Position Statements

What We Believe

The Anti-Cruelty Society is committed to building a community of caring by helping pets and educating people. We believe that all animals should be treated humanely and with compassion and we support the five freedoms for any animal kept by humans:

  • Freedom from hunger and thirst
  • Freedom from discomfort
  • Freedom from pain, injury, or disease
  • Freedom from fear and distress
  • Freedom to express normal behavior.

As an organization dedicated to the welfare and well-being of all animals, the Society embraces the following statements.

The Anti-Cruelty Society believes that companion animals provide people with joy, and unconditional love but also offer recognized health benefits. Ownership carries the responsibility of meeting the physical and social needs of the animal including food, shelter, safety, veterinary care, and companionship. We strongly encourage the identification of all pets through collars with tags and recommend permanent identification methods (e.g. microchips). The owner should be familiar with and follow the existing laws relating to animals such as licensing, leash regulation, rabies vaccination, and waste disposal. When outdoors in public, all animals should be under proper restraint or control.

Service animals are animals trained to assist people with disabilities in the activities of normal living. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines service animals as “… any… dog (or miniature horse) individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability” If a dog meets this definition, it is considered a service animal regardless of whether it has been “certified” by a local government or an animal training program. Although The Anti-Cruelty Society recognizes that pets offer emotional support and comfort, the Society does not condone owners claiming their pet is a service animal outside of this definition.

The Anti-Cruelty Society is deeply committed to humane education programs, especially in the primary and secondary schools. Such education should be an integral part of study programs. We support initiatives and dialogue aimed at reducing violence and abuse in all forms. We recognize the documented connection between human and animal violence, and believe that by increasing awareness of this link through humane education, we can more effectively help address the violence issues facing society and our animals. The Society believes in the following: 

  • Keeping live animals in schools as pets should be limited by the availability of responsible supervision, proper care and facilities, and appropriate care and placement during school breaks.
  • Pet visitation programs can support educational programs or provide psychological and emotional benefits to humans. Animals in these programs should only participate voluntarily, be given adequate rest between encounters, be transported safely and humanely, and be provided all the necessities of responsible pet care.
  • Dog training allows animal owners to positively affect changes in their pet’s behavior. We recommend basic obedience training based on positive reinforcement rather than on punishment.

The Anti-Cruelty Society believes sterilization is the most effective way of overcoming the companion animal overpopulation crisis. The Society provides mandatory spay/neuter procedures prior to adoption which is in cooperation with the State of Illinois, other humane societies, and veterinarians. We also support early-age (prepubertal) sterilizations for shelter animals.

While The Anti-Cruelty Society strongly supports sterilization of pets, a mandatory ordinance does not address the core problem of dog and cat homelessness, which stems from irresponsible pet ownership. Public education and incentives to spay and neuter pets are the most effective and proven means to reducing the number of unwanted pets and making a long-term effect by changing people’s attitudes and actions.

The Anti-Cruelty Society encourages and supports actions to minimize the problem of free-roaming abandoned and feral cats. Cook County allows the establishment of managed feral cat colonies if they are registered with a sponsor approved by Cook County Department of Animal and Rabies Control. The Society supports legal efforts and provides traps, sterilization and vaccinations at low cost, and public education to reduce the number of cats abandoned, allowed outside unsupervised, and the number of kittens being born.

The Anti-Cruelty Society remains an open-admissions shelter and we accept all animals that we are legally permitted to hold. We are committed to eliminating the euthanasia of pets that are adoptable and we recognize that not all animals are rehabilitatable or adoptable due to health status or serious behavior issues. In some cases, euthanasia may be the most humane decision to prevent further animal suffering. The Anti-Cruelty Society strongly supports and only uses the most humane methods of euthanasia available.

The Anti-Cruelty Society believes the use of animals for research should be permitted only when there are no known feasible alternatives. Research should be limited to the smallest number of animals of the most suitable species, and the animals should be maintained in sanitary conditions and cared for in a humane manner in accordance with the Animal Welfare Act, the Health Research Extension Act, and the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals.

The Society remains a strong opponent of dog (and all animal) fighting, and we support law enforcement and prosecutorial activities intended to reduce this widespread inhumane practice. The Anti-Cruelty Society also opposes dog racing because it is an inhumane and unjustified exploitation of animals for profit. This is due, in part to the cruel training methods and the large scale breeding of unwanted dogs required to produce a winner The Society supports groups that rescue dogs from a life of racing.

