Pressure intensifies for Animal Welfare League in Chicago Ridge

  • Written by Dermot Connolly


Photo by Dermot Connolly

Pet stores have suspended adoption programs they have had with the Animal Welfare League at 10305 Southwest Highway in Chicago Ridge, following an outbreak of dog flu and accusations of mistreatment of animals.

Allegations of poor treatment of animals, and an outbreak of dog flu at the Animal Welfare League at 10305 Southwest Highway in Chicago Ridge, has led to at least one pet store chain suspending the adoption program it had with the shelter.

The outbreak of dog flu in January had already led to Animal Welfare League suspending its adoption program for dogs and cats, and that has been extended to other animals in the shelter as well. As part of the adoption program that PetSmart had with AWL, some cats available for adoption through the shelter had been housed at PetSmart locations in the Chicago area. But they have all since been brought back to the shelter.

Animal rights activists, and former AWL volunteers and employees who have held several protests outside the shelter since the adoption program was suspended, claim that the flu outbreak was caused or worsened by management and poor care of the animals over many years. Numerous photos taken at the site, showing dogs housed in unclean conditions in the facility, have also been circulating online.

A manager at the PetSmart store at Chicago Ridge Commons referred all questions to the corporate headquarters in Phoenix, Ariz. There are also PetSmart locations in Evergreen Park and Burbank.     

PetSmart officials issued a statement saying, “Through our PetSmart Charities In-store Adoption Program, we work with local animal welfare organizations to help homeless pets get adopted. The Animal Welfare League (AWL) was part of the PetSmart Charities’ In-Store Adoption Program for 19 years. After learning of allegations of animal mistreatment, PetSmart Charities immediately suspended the organization from our adoption program and launched an internal investigation. We are currently waiting for the results of the investigation. Out of respect for all of our adoption partners, we do not discuss the details of our partnerships, including the reasons for suspending a relationship.”

There have been reports that Petco also has suspended its relationship with AWL, but that could not be confirmed. On Monday, a manager at the Petco at 6220 W. 95th St., in Oak Lawn, said that store had not been working with the Animal Welfare League.

“I read online that we had suspended our relationship with them, but I checked with corporate and they weren’t aware of it,” said the woman.

Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar and Trustee Ed Kowalski had a lengthy meeting with AWL executive director Linda Estrada and several other representatives on Monday, and some of the activists rallying against Estrada were invited to speak at the Chicago Ridge Village Board meeting on Tuesday.

“We had an hour-and-a-half meeting with four Animal Welfare League representatives,” said Tokar, explaining that in addition to Estrada, the group included two members of the AWL board, and an attorney for the shelter.

The mayor said Kowalski, who planned to give an update on the situation at the village board meeting on Tuesday, also “touched base” with five representatives of the activists opposing the leadership of the shelter.

“Some of their ideas did seem very reasonable,” said Tokar.

“I’m pretty happy about the meeting with the AWL officials. Together we came up with some plans for moving forward. They are looking forward to having a meeting with at least some of the activists,” Tokar added.

For the time being, the suspension of animal adoptions and surrenders is continuing at the Animal Welfare League, where signs were still posted Tuesday on the doors of the Animal Welfare League notifying the public that the adoption and drop-off of animals was still suspended. In addition to dogs and cats, rabbits and other small mammals and birds are often available for adoption there too, but a receptionist said Tuesday that they are all under the suspension now. The veterinarian clinic on-site remains open.

The receptionist, who did not want to give her name, said the suspension is expected to continue at least through the end of this week.

“We’re waiting for cultures to come back, to see what we’re dealing with,” she said. “It is dog flu, but just to be on the safe side, we have expanded the suspension to include all animals.”