Local residents answer the call for emergency shelter for pets
by Carrie Steinweg
CHICAGO HEIGHTS, Ill. (April 15, 2020) – As those in the area find themselves at home a lot more, most people are spending a lot more time with their pets, or even deciding to welcome new pets into their home.
In March, before the shelter-in-place order was issued in Illinois by Governor JB Pritzker, the South Suburban Humane Society (SSHS) made the decision to consolidate operations, and their Homewood location was closed. The facility was cleared of animals, some of which were adopted, and many of which were placed into foster families. The remaining animals were transferred to the Chicago Heights location, which remains open by appointment only.
In the 11 days leading up to the stay-at-home order, 90 pets were adopted and 99 were fostered. The shelter sent out a plea to several of their previous foster volunteers. One who responded was Carrie Caldwell of Lansing.
“I adopted my German Shepherd, Shay, from South Suburban Humane Society in Chicago Heights in 2015. I became a volunteer in 2018. I learned about fostering through volunteering and decided it was a really good way to help without having to be away from home. I’ve fostered a couple of adult cats and very small kittens,” she said.
When Caldwell was contacted on March 6, about two weeks before the shelter-in-place order, she said she’d be willing to foster.
“I received an email from South Suburban Humane Society about needing a foster family for a mother dog named Abigail and her eight puppies, who were five weeks old,” she explained. “I kept four puppies, another family took the other four, and another foster family took in Abigail.”
The puppies have been thriving in Caldwell’s care as she has been working from home. Two of the puppies have already been adopted, and a third will move to its new home later this week. The fourth pup, Jake, will be staying with Caldwell forever. She decided to to adopt him herself.
This isn’t the first time the SSHS has had to depend on its volunteers due to a large-scale fostering need. “We have previously been in a position to need emergency fostering. Several years ago, before we installed a generator, the shelter lost power after a terrible storm in July. We had to move as many out to foster as possible because of air conditioning,” said Emily Klehm CAWA, CEO of SSHS. “Over the past couple of years, there have been several times that we have been severely overcrowded and we’ve done a big plea to the community. We were amazed at the response and help we received in the past, but of course nothing can compare to this. We’re truly grateful for the response.”
If you are considering adopting a pet, limited appointment hours (10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday) are available through the Chicago Heights location, but there’s also an option to get to know a pet through virtual means.
Klehm said that they worked quickly to implement a system of processing paperwork and payment electronically to minimize contact. “Our adoption manager is conducting Zoom meetings with potential adopters and foster families so that they can e-meet first and minimize any face-to-face contact,” she said. “It’s working very well.”
As of April 14, the South Suburban Humane Society has 49 pets available for adoption, and 31 of those are in foster care, including the 4 puppies that Caldwell is fostering.
South Suburban Humane Society is located at 1103 West End Avenue in Chicago Heights, Illinois. More information is available at www.southsuburbanhumane.org/adopt or by calling 708-755-7387.