The primary charge of Oak Park's Animal Shelter Task Force is to identify a site for a new animal control facility. But in addition to that effort, the village-appointed group is also considering scaling back the minimum time that strays must be kept before they can be euthanized?#34;from 30 days, to seven days.
After a review of village ordinance last year, the Oak Park Health Board recommended that the minimum time healthy animals must be kept be extended from less than a week, to the current 30 day standard.
"(The village's) animal control (department) has enough elaborate networks to help with animal adoptions, without the resources needed for a full-time adoption program," said Health Board Chair Lois Halstead, explaining the board's decision.
The shelter task force, however, has some members who are interested in changing the village's animal control model.
Task Force member Kathy Capone said last week that animal control may only have a five percent euthanasia rate, but that's because most of its animals are sent to other partner facilities, where they are then euthanized.
"What we really have is a 95 percent get-them-out-of-here rate," said Capone, who is also a volunteer with animal control.
She said other shelters have been disheartened after taking Oak Park's un-adoptable animals, and then having to euthanize them.
"It's been an expense, and it hurts morale," she said. "If an animal is not adoptable, the cruelest thing you can do is keep it for 30 days, then euthanize it."
Capone said the new model, which is not currently unanimously supported by the task force, would call for the village to implement "temperament testing." Animal control officials would put animals through a test to see if they would socialize well with people, and could likely be adopted.
The measure is not tied to space concerns, Capone said. Animal control cares for roughly 400 animals a year, and at any given time, will have between 5-10 dogs, and more cats. Animals would not have to be euthanized after seven days, and could be kept longer.
However, Halstead said based on her experience reviewing the ordinance, she has concerns about the shift toward a temperament testing model.
"The question is what's adoptable, and what's not. Are old and ugly dogs not adoptable?" she said. "Other agencies can at least give an animal a second chance."
The task force is looking to make draft recommendations to the village board sometime in March.
Trustee Ray Johnson, who serves as a liaison to the task force, said he would expect the village board would review the group's recommendations on components beyond an actual animal shelter site.
The Animal Shelter Task Force is still struggling to find an appropriate site for a new animal control facility, said task force member Kathy Capone.
"It's very had to find suitable space in Oak Park that's not in a residential area, and there's no vacant land," she said, adding that cost constraints are also posing a challenge.
"The task force has had the same challenges the village board has had," said Trustee Ray Johnson, who serves as a liaison to the task force. "We heard a lot of comments from some community members that we were off base on the cost estimates. The task force has concluded we were on the right page."