ST. CHARLES TOWNSHIP – Step into the Anderson Animal Shelter in St. Charles Township, and the 40-year-old building virtually rocks from all the barking.
Volunteers and staff on Friday were introducing cats and dogs to families for possible adoption in a small, crowded foyer at the facility near South Elgin. The barking comes thundering from a hallway where the dogs are in kennels. Outside, the parking area was full, and visitors were putting their cars on the side of the driveway.
But new times are coming to the shelter, said executive director Beth Drake, as a $660,000 renovation project will begin this fall. It will transform the facility, so it will meet new models of animal welfare care, as well as expand the parking area and update its aging plumbing.
The shelter is looking for as many as 100 volunteer families willing to foster 130 cats and 40 dogs for one to two months during the renovation, Drake said. Food and veterinary care will be provided.
Information about fostering cats and dogs is available online at www.andersonanimalshelter.org, by calling Jon Koffenberger, the shelter's animal care manager at 847-697-2880, ext. 23. or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The shelter operates under a low kill philosophy, and its goal is to eliminate the euthanasia of healthy, adoptable animals, according to its website. Some animals will be moved to a satellite location – still to be determined – so adoptions can continue while the shelter is closed for renovation, she said.
"The transition to a shelter environment can be very stressful for dogs and for cats," Drake said. "Oftentimes, it can be very helpful to engage foster homes and get the animals out of our facility so that they can learn manners and work on potty training and those kinds of things. Regardless of how wonderful a shelter is, it is an inherently stressful place to be."
The caging areas need to updated to be in line with research and advances in animal welfare and housing she said. For example, cats currently are housed in small stainless steel cages and dogs in chain link kennels – neither is ideal for them, Drake said.
Instead, adoptable cats would be housed with other cats in colonies or large "kitty condos" with perching and sleeping ledges, while adoptable dogs would be housed in small rooms instead of in kennels, she said.
After Drake became director on May 14, she said they implemented a variety of activities – such as dog play groups – to increase the adaptability of their shelter animals in advance of its redesign. Dogs that play well with each other are allowed to interact with each other under supervision, allowing them to expend energy and have positive socialization.
"Housing dogs in kennels in shelter away from other dogs – near other dogs but not allowing them to interact with other dogs – is very detrimental to the health of these dogs," Drake said.
"Over time, they lose that ability to read each other's behavior, and it's extremely stressful," Drake said. "And if we send them home with a family, they've got these dogs that have no idea how to interact with other dogs, and oftentimes they can become aggressive and display really inappropriate behaviors."
Playgroups, implemented just over the past month, have made a difference for the animals, she said.
"But in the end, they still go back into inappropriate cages, and we have to address this problem," Drake said.
Marco and Patricia Muscarello, on behalf of the Ivar and Ruth Animal Anti-Cruelty foundation, have provided $200,000 toward the renovation project, and another $200,000 for another area of work, Drake said.
Though the renovation will proceed starting Sept. 1, the shelter still needs to raise at least $400,000 to cover the cost, Drake said.
Donations for the renovation can be directed to Holly Alcala at email@example.com or by calling 847-697-2880, ext. 33.