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City Animal Shelters Facing ‘Catastrophic’ Overpopulation. Here’s How You Can Help

Shelters across the city say they are packed with dogs and cats who need homes as adoptions stall. They're looking for more people to foster and adopt — so they can help more pets.

Shelters across the city say they are struggling with overpopulation, especially with large dogs, and encourage people to adopt.

CHICAGO — Animal shelters across the city are dangerously overcrowded, and leaders are encouraging Chicagoans to adopt and foster pets to create space for more animals in need.

Overpopulation is reaching “catastrophic levels,” according to the Anti-Cruelty Society, a nonprofit shelter.

The crisis especially impacts large dogs, with the adoption rate being 33 percent lower than previous years, said Anti-Cruelty’s COO Darlene Duggan.

While the number of adoptions has dropped, the number of animals being taken in hasn’t, Duggan said. This means the shelter isn’t able to accept more animals in need because there simply isn’t enough space.

The biggest need right now is adoption, but fostering — or taking an animal home for a short period of time to “try it for size” — is also beneficial, Duggan said.

Some adoption shelters take in animals from municipal shelters, which have to accept every animal that comes through the doors, said One Tail at a Time Director Anna Johnson.

“One Tail comes in and helps transfer those animals out via adoption so [municipal shelters] don’t have to make tough euthanasia decisions if they don’t have room,” Johnson said.

Summers tend to be busy because the season coincides with breeding cycles, especially for cats ⁠— meaning there are more pets arriving at shelters. But it seems hot weather, vacations and easing COVID-19 restrictions are simultaneously leading to a significant drop in adoption numbers, Johnson said.

There are assistance programs and other resources at shelters like Anti-Cruelty and One Tail at a Time for those interested in adopting, including medical help, a pet food pantry, trainers and more.

PAWS — the largest transfer partner of Chicago Animal Care & Control — said although it’s seeing an increase in pets that have been abandoned or relinquished by their owners, adoptions have remained strong.

Here’s more information on how to foster or adopt a pet:

The Anti-Cruelty Society

  • Adopters must be at least 18 years old and have a government-issued ID, such as a driver’s license.
  • Animals eligible for fostering or adoption are listed on The Anti-Cruelty Society’s web directory. To start the process online, you can choose a pet, create an account and submit the subsequent application.
  • Stop by the shelter, 510 N. La Salle St., for same-day adoptions.
  • Visit for more information on the fostering process, which includes completing a Foster Interest Form and attending an orientation session at The Anti-Cruelty Society’s headquarters or virtually via Zoom.

One Tail at a Time

  • Adopters must be at least 18 years old and show proof of a valid photo ID.
  • Submit an application to adopt a dog, cat, bunny or guinea pig. An adoption coordinator will respond within 48-72 hours.
  • Visit One Tail at a Time, 2144 N. Wood St., in person for same-day adoption.
  • Submit a foster application here.


  • Adopters must be at least 21 years old and have a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license.
  • Visit the PAWS website to take a ComPETibility quiz and complete an adoption application. Then you can browse adoptable animals online and schedule an appointment to meet your potential pet in person.
  • Fill out a foster application here.

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