Animal Welfare Board may seek limits on cat ownership

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The Animal Welfare Board may propose limiting the number of cats Evanston residents can own after a house fire on Dewey Avenue in August saved more than 40 cats.

The board practically met on Tuesday evening, October 12th, to discuss the condition of the cats rescued in the Dewey Fire, the keeper vacancies, and plans for the new shelter.

Some of the cats rescued from Dewey Avenue. (Photo provided by Nancy Maize)

A total of 42 cats were finally rescued in a so-called hoarding situation after a fire on August 16 in a house in Block 1300 of Dewey. Since then, the Evanston Animal Shelter has been developing a cat rehabilitation plan and slowly moving towards the care and adoption of the animals.

Kristi Bachmann, the shelter’s TNR (Trap, Neuter, Return) director said she had worked with other hoarding cases, but the August situation was like nothing she had “ever seen or experienced”.

“When I arrived, the fire department was still there and immediately asked me to put on a full protective suit,” said Bachmann. “In the next four days we got 42 live cats out of the house. I say ‘live’ because there were a lot of cats that didn’t make it and it wasn’t because of the fire. This person had obviously been hoarding these cats for a long time. “

The owner of the house said there were six or eight cats, but it quickly became clear that there are a lot more, not the corpses of cats that were killed or previously died in the fire, Bachmann said. Because of this situation, the board discussed limiting the number of cats Evanston residents could own.

Currently, Evanston allows residents to have up to three dogs, but there are no restrictions on owning cats. Chicago has no limit on the number of pets, but the board decided to reach out to other area municipalities to inquire about their limits and propose a regulation to the city council.

The Dewey cats had bred indoors and some younger cats and kittens lived in closed containers, adding to other health concerns, Bachmann said. Every cat rescued has had smoke inhalation and respiratory infections, as well as a host of other health problems such as dental and vision problems, she said.

Vicky Pasenko, the shelter’s manager, explained that the first step was to get all of the cats to the vet and then decide where to put them. She started calling local veterinary clinics and the shelter was able to bring a few cats every day to be treated for acute problems.

Because of the many cats, the shelter had to rent a shop window. Bachmann said the staff decided to keep the animals all together because the only consolation they had was with each other.

“A lot of these cats were scared,” she said. “Your whole world has been turned upside down. I knew that the cats probably hadn’t seen the light of day when I was in this house. “

The cats regain strength and feel more comfortable in their new environment and are soon ready for adoption and foster care. Bachmann said the whole experience led the shelter to talk about how to prevent this type of hoarding. The police have received complaints that the house has been fed on the ground to attract wildlife, but the number of cats has not been recorded because they are so hidden, she said.

The board then moved on to discuss the recent opening of the city’s zookeeper position. A new job description has been posted highlighting another relationship between the shelter, Evanston 311 and the public. It was reported that the city had 11 applicants a week ago

The meeting ended with Shane Cary, Public Works Project Manager, providing information on the status of the new shelter. The planned 8,500 square meter building would draw electricity from the city network, but would not consume any natural gas. Construction would take place via 2023 and is slated to go into operation in the fourth quarter of this year.