Will County has authorized its first pet adoption program, toughened animal protection laws, and changed the name of its animal services division in response to what county officials called “a national animal welfare crisis.”
The former name Will County Animal Control has been replaced by the Will County Animal Protection Services Department.
“These changes are the first step of a progressive new direction for animal services in Will County,” County Executive Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant said in a news release issued Thursday. “This proactive approach will empower us to provide more support for animals and pet owners throughout the county.”
County officials noted an increase in stray animals locally and across the country.
“Our intake of animals increased 51% from 2022 to 2023,” Will County Animal Protection Services Administrator Anna Payton said in the release. “More stray animals and higher populations in animal shelters is sadly a current nationwide trend.”
The county cited numbers from the organization Shelter Animals Count stating that 6.5 million dogs and cats were taken into shelters in 2023 nationwide. The number of dogs taken into shelters nationwide increased by 3% from 2022 and by 10% from 2021, according to the county. Meanwhile, pet adoptions are declining.
Will County enacted ordinance changes in January to expand the role of its animal services division, according to the release.
The changes authorize the creation of adoption services, which are expected to start in late March.
The department also will be able to offer free microchips to pets owned by senior citizens aged 60 and older, military personnel and veterans.
Other changes strengthen Will County’s animal protection laws, including harsher penalties for animal cruelty violations, better protections for animals in inclement weather, and rules about tethering dogs.
Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow expressed support for the changes.
“The county executive’s leadership in renaming the department and revising our county ordinances reflects Will County’s recognition of the critically important mission of animal protection and welfare,” Glasgow said in the release.
Glasgow was named one of America’s Top Ten Animal Defenders in 2020 by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, according to the release.
More information about the changes and new services is available on Will County Animal Protection Services website, www.willcounty.gov/AnimalServices.