What makes a dog urgent

It’s been quite the week. I’ve been going nonstop with my finance job as we move offices, so I’ve been a bit tied up. I know I put up (three!) gift guides but it’s been awhile since I wrote something important. Well, today’s post is very important.

As you may or may not know, I’ve launched a new series featuring an urgent dog on Instagram and Facebook on Fridays. The dog is always at Chicago Animal Care & Control and for one reason or another, its time is running out and it needs to be rescued. I realized I may have jumped the gun with posting urgent dogs before I took the time to explain what that really means. So, allow me to back pedal and dive into why urgent dogs exist and how to help.

As you may know, Chicago Animal Care and Control is the only municipal shelter in the city. The government funds the shelter and therefor, any Chicago resident can surrender their pet at CACC. They are also required to take in strays, confiscated animals, wildlife, and quarantine pets. From July 1 through September 30 of this year, they have had an average of 39 animals walking in their door each day. Holy Moly. Thirty nine animals coming in and relying on care, shelter, and food every day.

For the purpose of this post, we’re going to focus on dogs. Between strays, owner surrenders, confiscation, and quarantine, 1,756 dogs came in from that same time period as mentioned above (third quarter) of this year. If you do the math, that’s about 20 are each day. CACC has a capacity of about 300 dogs in their shelter. That means, if 20 dogs are walking in their doors daily, it would only take 15 days until they were at max capacity.

Now luckily, Homeward Bound Partners come and “pull” dogs out of CACC almost every day. That means they take dogs out of the city shelter and bring them into their care. Rescues like One Tail at at Time, ALIVE Rescue, Chicago Canine Rescue, Tiny N Tall, Peace for Pits, etc. come and take dogs and get them adopted. Out of the 1,756 dogs that came into CACC during the third quarter this year, 1,056 were transferred to Homeward Bound Partners.

Additionally, CACC recently began an adoption program where certain dogs can be adopted directly to the public. Looking at the same period mentioned above, 276 dogs were adopted directly from the city shelter. The final way dogs get out of our city shelter is through owner returns. It’s called a return when a dog is reunited with its owner. There were 97 owner returns this past quarter.

So, do the math… between rescues, adoptions, and returns, there were 1,429 dogs that got out of our city shelter. If you’ll remember, 1,756 dogs came in over that same period which leaves about 327 dogs that didn’t get out. Here’s where we run into the urgent dog situation. More dogs come in than go out.

There simply aren’t enough homes for all the dogs in our city shelter. As you probably know, CACC is full of blocky-headed, medium to large size dogs. Commonly referred to as “pit bulls,” these dogs don’t get much of a chance. It’s hard to find a landlord willing to accept any sort of bully breed (don’t even get me started), so the adoption and foster pool is small. Additionally, a lot of people don’t consider adopting them because the “breed” is so stigmatized.

There are two reasons for marking dogs urgent. The most common being the dog has been at the shelter too long and has had zero interest from rescues/fosters. For one reason or another, the dog is overlooked or not given a chance. The tricky part here is that most of these dogs are “rescue only” meaning they’re not available for adoption. Rather they need a committed (and experienced) foster to step up through a Homeward Bound Partner. The rescue then pulls the dog and then the foster takes the dog home. More on that below.

The other reason a dog is marked urgent is that they have a medical need. CACC has minimal onsite vet care so if there are any complicated cases, the dog needs to get rescue before they get worse. Mistletoe is one of the dogs that could really use some veterinary care. He has an issue with his penis and needs medical attention.

So, this is very information heavy post, I realize that. Here is what you can do to help:


This is the most direct way to help dogs get out of CACC. Isolation fosters (or ISO fosters) are fosters that don’t have any other dogs. Iso fosters are a huge asset because you can bring a dog into your home without having to worry whether the dog will spread any sort of germs from CACC to your dog/the public.

Now, as a heads up, some Homeward Bound Partners won’t foster an urgent dog with a new foster because, well, they don’t trust you yet! If you’re a new foster, you might bite off more than you can chew. If a foster takes on a dog they can’t handle, the dog is now that rescue’s property and they have to scramble to find a new foster home for that dog. This is why it’s important to start fostering now! Build up the trust between you and a rescue so you can foster urgent dogs!


If you have another dog, you can still foster. If you can become a foster home, you will open up space for that rescue to save another dog. The more foster homes that we have, the more dogs we can get out of our city shelter. You’ll also be a valuable resource for a new adopter. You’d be able to find a good fit for the dog. Fostering is key to saving lives. One Tail at a Time, ALIVE Rescue and Chicago Canine Rescue are all good rescues to start with because they offer a ton of support for their fosters.


I post an urgent dog every Friday in hopes that someone, somewhere will see that dog, see its story, and want to help. I never know who will share my posts with who. The goal is that one of your friends sees it, shares it, and someone, somewhere is able to step in and help. Sharing takes no money, no time, and little effort. Share share share!!


If you want to help dogs inside the shelter, create a fundraiser to buy items for the shelter dogs. You can’t donate directly to CACC (bc hi government) but you can donate things like Kongs, treats, toys, towels, blankets, etc. These items will help keep the dogs happy and stimulated while in their care. If the dog can stay happy and sane, it has a better chance of finding rescue!

This issue is a big, complicated one. I know I gave you a TON of information, so please bookmark this post, share it with friends, and let’s help our dogs get out of our city shelter.


Sandler – This sweet boy is still in need of his forever home. He does really well in playgroups, he doesn’t have any sort of resource guarding, and he’s practically a lap dog (as shown below). Come meet Sandler or read more about him here.

Rescues pulled the rest of these sweeties!


What do you do when it’s cold/wet/rainy out? Layer up. I love this grey long coat and so did the dogs. I wore my Alice + Whittles (code: RESCUEINSTYLE gives you 10% off!) because they are perfect for gross weather. This sweater is from one of the cutest boutique called Study Hall in Chicago. Shop similar turtleneck and rest of the outfit below!



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Photos: Josh Feeney

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