Animal Welfare Board talks about possible limits for cats, firefighter adoptions and plans for a new shelter

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The Evanston Animal Care Council met virtually on Tuesday evening January 11 to discuss a possible city ordinance limiting feline ownership, plans for a new shelter and an update on rescued cats of the Dewey Avenue fire.

After the August fire revealed there were 42 cats living in a home, board members discussed a city-wide ordinance to limit the number of cats allowed by residence. The current limit for dogs is three.

Vice-chair of the board, Anne Panek, has contacted municipalities in Illinois and inquired about cat limits across the state.

“I expected that we would find a correlation with more rural communities with no cap, but I didn’t find a correlation at all,” she said. “Some very large communities had caps and some didn’t. But I guess the question is, is there something we want to propose to city council based on the learnings? “

Vicky Pasenko, executive director of the Evanston Animal Shelter, said the next step should be to discuss with other agencies before presenting ideas to city council. She said passing an ordinance could allow the city to help before another animal-hoarding situation develops.

“This [an ordinance] would give us a way to work with people and encourage them not to end up in the situations that we have seen with hoarding cats, ”Pasenko said. “I think the point wouldn’t be to go in and grab people’s cats and take them away, but to have a way to offer them help and help them get out of a bad situation. ”

Lemon and black walnut cream. (Photo provided.

There are 25 cats from the August house fire that now live at 1801 Dempster Street, a storefront the shelter rents to house the animals. Kristi Bachmann, board chair and TNR (Trap, Neutral, Return) director of the shelter, said there were ongoing adoptions and quite a few foster requests.

So far, only two of the cats – who have been given ice cream names because the animal count reminded volunteers of Baskin Robbins’ 31 flavors – have been adopted: Lemon Custard and Black Walnut.

“It’s great to see their progress,” Bachmann said. “It’s really heartwarming.”

To spread the word to potential adoptees, the shelter shared a photo of Icing on the Cake, the most independent of the 25 cats, on the Nextdoor app. Bachmann later said the shelter received several requests for her. The other 24 cats have bonded and the volunteers would prefer them to be adopted in pairs.

Frosting on the cake. (Photo by Sam Stroozas)

Pasenko hopes to leave the Dempster storefront by the end of January and cats that have not yet been adopted will be transported to the shelter.

In 2021, 351 animals were rescued by the Evanston Animal Shelter, an increase of 44 animals from 2020 that Pasenko attributes to cats rescued from the August house fire.

Five applicants will be interviewed for the animal keeper job with the town of Evanston on Wednesday, said Sue Pontarelli, head of the 311 contact center.

Pasenko will be part of the hiring committee. A decision will be made on Wednesday evening for the post with the hope of a new director from the end of February.

The new shelter is expected to begin construction in the spring of 2023. City council has backed a plan for a larger building that is expected to cost around $ 6 million. But as project manager Shane Cary explained, there is a lot to be done.

Cary said the planning committee is entering the schematic design period, which will take a month or two, and then begin to consider the design development and technical needs of the building.

The new shelter will include amenities and facilities such as a community center, a pet pantry, an education and training room, office spaces and a medical suite.

The city will be looking for a community artist to create a public artwork, costing approximately $ 40,000, which will be incorporated into the future shelter.


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