The City of Chicago, like a poorly trained dog, seems to be biting the hand that feeds it.
The hand, in this case, belongs to Don Levin, the wealthy owner of the Chicago Wolves professional hockey team.
He’s a generous benefactor to Animal Care and Control—ACC— the city agency that handles lost and abandoned pets and wildlife in Chicago.
ACC runs an aging pound on the Near Southwest Side, and Levin has donated more than $1 million to help with badly needed renovations aimed at making the facility more animal-friendly.
Levin and other animal lovers don’t just want a better physical structure—they’ve also spoken out about the need for changes in the ACC culture so there’s more professionalism and responsiveness, and fewer mistakes.
Unfortunately it’s been “mission impossible” up to now—more challenging than obedience training.
The latest snafu overshadowed a recent event at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont.
Levin’s Wolves were playing, and he allowed ACC to host an adoption event in the lobby, where a number of pound dogs were available for people to pet and interact with, and perhaps take home.
Why ACC went ahead with the event at a time of mounting concerns over dog flu is another question, but they did, and Wolves fans seemed to enjoy it.
A pooch named “Missy” didn’t.
The crowd apparently spooked her and she started acting squirrelly, so she was taken to the parking lot and loaded into an ACC van – also donated by Levin – to wait things out in a cage.
When the event was over, the van was driven back to the pound, but Missy was inexplicably left inside. And when the van was moved to a nearby city lot the next day, she was still locked in.
Missy languished for five or six days with little or no food or water before being discovered.
She’s recovering, thankfully, but where’s the “care” and “control” in the agency’s name?
Levin and many ACC employees and volunteers were understandably irate, so we asked to speak to Mayor Emanuel about the agency—not based on this one incident but because it’s the latest in a long series of mishaps that demonstrate ineptitude and waste, and an apparent lack of concern about tax dollars and the lives of living creatures.
This is the agency that accidentally euthanized an animal up for adoption, choked another dog, misleads us when we raise questions, and promotes administrators with little or no animal welfare experience, including an official who gave his own family dog up for adoption and had a lackluster employment history with another city agency before joining ACC.
We’ve been covering most of these mishaps, and here’s what I said in another column last year:
“A logical step is for the interested parties—experts, rescue groups, volunteers and government—to keep talking about better, more professional ways to do the job.
“The conversation should also include the city Inspector General’s office, which has been sharply critical of ACC over the years.”
We don’t have all the answers, but together we can figure this out.
That includes the mayor, who declined our interview request, hockey owner and generous ACC donor Don Levin, and others who must be getting tired of donating their time and money, only to get nipped for their efforts.
Andy Shaw is President & CEO of the Better Government Association. He can be reached at email@example.com. Find him on Twitter @andyshawbga.