Evanston’s Animal Welfare Board met virtually Jan. 11 to discuss a possible city ordinance limiting feline ownership, plans for a new shelter and an update on the cats rescued from the Dewey Avenue fire.

After the Aug. 16 fire revealed there were 42 cats living in one house, board members have been discussing a citywide ordinance to limit the number of cats allowed per residence. The current limit for dogs is three.

Vice Chair of the board, Anne Panek, reached out to municipalities in Illinois and inquired about cat limits across the state.

“I was expecting we would find a correlation with more rural communities not having a cap, but I didn’t find much of a correlation at all,” she said. “Some very large communities had caps, and some didn’t have any. But I guess the question is: Is there something we want to propose to City Council based on the learnings?”

Vicky Pasenko, the executive director of the Evanston Animal Shelter, said the next step should be talking to other agencies before presenting ideas to the City Council. She said passing an ordinance could allow the city to help before another animal hoarding situation develops.

“It [an ordinance] would give us a way to work with people and encourage them not to get into the situations we have seen with hoarding cats,” Pasenko said. “I think the goal would not be to go in and grab people’s cats and take them away, but to have a way we can offer them assistance and help them get out of a bad situation.”  

Lemon Custard and Black Walnut, the two adopted cats. (Photo provided.

There are 25 cats from the August house fire now living at 1801 Dempster St., a storefront the shelter is renting to house the animals. Kristi Bachmann, chair of the board and TNR (Trap, Neuter, Return) Director at the shelter, said there are some adoptions underway and quite a few foster applications.

So far, only two of the cats – given ice cream names because the number of animals reminded volunteers of Baskin Robbins’ 31 flavors – have been adopted: Lemon Custard and Black Walnut. 

“It’s been great to see their progress,” Bachmann said. “It’s really heartwarming.”

To spread the word to potential adoptees, the shelter shared a photo of Icing on the Cake, the most independent of the 25 cats, on the Nextdoor app. Bachmann said afterward the shelter received several applications for her. The other 24 cats have bonded and volunteers would prefer if they are adopted in pairs.  

Icing on the Cake. (Photo by Sam Stroozas)

Pasenko hopes to move out of the storefront on Dempster by the end of January and the cats that have not been adopted at the time will be transported to the shelter.

In 2021, 351 animals were rescued by the Evanston Animal Shelter, an increase of 44 animals from 2020, which Pasenko attributes to the cats rescued from the August house fire.

Five applicants will be interviewing for the animal warden position with the city of Evanston on Wednesday, said Sue Pontarelli, the 311 Contact Center Manager.

Pasenko will serve on the hiring committee. A decision will be made Wednesday evening for the position with the hope that the new warden take up the position by the end of February.

The new shelter is set to begin construction in spring of 2023. The City Council has backed a plan for a larger building budgeted to cost about $6 million. But as project manager Shane Cary explained, there is a lot to get done.

Cary said the Planning Committee is entering into the schematic design period, which will take a month or two, and then will begin looking at  the design development and technical needs of the building.

The new shelter will include amenities and facilities like a community center, pet food pantry, education and training room, office spaces and medical suite.

The city will seek a community artist to create a public art piece, at a cost of approximately $40,000, that will be incorporated into the future shelter.  

Sam Stroozas

Sam Stroozas is a reporter and the social media manager at the Evanston RoundTable. She covers small businesses, social justice and human interest stories. Contact her at sam@evanstonroundtable.com and...

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  1. I was the one who adopted Lemon Custard and Black Walnut just after the new year. I want to let everyone know , especially potential adopters, that these cats are a true delight. They are affectionate, calm, curious, sociable, and very well behaved. They have acclimated to there new home easily and are giving me lots of love. I encourage anyone looking for a cat pet (or two) to consider these wonderful Ice Cream cats.