On a dreary Thursday afternoon, Brett Youngsteadt barely has a minute to stop and acknowledge the chaos around him. As shelter manager at the City of Chicago Animal Care and Control main office, he has more than 500 animals under his watch. But he doesn’t mind – for the first time in awhile, all the commotion is a good thing.
“I knew I had a big job ahead of me when I started here, but we’ve made so many improvements and changes,” he said. “We’re taking baby steps in the right direction. I want people to know when they surrender their animal, it’s to a place that cares about it and cares about where it’s going and how it’s treated. I thank people for bringing animals here.”
There’s never a dull moment at the CACC, located at 2741 S Western Ave in Chicago, with plenty of personality to go around. Dogs like Pinky, a calm and friendly two year-old miniature Pinscher, and Shaggy, an energetic but polite one year-old Beagle, are both new surrenders that with any luck won’t have to wait long before finding delighted new owners.
“We are always going to be strapped for space here, but we’re an open admission shelter and we don’t turn anyone away,” Youngsteadt said. “I’d rather someone come to me and allow us to maximize the resources we have to help find an animal a new home. Our adoption figures are better every year. We are doing amazing things for these animals in a great city.”
Thirty-one years after the CACC first opened its doors, the shelter has tried to expand its adoption range by partnering with members of the community. Wolves owner Don Levin has been a supporter of the shelter’s upcoming re-design and the team sponsors a monthly “Adopt-A-Dog” night at Allstate Arena during hockey season, a change of venue that has been critical to getting some long-term dogs a forever home.
“We’ve taken some dogs to the Wolves games who have been here for months and it’s amazing to see them get adopted,” Youngsteadt said. “I always think back to the brother and sister dogs we took to the Wolves game and they got adopted together. The guy who took them said, ‘I can’t separate them, I have an acre of land, I want both’ and it was an incredible moment to see that. People never understand how these great dogs sit in a shelter for so long.”
In most instances, the bond between fan and dog forms instantly, and, season after season, Youngsteadt is thrilled to see the once homeless dogs in loving environments at last.
“I love going to the Wolves game and talking to the fans and hearing them gush over the animals. Those fans always come back and tell me about their dog they adopted and show me pictures and Christmas cards with the dogs in them,” he said. “These are some really wonderful people who come out to the Wolves games and we’re so lucky to have the team’s support and we could never thank Don enough for his help. He has taken us to the next level.”
With major renovations to the shelter beginning later this year, the management team is focused on continuing to making a welcoming and nurturing place for surrendered animals to stay and working to get their name into the community to raise awareness about the available animals. The shelter is running a Northside Adoption Event on Saturday, June 8 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at 2849 N. Clark Street in Chicago, with dogs and cats coming out to meet potential owners. And while the CACC has come a long way in many respects, Youngsteadt isn’t satisfied just yet.
“We want to be the shelter everyone in the country looks at and says, ‘how did they do it?’ We want to put building blocks in place and lay the foundation so future generations can come in and run this shelter successfully,” he said. “We have a great team here and with help from places like the Wolves we are moving in a much more positive direction and we will continue to do so.”