In May, the City of Evanston took over day-to-day operations at the Evanston Animal Shelter from the Community Animal Rescue Effort (C.A.R.E.). At that time, the City planned to allow the Police Department to coordinate volunteers until such time as a new volunteer animal organization (VAO) could be found to take C.A.R.E.’s place.
Rather than proceed immediately with a comprehensive search for a new VAO, a newly appointed Board of Animal Control, composed of volunteers, two aldermen and Evanston Police Commander James Pickett along with Animal Warden David Rose, set about evaluating the shelter and its needs.
Now, after several months studying shelter operations, the Board’s chair and local veterinarian Dr. Meredith Rives told the Human Services Committee on Dec. 1, that they planned to issue a formal Request for Proposal (RFP) before the end of the year.
City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz introduced the Committee’s report by telling the Human Services Committee members, “I’m very concerned that we keep this issue on the front burner” so that the animal shelter can “come to a firm, sounder base.” Until the transition from C.A.R.E . to a new VAO through the Animal Control Board is complete, he said, City staff plans to “continue to have this on your agenda every month.”
“On Nov. 3, Wally came to our meeting and asked that we move ahead with creating the RFP,” said Dr. Rives. Within a week, Lou Gergits of the City’s Finance Department presented the Board of Animal Control with a draft RFP. “We are grateful” for the “thorough and well thought out draft document,” said Dr. Rives. The Board took a couple of weeks off to digest the proposed RFP, she said, and “came back with revisions and edits.”
Despite the promise of a new RFP and possible applications by willing partners that would follow, both Dr. Rives and Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, who sits on the Animal Control Board, appeared skeptical that a viable partner could be found.
Evanston’s shelter is a “unique model,” said Dr. Rives, which presents “open adoption housed in the same shelter as animal control. It will be a challenge to find an organization to step in.”
As an example, the Anti-Cruelty Society visited Evanston’s shelter, she said. “They were very impressed, to say the least,” and “extremely complimentary. [But] the potential for them to come in and act as a VAO was not great,” said Dr. Rives. Things that the Evanston shelter is doing and requirements likely to be included in the RFP are “not suitable for Anti-Cruelty,” she said. Dr. Rives instead spoke of the possibility of an informal partnership, with assistance provided in adoptions and rescue identifications but nothing further.
“It is safe to say that they will not be responding to any RFP that we draft, regardless of its content,” said Dr. Rives.
Ald. Fiske hinted that the status quo, with the Police Department overseeing volunteers and the Board of Animal Control, would be an acceptable outcome. “I feel very comfortable that we’re going in the right direction,” she said, “regardless of whether we get any responses [to the RFP] or not.”
Alisa Kaplan, a current volunteer who was one of the former C.A.R.E. volunteers , reported increased adoption numbers that “keep the shelter count down.” So far this year, 46 dogs and 90 cats have been either adopted or placed in foster care, compared to 47 dogs and 120 cats over a period about twice as long before C.A.R.E. left. “We are looking forward to even better things to come in 2015,” she said.
The Human Services Committee will review the RFP before it is issued. Dr. Rives said any RFP would be “true to our mission and philosophy” as an “extremely committed” group “not willing to sacrifice in any way.”