The Anti-Cruelty Society supports legislation designed to protect the public from all dangerous dogs, regardless of breed. At present, however, breed specific legislation fails to address the problem of attacks by dogs other than the proscribed breed or breeds and the problem of irresponsible owners of those breeds.

The Anti-Cruelty Society believes wild and exotic animals make unsuitable pets and most people are not equipped to properly maintain such animals in a home environment. These animals should be placed with a licensed rehabilitation facility or wildlife sanctuary for care or eventual reintroduction. 

The Anti-Cruelty Society is strongly opposed to the sale of companion animals through pet stores and similar outlets (i.e. puppy mills, internet, and indiscriminate breeders) and encourages pet stores to offer animals from reputable shelters or rescues for adoption. Investigations have exposed cruel and inhumane conditions in many such establishments; including over-crowding, filth, inadequate shelter, and lack of food, water, and veterinary care. The Anti-Cruelty Society supports work being done to enforce licensing and operational requirements of the federal Animal Welfare Act, which would abolish “puppy mills” as they are now.

The Society has a strong partnership with PetSmart and PetSmart Charities to manage animals and the adoption process in seven Chicago area PetSmart stores. 

Local, state, and national sponsorship of specific legislation or support and participation on issues shall be reviewed by the Board of Directors as these issues arise. The extent of commitment and resources made available (e.g. financial, oral, and/or written testimony) shall be at the discretion of the Board of Directors.

The Anti-Cruelty Society strongly encourages owner education prior to consideration of declawing. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, declawing (onychectomy) is an amputation and should be regarded as a major surgery. The decision to declaw a cat should be made by the owners in consultation with their veterinarian and should only be considered after attempts have been made to prevent the cat from using its claws destructively or when having claws presents a higher than normal health risk to the owner.

The Anti-Cruelty Society opposes surgery such as ear cropping and tail docking of dogs when performed solely for cosmetic purposes. The Society also supports eliminating ear cropping and tail docking from breed standards.

“Are you a no-kill shelter?”  That’s the most frequent question we are asked. Our response is often another question.  “What is your definition of no-kill?” The responses vary widely. 

A recent Washington Post article pointed to this issue in its title “What’s a ‘no-kill’ animal shelter? The answer is more complicated than it seems.” For some, “no” means no euthanasia. Ever. For others it means a 90% save or live release rate. Still others, 95%. As the article points out, “There is no certifying body that bestows the no-kill label, and there is no universally held definition for it.”
The Anti-Cruelty Society faces the “no-kill” dilemma every single day. We accept every animal brought to us. Some are healthy and move quickly to our adoption center. Others, however have medical or behavioral challenges due to age, neglect, or maltreatment. 

Not long ago, there were no resources available to save sick, injured, or old animals, so they were euthanized but times have changed and we have made a commitment to providing the care, and the resources, to help animals in need.  What has been accomplished for the compassionate treatment of animals in Chicago should be a source of pride for us all.  Still, the persistent question we receive is, “Are you no-kill?”

What we are deeply committed to is the compassionate treatment of every animal in our community. Our core ideology is expressed in a widely-adopted set of animal welfare principles entitled “The Five Freedoms.” Every animal should have:
•    Freedom from hunger and thirst
•    Freedom from discomfort
•    Freedom from pain, injury, or disease
•    Freedom to express (most) normal behavior
•    Freedom from fear and distress

To realize these principles, we spend a significant portion of our annual budget on life-saving and intake prevention programs, rehab, and community education. We do not euthanize due to lack of space at the shelter. We save every treatable animal. We never, ever, “kill” an animal. We humanely euthanize (a word that means “a merciful end”) where there is no hope for recovery or when an animal is deemed unsafe for placement in the community. Keeping a suffering animal alive is not humane. 

This is a topic of discussion often at The Anti-Cruelty Society because we are about hope, not heartache. We have mastered the art of saving lives and we are always here to save and protect every animal. It is our commitment that every animal deserves a life worth living. Thanks to the generosity of our sponsors and donors, we are able to go the extra mile for every animal, even when the outlook is bleak. When quality of life cannot be achieved, it is heartbreaking for us, but we make the same difficult but humane choice we have had to make for our own beloved pets when their time comes. 

Our mission at The Anti-Cruelty Society is to ensure that every animal entrusted to us is given the quality of life they deserve—a life worth living. That’s our honest and heartfelt answer to the no-kill question.