How county animal shelters handle summer influx

McHenry County has not seen its numbers rise although other suburban shelters have seen numbers tick up

Summer means sunshine and warmer weather, but it also means animal shelters begin to fill up.

While DuPage County Animal Services, the second largest county-run pet shelter in the state, hit at “critical capacity” in June, McHenry County has not seen its numbers rise.

“We have remained status quo,” said Lindsey Salvatelli, community information coordinator at the McHenry County Department of Health.

One reason could be microchipping and registering pets, which Brett Youngsteadt, Kane County Animal Control’s administrator, said can often take a burden off shelters.

“[These] pets have the highest chance of going home,” Youngsteadt said. “Sometimes when the animal doesn’t have microchip, it can get lost in the system.”

Dogs with microchips are two times more likely to be reunited with their families, and cats are 20 times more likely, Salvatelli said.

Summer allows all types of pets to roam more outdoors, Youngsteadt said. In the winter, the cold causes animals to seek shelter instead.

That’s not the only reason, though, shelter numbers can tick up during warmer months.

Litters of kittens particularly are prevalent at summertime – the DuPage shelter currently has about 120 cats, along with about 75 other animals.

Laura Flamion, operations manager at the DuPage County agency, said it’s usually because owners don’t spay or neuter their cats, oftentimes allowing their pets to wander freely outside and mingle with the feral cat population.

The DuPage shelter also is unique given its open admission policy. It also takes owner surrenders, unlike others in the area.

“Usually in the summer months, people are taking vacations, kids are back from school and other priorities might cause them to reevaluate whether now is the time to get rid of their pet,” Flamion said.

More folks have had to move or fallen into financial hardship because of the pandemic, Flamion also said.

And while DuPage County Animal Services hit “critical capacity” in June, thanks to adoption, reunification and rescue partners, the shelter has fewer than 200 animals in their care for the first time in weeks.

Emily Young, interim marketing and communications manager for the Lake County Health Department, said that Lake County Animal Care and Control also saw an increase in animal impoundments during the pandemic.

While Lake County’s shelter provides interim shelter for pets, it outsources for adoption.

Young urged people looking to add a pet to their homes to take the responsibility seriously.

“If interested in acquiring a new pet, adopt or rescue locally, but understand it is a commitment for the life of the pet,” Young said. “Owners should also have a backup plan – what will they do with the pet if they have to move, lose their job, etc.”

Elsewhere in the suburbs, Will County Animal Control officials said they have no capacity to house pets, instead encouraging residents to contact local rescues.

Cook County Animal and Rabies Control does not have a shelter either. However, its annual $8 million “Housing Cook County’s Animals” grant program provides funds for expanding existing animal shelters and combating overcrowding.