CHICAGO -- Nearly a dozen dogs got a break from shelter life and were checked into a pet hotel recently to free up kennels at Chicago's animal shelter, which was on the verge of considering euthanizing dogs for space.
Friends of Chicago Animal Care and Control, a nonprofit group, answered the urgent call for help and committed to paying about $1,500 for 11 dogs to be boarded at the PetSmart PetsHotel in the South Loop, said founder Charlie Propsom.
"We can't do this indefinitely. It was just a stopgap measure to get the shelter a little more space," she said. "We'd board them all if we could, forever, but that's not possible. We're trying to alleviate the pressure immediately. We succeeded in that, and the hard work continues in getting to rescues and convincing them to take dogs."
Dog population at the Chicago Animal Care and Control shelter recently reached 300, a critical level that prompted the city shelter to consider euthanizing animals for space if the population didn't decline. The shelter must take in any dog that is brought in, and more are coming than are leaving, creating the crowded living quarters.
A statement from the shelter said it was "very encouraged by the downward trend in its dog population and wants to thank Chicagoans for their efforts and concern for the dogs at the city shelter. The department looks forward to its continued hard work with the community to give our shelter animals the second chances they deserve."
Transferring dogs to the pet hotel and rescue groups helped drive down the number at the shelter.
The 11 dogs -- including Miley, the 6-year-old bully breed that is the shelter's longest resident, there since July -- were transferred late Thursday and will be allowed to stay at the pet hotel for up to two weeks as the group works to get the dogs to rescue groups to find them foster homes or get them adopted.
After Propsom got the call from Animal Care and Control about the crucial need for space, she in turn picked up the phone to find out where she could temporarily board some dogs.
One place she called was Found Chicago Boarding and Training Center in the Horner Park neighborhood.
"I didn't realize it was to a point where within a day we either need to move dogs or euthanize dogs," said Brittney Frazier, co-owner of Found Chicago and founder of Canines & Company rescue group. "That's a pretty serious situation."
She said she wanted to help and was able to place one dog -- a 9-month-old black terrier mix with a lot of energy, named Dandi -- in a foster home for a week, before she gets shuttled to another foster home to buy more time to find someone to adopt her. People who foster dogs typically work through rescue groups.
"She was definitely people-friendly and people-oriented, and we were like, 'Wow this is a great dog,'" Frazier said.
Propsom returned to PetSmart to visit the shelter dogs and take updated photos to post online and share with rescue groups.
The nonprofit group will reassess the shelter's capacity in two weeks. Dogs that don't get rescued or adopted may return to the shelter if there's enough room or have their hotel stay extended, Propsom said.
To further alleviate the squeeze for space, the city has offered two new financial incentives to help draw rescue groups and adopters to pick up dogs.
Through Feb. 18, a $100 rebate funded by Pets and Vets USA will be made available for up to 50 dogs adopted directly from the city's shelter and enrolled in a basic obedience course.
Rescue groups can get up to $200 for each dog they take that has been at the shelter for at least 30 days.
"The shelter depends on residents and rescue partners to volunteer, foster and adopt animals in need," the shelter said in a statement.
People looking to adopt dogs directly from the city shelter, located at 2741 S. Western Ave., can stop by from noon to 7 p.m. every day to view and meet the dogs, submit an application for adoption and pay the $65 adoption fee.
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