patch, the draft policy can also be viewed on the city's website.
Public comments may sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tell us what you think of the city’s proposed partnership policy for the Evanston Animal Shelter in the comments.