It’s sometimes overwhelming, discouraging even, for Kira Robson, executive director of the Animal Care League, to think about just how many animals are in need. So she focuses on a case by case basis, those differences made for individual animals. The impact certainly adds up.

An Oak Park fixture for half a century, the Animal Care League is soon set to significantly expand the capacity of its shelter and animal welfare services. Put simply, the organization wants to help more animals.

By early 2024, the organization hopes to have completed the expansion and renovation of a 19,000 square foot “pet resource campus,” according to Robson. The ambitious project on Garfield Street in Oak Park will create a facility that will allow the non-profit shelter to exponentially increase its impact.

“We will have lots more space for animals,” Robson said. “We will basically have a completely separate adoption center from all of our intake and rescue areas. We will have expanded our spay, neuter and medical clinic to be able to do more life-saving procedures in house.”

Earlier in 2023, a new adoption area opened, serving as the first completed phase of the construction project. It aims to destigmatize the feeling of walking into an animal shelter.

“That adoption center space is intended to be very warm and welcoming and stress-free for both animals and visitors and just sort of give us all of the right setup to help people fall in love with pets,” Robson said.

The facility changes all come in the midst of a considerable milestone for the Animal Care League. Founded in 1973, the organization celebrated 50 years in Oak Park this past October.

“We are at this incredible turning point for growth, and so we’re really setting the stage for the next 50 years of history to be pretty amazing,” Robson said.

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Animal Care League is classified as a no-kill shelter, meaning at least 90% of the animals in its care are adopted. Robson said the shelter in fact runs at a 95% to 98% placement rate.

Of particular note for the organization are cases of animals that require patient, difficult care due to medical or behavioral challenges where animals are eventually placed in homes.

“There have been animals who have really special needs or really just are going to take extra patience, and being able to find in the world people who are willing to save them and give them that second chance or go through what needs to be gone through to make sure that they get a second chance is something I think sticks with me,” Robson said.

The shelter’s impact, most prominently, is felt locally. Animal Care League partners with nine local municipalities – including Oak Park, River Forest and Forest Park – to take in strays. 

Yet the shelter’s sphere of service also spans throughout the United States. The organization has partners in southern states and beyond, like Texas and Puerto Rico, to assist whenever possible with animals at risk of being euthanized in those areas.

“I always try to say Animal Care League is a very locally, community-rooted organization,” Robson said. “But our impact spans kind of nationwide, which is, I think, really cool.”

Above all though, the shelter is an institution of Oak Park. And it is relying on Oak Park. The organization couldn’t do what it does without community support, like volunteering and contributing to their capital campaign, according to Robson.

“We are rooted in Oak Park,” she said. “We’re not leaving Oak Park, but we also need Oak Park to help us make the next 50 years of history.”

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