Richard Ray

South Suburban Humane Society Struggles With Overflow After Largest Shelter in County Ends Contract

A south suburban animal shelter says it’s reaching capacity — after the largest shelter in Cook County ended its contract.

"When a large animal shelter doesn’t re-sign a contract in Cook County, what happens?" asked South Suburban Humane Society CEO Emily Klehm.

Smaller shelters like the South Suburban Humane Society are left to pick up the slack.

"We now have seven animal control contracts in addition to helping private citizens with animal issues as well," Klehm said.

Klehm said her shelter's capacity is just 65. Animal Welfare League can hold hundreds.

After a controversial year for the league, it decided to cut the contract with Cook County in October— citing ballooning costs.

Although the county was shelling out $10,000– the leauge says animal services actually cost them $200,000 a year.

Even offices are used to house animals during overflow periods.

So, we have a break room essentially, a community room in the back," Klehm explains. "When it’s a human service versus an animal service, where’s that budgetary money going to go? It’s going to go to the human services."

A 2015 county inspector general’s report sighted a lack of support and cost analysis for a proposed facility that would cost at least $6 million dollars.

"It would alleviate a huge amount of burden from private shelters," Klehm said.

For now— Cook County remains one of the largest counties in the country without its own holding shelter.

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