A visit with Susan Russell at ACCT Philly

I’m back from the holidays and a little vacation and I’m ready to go. If you follow me on my Instagram, you’ll know that I was in Philadelphia the weekend before Christmas. The trip was two-fold. Chris coaches the Eagles’ and Houston Texans’ placekickers so we wanted to see them play. But what got us there was the fact that Susan Russell is now the Director at the Animal Care and Control Team of Philadelphia!

When I walked into Susan’s office, it was as if no time had even passed. She sported the same smile, positive attitude, and infectious warmth that was palpable at Chicago Animal Care & Control when she was Director.

We chatted about happenings, rescue and otherwise, before starting a tour of the facility. Immediately I recognized how much smaller ACCT Philly is than Chicago’s city shelter. When I asked Susan, she said they have room for about 150 dogs which is about half of Chicago’s capacity. I didn’t ask about the population of cats, but from what I saw, I’d say it would also be close to half of CACC. So, it’s a smaller shelter, but what does that mean?

When I asked Susan about intake, she smiled and it’s where things get interesting. See ACCT Philly has a much higher intake than CACC. In 2017, ACCT took in 19,140 animals. For comparison’s sake, for that same period, CACC had 14,901 animals come into their care. I am fairly certain my jaw hit the floor at this point.

With such high intake numbers and such little space, I was afraid to ask the next question… what is ACCT’s live release rate (LRR)? In 2017, the Philly shelter had a LRR of 81%. While this isn’t a stellar LRR, it’s certainly not awful or as bad as I was expecting. CACC’s LRR last year was 92%. I obviously recognize that CACC’s live release rate was 11% more than ACCT’s, however, if you take into account that Philly had 28% more animals and 50% less space, well then it becomes quite a different picture.

Now, keep in mind Susan Russell was a huge reason why CACC got to that 92% LLR last year. She is why our city shelter is in the place that it is. So, you can bet in one year from now, ACCT Philly will be on the up as well. Need proof? Susan officially signed on as ACCT Philly Director on October 22. This past November, their LRR was up at 90%… the highest LRR the shelter has ever seen. Go Susan go.

When I compared stats for the third quarter of this year (July, August, September), CACC had way more transfers to local rescues. Chicago area rescues pulled 2,676 animals from our city shelter whereas ACCT transferred 2,005 to its local partners. This confused me even more. How does Philadelphia have such a high live release rate with such high intake numbers and lower transfer numbers? Adoptions.

Here is where ACCT Philly is blowing us away. For those same three months, Philadelphia had 1,706 adoptions. Chicago had a cute 551 adoptions. Aww. Dear Chicago: DO BETTER.

This doesn’t really surprise me either. As you know, our city shelter is full of pit bull type dogs. Same with ACCT Philly. What’s not the same is how many people in Philly have pit bull type dogs. How the city seems to love and embrace the blocky-headed “breed.” Last time I was in Philly, I was amazed when someone told me she had two pitties and zero landlord issues.

While I can’t totally be sure why ACCT Philly has a much higher adoption rate than Chicago, I would venture to guess it’s a few reasons. First, landlord issues in Chicago are huge. It’s one of the biggest reasons dogs end up in shelters. By eliminating breed-specific policies, we might be able to get more animals into homes. The other reason I think Philly is ahead of us is that Chicago isn’t wanting to adopt pitties. I think we’re behind with the stigma of the pit bull type dogs whereas Philly loves them. I’d love to have this change asap.

The last little caveat is that CACC is just getting its adoption program up and running. Hopefully with time, we will be able to expand and grow it.

What is ACCT Philly doing so well that Chicago can learn from? How can we get our adoptions higher and thus increase our Live Release Rate? In turn, how can Chicago help Philly reduce its intake numbers… are we doing something better here that would lessen the burden for ACCT Philly? I clearly don’t have all the answers, but this is why I love to travel. I love to see how we can learn and grow from one another. How we can all work together to save them all.

What do you think? How can we increase adoptions here in Chicago? Let me know in the comments below!

A huge thank you to Susan Russell for taking time out of her (very) busy day to show us around and take out some of the animals. Another big thank you to my husband for being a good sport and taking photos 🙂


We took photos with so many beautiful animals. Take a look at all their adoptable pups and kitties here!


I splurged on this skirt from Aritizia but I’ve linked a similar one below!




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