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Chicago Animal Care And Control Seeks To Clear The Shelter, But City Pound Is Already Emptier Than Normal

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Happening today: the first adoption event at Chicago Animal Care and Control since quarantine began.

Fees are waived for cats and dogs older than 6 months. The nationwide four-day event is called "Empty The Shelters."

It's a curious name, because Chicago's shelter is emptier than usual, and it's not because of an abundance of adoptions.

CBS 2 Morning Insider Lauren Victory goes inside COVID-19's positive impact at the pound.

Pups and the pandemic; as COVID-19 surged, so did pet adoptions. Story after story of shelters cleared out.

So imagine our confusion by the statistics at Chicago Animal Care and Control.  CBS 2 did some sniffing around and, despite all the headlines, adoptions from the city shelter dropped 88%.

"We got a huge outpouring of support when the whole COVID-19 started," said CACC acting executive director Mamadou Diakhate, who explained partnerships ramped up when Illinois shut down.

During the pandemic, the city agreed to do more spaying and neutering so rescue organizations could take over the bulk of adoptions.

Then there's this silver lining:

"We start receiving less animals," Diakhate said.

Intake is down, especially owner surrenders.

From March to August 2019, more than 2,000 Chicago pets were given up to CACC. During the same six months this year, only 611 owner surrenders.

That's not a fluke.

"You just walk in, and here is the dog," Diakhate said.

Diakhate explained that was the old way for owner surrenders.

The new, COVID-inspired policy at CACC requires a drop-off appointment. The wait is usually about a week.

Diakhate said the new protocol "absolutely" cuts down on impulse decisions.

"We're not locking the door and just throwing the keys into the lakeshore. What we're saying is, we're going to do everything to try to understand why you don't want your animal," Diakhate said.

Less pets at the pound means more time that CACC staff can have these thoughtful conversations.

"Sometimes it's basic things. 'I cannot afford food.' Well, Chicago Animal Care and Control can help you with food," Diakhate said.

Things happen, and for the animals who do end up at CACC, life is better than it was before.

"When your intake goes down, of course down the line, everything goes down," Diakhate said.

Less crowding, and more time to play.

As people begin to return to work, owner surrenders might creep up again, but the drop-off appointment policy will stick.

CACC staff are taught to provide a list of resources to pet owners, and are going through sensitivity and racial equity trainings to help their conversations with the public.

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