Animal Care League grows with need
Heron Gallagher of Oak Park meets a German Shepherd puppy at the Animal Care League's Baby Shower supply drive Feb. 24. | Natasha Wasinski~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 8, 2013 6:27AM
OAK PARK — Lisa Polk remembers the days when a group of animal lovers congregated on the second floor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Oak Park.
That’s where the Animal Care League had its office three decades ago. At the time, all rescued pets stayed with volunteers in their homes until the animals could be adopted.
“It’s come a long way,” said Polk, a longtime board member from Park Ridge.
Today, in its 40th year, the limited-admission shelter operates from a multi-level, 11,000-square-foot building at 1011 Garfield St.
The number of dogs, cats and critters the league takes in from the streets also has grown. The shelter now room for up to 200 pets. And there has been no shortage of help: last year, volunteers tallied 12,000 hours of community service.
“The only obstacle in our way is space,” said shelter manager Marci Watt. “We can help many more animals if not limited by walls.”
The shelter sees an influx of newcomers in the warmer months, as babies are born and more animals and people are out and about.
“In the spring the phones start ringing off the hook,” Watt said.
To prepare for their arrival, the Animal Care League held an afternoon “baby shower” supplies drive Feb. 24 to stock its shelves with cleaning products, treats and toys.
Visitors dropped off donated goods and toured the facility, which includes the few-years-old obedience training room and spay/neuter clinic, in addition to separated animal rooms with cages where animals are allowed to wander.
They also could pet and play with some of the shelter’s guests, including two German Shepherd puppies and a litter of blue-eyed kittens.
“The shower was a tremendous success — perhaps the best ever attended — and we were happy to see so many new faces,” Watt said of the eighth annual event. “Due to the generosity of our attendees, our animals will be helped significantly in the months to come.”
She added: “This is a blessing for us.”
Just as when the league started, the organization continues to rely on the generosity of others to serve as temporary foster homes. The league provides supplies, such as food, during those transitional periods.
Animals go into foster care for a variety of reasons, though it’s typically to ensure the pet is medically and socially ready for adoption.
Ric Kucera got involved as a dog-walker and then foster family before joining the board of directors.
He’s currently taking care of two pups: Rapunzel, who was found at two months old with mange, and Precious, an anxious six-year-old retriever who needs a pet companion.
Acquainting homeless animals with people and living in a house is important to ensure a smooth transition after adoption, Kucera said. It’s also easy to become attached to the furry friends.
“It’s like I’m the over-protective foster dad,” Kucera said.
Animals ready for adoption are picked up from the shelter itself or through the off-site adoption program.
Every week adoptable cats and dogs are taken to different locations in the western suburbs and Chicago, in hopes they will find a new home.
On those days, Watt said, “hopefully, they won’t come back.” “That’s a good day for a dog.”