Chicago animal shelters 'desperate' for pet adoptions, foster homes as rescues reach crisis levels

Space is severely limited in housing additional animals, particularly dogs over 40 pounds that need larger living spaces
CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago animal shelters are near "catastrophic" overpopulation levels, and local rescues are hoping the community can help them save lives.

This crisis is impacting available shelter space, especially for large dogs.

"We have a full-blown crisis on our hands. We have way too many large dogs than we can't place," said Darlene Duggan, chief operations officer at the Anti-Cruelty Society.

The Anti-Cruelty Society, along with its Chicagoland Humane Coalition partners, is trying to take action by encouraging more adoptions or by placing animals in foster care.

"The Anti-Cruelty Society is severely limited in housing additional animals, particularly dogs over 40 pounds that need larger living spaces," said Darlene Duggan, Chief Operations Officer for The Anti-Cruelty Society. "We have had over 100 requests for assistance with dogs in the past week alone, and other shelters are similarly overpopulated so we cannot easily transfer animals to our coalition partners. We are desperate to keep these animals safe and find them homes. "

Last week, Chicago Animal Care and Control made a similar plea, with more than 275 dogs in need of help at their facility. In an effort to clear the shelter, CACC is waiving adoption fees this week for pets, as well as seeking fosters until the animals can be permanently placed in a fur-ever home.

Jameel Willis and his family adopted the nearly 70 pounds pit bull mix, as many Chicago-area animal shelters are bursting at the seams because of plunging adoptions rates for some dogs.

Rescue officials said the society's adoption rate for dogs in the past three months is 33% lower than in previous years. This, as they currently house and care for more than 259 animals, plus another 100 animals in foster care.

This trend isn't just local, it's also happening nationwide, meaning dogs are staying in shelters longer.

The average stay has ballooned from just 25 to 30 days, to over 70 days for some pooches.

Although, shelters said they are not seeing the same problem with adoptions of small dogs or puppies or cats.

But why? Experts said it's a combination of factors.

"It comes off a pandemic. The past couple of years have been challenging for the world, essentially, and I think it's the economy as well," Duggan said.

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Chicago animal shelters are near "catastrophic" overpopulation levels, and local rescues are hoping the community can help them save lives.

The organization is not only getting the word out that they're open again, but has started several adoption promotions, like their "Big Dogs, Big Love" promotion, where any dog over 40 pounds is just $40 to adopt.

Shelters are also encouraging people to foster an animal before adopting.

"So we want to try something new. So our baby will be our dog," said Daija Brown, who was scoping out the pups looking for loving homes.

The Anti-Cruelty Society is currently housing nearly 300 dogs, cats, and other animals, and hopes they'll to eventually find them all forever homes soon.

"I am so excited. My daughter wanted -- I wanted a dog. We just wanted to add that new addition to our family," Willis said.

To help animals find their forever homes and ensure space for other animals in need, The Anti-Cruelty Society and other Chicagoland Humane Coalition shelters are offering a number of other opportunities to encourage people to adopt or foster. These include:

  • The Anti-Cruelty Society is offering a variety of programs to the public including: Big Dogs = Big Love promotion through the end of April, and all dogs over 40 pounds can be adopted for $40 dollars. The public is invited to come meet these animals at The Anti-Cruelty Society River North Adoption Center or the Everyday Adoption Center at the South Loop PetSmart store.

  • The Anti-Cruelty Society is also offering on-the-spot foster training for new foster volunteers. People are encouraged to sign up for foster training and to learn about foster support services for both dogs and cats. There is a particular need for fosters to care for neonatal kittens during this active kitten season. come to the shelter, get trained, and leave with an animal, including neonatal kittens.

  • Chicago Animal Care and Control is waiving all dog adoption fees through April 17.

  • One Tail at a Time is reducing adoption fees by 50% on Saturday, April 23.

  • South Suburban Humane Society is reducing adoption fees by 50% for all animals who are 6 months and older as part of the Tour for Life with North Shore Animal League through Saturday, April 16.

  • Interested adopters may view available animals at The Anti-Cruelty Society at and learn more about the adoption process at Interested fosters can learn more at Adoptions are first-come, first-serve and animals may not be placed on hold.

    The Anti-Cruelty Society's River North Adoption Center is located at 510 N. LaSalle, Chicago; Everyday Adoption Center in South Loop PetSmart, 1101 S. Canal, Chicago, PetSmart Andersonville, 5210 N. Broadway, Chicago; PetSmart Kingsbury, 1415 N. Kingsbury, Chicago; PetSmart Wrigleyville, 3740 N. Halsted, Chicago; and Evanston PetSmart, 2221 Oakton St., Evanston. For location hours, visit

    For more information on CACC pets available, visit the CACC website or visit the CACC Adoptable Pets Facebook page.
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