It’s been an emotionally charged day for those at Tree House Humane Society in Chicago. Judge Pamela Hughes Gillespie, a judge with the Department of Buildings in Chicago, denied a request for an extension of time to board up the vacant house where an unknown number of cats, perhaps more than 100, have been living. She told those requesting the extension that they needed to get all the cats out today. She did leave one hope that she might change her mind when she added, “If you can’t, call me.” The City of Chicago plans to board up the house tomorrow.
The problem is that the cats, who belonged to the owner of the property, which is now in foreclosure, have been calling that house home. They live inside and outside the home much to the consternation of the neighbors. The odors from that number of cats are horrendous and can be smelled from the street. However, if the house is boarded up, there are two problems. One is that no matter how thoroughly the house is searched, there is no way to be sure that cats are not hiding inside. Also, if the house is boarded up, the cats that are staying close to their “home” will begin to search for a new home. That will cause them to spread through the neighborhood and farther, making it much more difficult for them to be caught and saved.
According to Jenny Schlueter of Tree House Humane Society, they have been working frantically for two weeks trying to catch as many cats as they can. They have asked neighbors to help and foster or adopt some of the cats. They are working on getting the cats spayed or neutered and vaccinated. But it all takes time. Tree House is begging for more time to save the cats. Schlueter explained that “If the city would let Tree House deal with the cats, Tree House can do it. They just need more time.” She went on to explain that staff at Tree House have dropped all other projects to work on rescuing these cats.
Allowing Tree House to work on rescuing the cats, especially now that PAWS Chicago has joined in their efforts, will accomplish several things. It is more efficient, more humane, and a better use of tax dollars. Instead of cats being stressed by going to Chicago Animal Care and Control, where they will be exposed to diseases for which they have not been vaccinated, the cats will be rescued and place with families or rescue groups where they can get their shots and be cared for until they find permanent homes. That also would save CACC manpower as well as money spent caring for the cats.
According to Justin Heath, the Director of Policy for Alderman Gilbert Villegas, the alderman’s office was told by CACC that if they take in more cats, they will have to start killing them because they have no more space. The owner of the home and of the cats has been uncooperative. He was sleeping in his car in front of the house because the house is uninhabitable. There is a ward meeting tonight. Most neighbors, according to Schlueter, have been supportive and want the cats saved. They want them removed, of course, but as humanely as possible. It is to be hoped that other neighbors will see that just giving Tree House a few weeks to work on the situation will result in the most humane outcome possible. Already, as many as half the cats have been caught, and many are in foster homes and at Tree House.
To help with the efforts, contact Tree House at 773-784-5488, ext. 0, during office hours Monday through Friday from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. You can also donate on their website. PAWS Chicago has also joined Tree House in their efforts. PAWS Chicago Communication Manager Sarah McDonald stated in an email that they are “making room to accommodate as many of the cats as we can in our program. We will provide free spay/neuter services, and work on relocating or getting the cats adopted, depending on their situation. PAWS Chicago will provide spay/neuter surgeries, vaccinations and medical services needed.” Judge Gillespie’s contact information is: Daley Center, 50 W. Washington St., Rm. 1111, Chicago, Illinois 60602, and her office phone number is (312) 603-4532.
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