When three house cats were rescued by Oak Park firefighters during a blaze that broke out in an apartment building on the 300 block of Washington Boulevard in July, a first responder on behalf of the felines was Jason Pounds, the village of Oak Park’s animal control officer and humane investigator. He is always on the case when pets are lost, and need to be found.
During the fire there were no human or feline injuries, and on-the-spot one of the cats was reunited with its owner.
The other two cats were also alive, but with no owner in sight, became cats that were missing.
“The two other cats were actually in the unit where most of the fire damage occurred,” said Pounds. “[After the firefighters rescued the cats from the unit], they waved me over, and I was able to put the cats in the back of my van and get in touch with the building management company. They provided me with the owners’ information, and I tracked down the owner of the cats. But, by then it was late, so I brought the cats down to the Animal Care League (ACL), and advised the owner that the cats were in a real bad fire but they were fine and being cared for.”
Kira Robson, ACL’s executive director, says while adopting out stray dogs and cats is a huge part of her job (she says ACL has a 97 percent success rate in its adoptions), sheltering lost pets until their owners can be found, is also a service they render on behalf of pet owners in the Oak Park area, whose animals often wander in from far away locales.
But, she added that, “it’s the neighbors on the West Side of Chicago, as well as Berwyn and Cicero that that ACL is sheltering their lost animals, too. I think those West Side neighbors, some of the Berwyn neighbors, Cicero neighbors don’t know to double check here.”
Pounds, who is on duty five days a week, and on call 24/7, says that for him, finding lost pets, then immediately returning them to their owners, or transporting them to ACL to be impounded, is a good portion of his daily routine.
“I will make a plug for why an ID tag [or microchip ID] is so important,” said Robson. “If Officer Pounds picks up a stray, and it has an ID tag with an address, he is going to reunite the pet with its owner that day, but if the dog or cat makes it to us, there will be fines and fees, so its better to avoid all that.”
Happily, Pounds says, the two cats have been reunited with their owner, thanks to his partnership with ACL.
But, next time, he says, with an ounce of prevention, could come pounds of cure, especially in terms of pre-emptive pet safety.
“If your dog does get out, don’t just start combing the neighborhood, looking for him and screaming and whistling for the dog,” Pounds said. “You need to call Animal Control immediately. All animals picked up by the village, whether it be Animal Control, a police officer…anyone, it’s always taken directly to Animal Care League, and they will take it from there to reunite an owner with their lost dog or cat.”