In the upcoming weeks, the City of Evanston hopes to choose a volunteer animal organization (VAO) to operate the animal shelter, 2310 Oakton St. Since May of last year, when the City severed connections with the volunteer Community Animal Rescue Effort (C.A.R.E.), the Evanston Police Department has been overseeing day-to-day operations of the shelter.

In preparation for issuing the request for proposals (RFP), the City’s Board of Animal Control – composed of volunteers, two aldermen and Evanston Police Commander James Pickett, along with Animal Warden David Rose – has been evaluating the shelter and its needs.

At the Dec. 1 Human Services Committee meeting, local veterinarian Meredith Rives, chair of the Board of Animal Control, said the unique nature of the City’s animal shelter – with open adoption housed in the same place as animal control – will present a challenge in finding a VAO. She said she did not believe that the Anti-Cruelty Society, which has visited the shelter, would be willing to be the VAO, because of certain policies in place and requirements likely to be included in the RFP.

The RFP states that the Board of Animal Control and the shelter “believe in a No-Kill model … [which] means every animal at the Evanston Animal Shelter is treated with complete medical care, with the goal of achieving live outcomes for at least 90% of sheltered pets. … Euthanasia is reserved only for those dogs that are vicious and pose a threat to the public as determined by certified animal behaviorists and the Animal Control Warden and those cats and dogs that are irremediably suffering …”

At the Jan. 12 City Council meeting, Alderman Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, called the RFP “clearly ambitious,” and cautioned the City and volunteers to have “reasonable expectations” regarding “what they [a responsive VAO] might be able to partner with” the City to achieve.  He also suggested amending the RFP slightly to emphasize what the City does now and what might be transitioned to the VAO if a VAO took over, including paying veterinary bills and fundraising. “It will be a process, not an immediate adjustment,” he said.

Commander Pickett agreed, saying, “Initially, the City will take care of the bills.”

With slight adjustments to the immediate expectations of a VAO regarding fundraising and paying bills, Council voted unanimously to issue the RFP.

Among the duties of the VAO will be providing adequate medical treatment; recruiting and training volunteers; developing policies for intake, adoption, etc.;  developing community partnerships; fundraising; and reporting regularly to the City.

At the Jan. 26 City Council meeting, Evanston resident Virginia Mann said she was “shocked to learn” that the RFP mandated that the VAO cover the normal expenses of caring for the animals. The City, she said, has traditionally borne those expenses. “No responsible not-for-profit [VAO] is going to do that – nor should they have to. … I would expect that we will have zero responses to our RFP. … Let’s provide the funding [for those costs] – and, if not, I hope we will at least be transparent about why we did not.”

A non-mandatory meeting has been scheduled for Jan. 30 in the Morton Civic Center, 2100 Ridge Ave.

Proposals are due at the Civic Center by 2 p.m. on Feb. 27. The City has reserved the right to award the contract to an Evanston firm “if that firm’s bid is within 5% of the low bid.”

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...