Evanston City Council approves funding for new $6.85 million dollar animal shelter

Tarek Anthony, Staff Writer

In a late February city council meeting, council members passed a massive $6.85 million deal providing a brand new 8,000 square foot facility to the Evanston Animal Shelter Association (EASA), allowing the shelter, which was on the verge of closing in the coming months, to remain open. 

The shelter, which relies on over 50 percent of its annual revenue coming from donations, is currently located in a small cramped building on the 2300 block of Oakton in Evanston. The building, which was originally opened as a dog pound designed for euthanasia in 1987, lacks an area for the isolation of sick animals, fire sprinklers, space for medical procedures and is currently struggling with frequent flooding and a failing HVAC system. The shelter is also currently out of compliance with accessibility standards set by the American Disabilities Act (ADA), all problems of which will be solved with the new facility. The new facility will be located on the same lot as the old one.

The shelter runs on only three full time employees and along with volunteers, they care for over 500 dogs and cats annually, providing temporary housing, rehab and over $100,000 per year in free medical care for animals until they can be fostered or adopted by families, among numerous other programs.

“I am so happy that Evanston approved the animal shelter [renovations]. My family [frequently] fosters cats from [the shelter] and [we] love going there” said senior Sabin Taylor. “After hearing that [the shelter may] be shut down we were [devastated] but [now hearing the news my family] is so happy the shelter is staying open.”

The shelter also operates a pet ‘food bank’ that provides dog and cat food for low income families, giving them an opportunity to partake in pet ownership. In 2021 alone, the program helped distribute over 18,000 pounds of food in the effort to relieve some of the financial burden of pet ownership. 

Another service provided at the shelter includes temporary custodial care for pet owners who can not take care of their pets for whatever reason. These include but aren’t limited to severe illness, housing foreclosure and domestic violence cases. This free service provided over 1,300 days worth of care in 2021 for residents in need. 

The bill for the new facility passed with eight votes to one in council. First Ward alderperson Clare Kelly was the only council member to vote against the bill, citing her perceived lack of ‘financial responsibility,’ and the way that the bill was brought before the council as a ‘special order of business’ as opposed to a traditional committee hearing of the issue. 

The multi-million dollar price tag on the new facility is significantly larger than originally planned, due to construction inflation costs after the pandemic. The cost of the new shelter will be split up among taxpayers, the animal shelter and a $2 million grant pledged by Cook County. 

The city funding will be provided by issuing $2.175 million in General Obligation Funds, with another $1.5 million being pulled from the City’s general fund. It was not immediately clear how much the project will cost Evanston taxpayers.

The new building will be environmentally friendly with zero on-site greenhouse gas emissions and multiple sets of solar panels. It will also be LEED Silver certified and in line with Evanston’s ‘Climate action and resilience plan (CARP).’The project was bid out to the Tinley Park based construction company CCC Holdings. Construction is expected to begin in the coming months, with no clear reopening date.