FAQ: Open Admission

What do the phrases “open admission,” “open door,” “limited admission,” and “no-kill” mean, and what is The Anti-Cruelty Society?

The Anti-Cruelty society is an open admission—or open door—humane society. This means that we will not turn away any animal that comes to our doors. Many of these animals are healthy, good natured dogs and cats who go up for adoption—and there are no time limits on how long they can stay up for adoption.

However, there are animals that come to a shelter sick, severely injured, or too aggressive or behaviorally unsound to be placed up for adoption at that time. While open admission shelters will give at least temporary refuge to these animals, many limited admission shelters—which sometimes call themselves “no-kill”—do not have the resources to dedicate to such animals. These shelters must make a decision as to which dogs or cats will receive their care and attention, and therefore they limit the number of animals they will accept. As a result, some limited admission shelters may choose not to help the animals that come to them with health and/or behavioral issues. It is The Anti-Cruelty Society’s belief that no animal should be turned away. Sometimes, these animals can be rehabilitated but sometimes they cannot. In this case, we strongly believe that euthanasia is the most humane alternative to an existence of suffering and pain or being limited to life in a cage.

While the phrase “no-kill” can stir many emotions in people, it can also be very confusing and misunderstood. There are many good shelters that call themselves “no-kill,” just as there are many fine shelters—such as The Anti-Cruelty Society—that are “open admission.” Ultimately, much of the confusion about “no-kill” stems from the fact that there is no universally accepted definition of the term. One organization’s idea of no-kill can vary widely from another’s. Therefore, it is important to look into the issues surrounding the idea of “no-kill” in order to understand the ways in which organizations help animals.

The Anti-Cruelty Society believes in helping the greatest number of animals with our available resources. As such, we will accept any animal that comes to our doors. We place healthy or treatable animals into new homes. We provide rehabilitation for those animals that may need some extra care and attention before they are adoptable. And we only euthanize animals who are so sick or behaviorally damaged that they would not become adoptable. In fact, many “no-kill” shelters also euthanize animals because of severe health or behavioral issues. The Anti-Cruelty Society’s goal is no euthanasia for all adoptable or treatable animals.

In the end, it is not words or phrases that help animals but actual efforts, programs, and initiatives.

Why don’t you rehabilitate EVERY animal and simply end euthanasia?

Since the opening of The Anti-Cruelty Society’s Bruckner Rehabilitation & Treatment Center in 2004 and with the opening of the Virginia Butts-Burger Cat Clinic in 2008, The Anti-Cruelty Society is proving its commitment to providing rehabilitation to as many animals as possible. Dogs and cats who can be rehabilitated include those who are not healthy but who are likely to become healthy if given medical, foster, behavioral, or other care. With our six veterinarians and more than 200 dedicated rehabilitation spaces within The Anti-Cruelty Society, we are able to provide care for almost 2,000 treatable animals annually that would have been euthanized in the past.

Unfortunately the reality is that some animals are unhealthy and untreatable. This means they are suffering from a disease, injury, or congenital or hereditary condition that adversely affects the animal’s health either now or in the future. Some may have a behavioral or temperamental characteristic that poses a health or safety risk. The seriously ill animals are not likely to become healthy even if provided with care and treatment and dangerous animals must not be released back into the community; these are the animals who should be euthanized to minimize suffering or for the safety of the public.

I can’t support an organization that encourages euthanasia.

The Anti-Cruelty Society does not encourage euthanasia. What we do encourage are adoptions, responsible pet ownership, and rehabilitation to save lives. We make every effort to find new homes for the dogs and cats who have already been born—more than 4000 new homes each year. We operate a high volume spay/neuter clinic which provides more than 9,000 low or no cost spay/neuter surgeries every year. And we currently dedicate rehabilitation space and resources for more than 2,000 treatable dogs and cats annually.

Unfortunately, until there are enough homes for all the animals who are born each year, and until there are no longer any sick, injured, aggressive, or unpredictable animals, euthanasia will still be a humane reality. It is this reality that is the responsibility of an open admission shelter. Simply turning a back on these animals and merely pronouncing that euthanasia shouldn’t exist won’t make euthanasia go away: tirelessly working toward more animal adoptions, further pet pregnancy prevention, animal rehabilitation, and educating the public will reduce the necessity.

The Anti-Cruelty Society believes in helping the greatest number of animals with the resources we have. This is why our services are so wide and varied. Certainly, we provide adoptions for animals, low or no cost spay/neuter surgeries for anyone who needs them for their animals, and rehabilitation to help animals become adoptable. But we also have a Humane Investigations department that will investigate accounts of cruelty, abuse, and neglect. We have a dedicated, free Behavior Helpline with staff that advises and counsels owners who are having behavioral issues with their dogs and cats, with the goal of keeping these animals in the good homes they already have. Our Dog Training classes help people strengthen their bond with their dogs and, ultimately, make the dogs better canine citizens. Our Education and Community Outreach department brings our message of respect and humane treatment to more than 20,000 children and adults each year. Our charity veterinary clinic provides veterinary care for animals that may not otherwise be able to receive it.

How can the overpopulation problems facing dogs and cats be solved?

Solving all the problems facing companion animals is a job that is far too big for one single organization. The only way to enact real, lasting change is through cooperation. This is why The Anti-Cruelty Society is proud to be one of the founding members of the Chicago Animal Shelter Alliance (CASA). The goal of this voluntary group—made up of animal shelters located in Cook County—is to create a coalition of organizations who, by working together, can help Chicago’s animals in ways no single organization could do on its own. The main focus of the group is to reduce euthanasia city-wide by increasing adoptions as well as animal rehabilitation. Toward this end, The Anti-Cruelty Society, along with the other members of CASA, have embraced the concepts behind the Asilomar Accords: nationally recognized goals focused on significantly reducing the euthanasia of healthy and treatable companion animals in the United States. Visit http://www.asilomaraccords.org to read the complete statements.

Another way The Anti-Cruelty Society works with other shelters to help animals is through the extensive transfer programs we have established. We recognize that some shelters have wonderful, adoptable animals but may not have enough people coming through their doors to adopt them. In order to address this, The Anti-Cruelty Society will accept animals from these shelters and place them up for adoption at our facility. We also provide spay/neuter surgeries for smaller shelters, animal rescue organizations, and feral cat colony care takers in addition to the surgeries performed for the general public in our spay/neuter clinic. Since the beginning of our second century of caring, we have performed 100,000 spay/neuter surgeries at very low or no cost.

And this approach has been successful. In the last 10 years, Chicago’s euthanasia rate has dropped by over 55%.

What can I do, and how can I learn more about The Anti-Cruelty Society?

If you are looking to add an animal to your home, adopt from a shelter. If you have an animal in your home who is not spayed or neutered, have these surgeries done. Encourage others to adopt from a shelter or have their animals spayed/neutered. Foster a sick or underage animal. Donate to The Anti-Cruelty Society to help us with our work.

To adopt an animal, visit us at 510 N. LaSalle in Chicago. We have free parking available in our garage (entrance on Wells St. just south of Grand Ave.). To schedule an appointment at our spay/neuter clinic, please call (312) 644-8338 ext. 8050. To learn more about The Anti-Cruelty Society, continue to explore our website or contact us by phone, (312) 644-8338.


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