Animal Care League marking 40 years in Oak Park
This cat has made himself at home in an unusual place, but the Animal Care League would like to find a real home for him. | Provided
Updated: March 22, 2013 6:51AM
OAK PARK — Wanted: Postage stamps, gently-used towels — and pig ears?
It’s a baby shower registry unlike any other.
Now in its 40th year caring for homeless pets, Oak Park’s Animal Care League is holding a supply fundraiser Feb. 24 to prepare for the expected spring rise in kitten and puppy litters.
“We have virtually no (baby animals) now but by May we’re going to have hundreds,” said Executive Director Tom Van Winkle.
The eighth annual “baby shower” is an open invitation to drop off goods, play with the pets and tour ACL’s shelter at 1011 Garfield St. on Sunday from noon to 3 p.m. Also, Melrose Park training school For Your K9 will demonstrate training strategies.
Van Winkle hopes to collect a year’s worth of office and animal-care supplies. The no-kill shelter keeps adoptable animals until a permanent owner is found.
ACL now houses upwards of 200 animals at a time, from across Illinois and sometimes out of state, according to Van Winkle.
Besides cats and dogs, ACL has cared for birds, rabbits, mice, snakes and even chickens.
A surge of lost, stray, or abandoned animals — many recently born — tends to arrive in the spring.
Van Winkle said cats in particular follow a natural cycle: females get pregnant in winter and deliver in early spring. When kittens leave mama, he said, “we start seeing hundreds of them” — and the number of cats available for adoption can double.
Thus upkeep work becomes a demanding task. ACL staff and volunteers wash at least 14 loads of laundry and 200 pet food bowls every day. The shelter went through 20,000 pounds of cat litter last year.
Over a year’s time, ACL uses about 300 gallons of bleach.
Van Winkle said laundry detergent, liquid bleach and paper are must-need items. The “wish list” for donations, posted at animalcareleague.org, includes other practical gifts like pet food, garbage bags, and crates and carriers.
The shelter is also requesting items to train and treat dogs.
“Hot dogs are inexpensive, easy to break into very small bites, and virtually all dogs love them,” Van Winkle explained. “As for peanut butter, we stuff and freeze Kongs (hard-rubber dog toys) with peanut butter and treats. Since it is frozen the dogs have to work to get the food, which is an enrichment exercise.”
The supplies drive is the first in a series of events ACL is expected to host this year to mark the four-decade anniversary of its founding.
Since a group of Oak Park residents organized and began harboring homeless animals in their homes in 1973, ACL has grown into a $700,000-a-year operation, rescuing and placing hundreds of pets a year.
Van Winkle estimated the shelter has adopted out more than 40,000 animals in all.
“Unfortunately the need is still there,” he said. “We turn away more than we can take.”