Paul Vallas Cares About Companion Animals and Has a Plan


You can call this a political endorsement for Paul Vallas, or you can call it the truth. Perhaps it is both.  I know a few of the various candidates running for Mayor of the City of Chicago. And I like more than one. But there is only one who is proactively saying companion animals matter and willing to take definitive action to support that notion.

Vallas wants to bring back a Companion Animal Task Force (his own statement on that topic is at the conclusion of this post, which he calls the Chicago Animal Welfare Advisory Council), and the group would report directly to the Mayor.

Vallas’ statements on this topic are hardly a secret. He’s spoken about it at an animal welfare forum, repeatedly in the media (including but not limited to my WGN Radio show) and at various public events. No Mayoral candidate in my memory has bothered to appear at so many special events to support animal welfare.

In July 2018, Vallas showed up at the protest of Susan Russell’s dismissal as executive director of Chicago Animal Care and Control. He didn’t speak at that event or apparently care that he was even noticed because he told me he didn’t want to make it “political.” He attended as a private citizen.

Former Governor Pat Quinn, a longtime animal advocate was there, but Vallas told both of us “No thanks” when he was asked to speak.

Vallas gets it

When Vallas was running for statewide office with Quinn, I met him, And we didn’t talk politics – we spoke animals, so this understanding is real. He gets it. And certainly in a way Rahm Emmanuel – who never met Russell or once stepped foot inside Chicago Animal Care and Control – ever did.

Vallas told me how privately, and now talks publicly about how his dog has provided solace and unconditional love  – and has been a sort of four-legged therapist when his wife has needed it most, after the death of their son. Vallas was nearly in tears when he first confided in me about this.

Promises we can hold Vallas to

Yes, as Mayor, Vallas will:

  • Personally visit Chicago Animal Care and Control (CACC)
  • See to it that CACC’s budget is increased. He’s noted that a somewhat significant increase in the CACC budget would add up to a minimal blip in the larger City budget. And understands fewer animals euthanized is not only the right thing to do, but amounts to a small cost savings.
  • The Chicago ordinance, which passed overwhelmingly to prevent pet stores from selling dogs, cats and rabbits (because of where they are sourced) has not been enforced, ever. Vallas promises that this will change!
  • I led a task force to support Chicago dog parks and beaches (called Dog Friendly Areas) – the provisions and rules we authored to create such places need refreshing. The Park District hasn’t been cooperative, but Vallas points out that the Mayor does appoint the Park District Commissioners. Emanuel has suggested he has nothing to do with it. Vallas says that’s a “cop out”
  • Over the past few years Alderman Raymond Lopez has been the self proclaimed “animal alderman.” In case of fact, he’s done little to actually support CACC or animal welfare. What he has effectively done is create divisiveness with sometimes bizarre actions, and never with the support of the animal welfare or veterinary community. Apparently, not knowing any better or caring, Mayor Emanuel and some Aldermen have actually believed him.
  • And most important – Vallas will create a Task Force on Companion Animals which will report directly to him, called the Chicago Animal Welfare Advisory Council.

What an Advisory Council or Task Force can do

It was the year 2000 that then Alderman Shirley Coleman sought to have any dog called a pit bull and also Rottweilers banned after a dog attack in her ward. I convinced Ald. Coleman to appear on my WGN radio show, and on the air offered two ideas. First is that a group of experts are enlisted to advise City Council and then Mayor Daley on animal related issues. And second that immediately experts tighten up the animal control act so any dog of any alleged breed or mix that is deemed dangerous suffers more severe consequences – but breed is not to be a consideration for such a determination.

By the end of that radio show Ald. Coleman agreed on the air to have me lead a “blue ribbon panel” to tighten up and update the Animal Control Act. I don’t know how many people recall how close we came in Chicago – and more than once – to breed bans. But repeatedly the Task Force that Coleman created, ultimately named the Chicago Task Force on Companion Animals and Public Safety rejected the notion of a breed ban on any kind. Several Aldermen attempted to pressure, but the Task Force held in their position. I soon enlisted the guidance of Cynthia Bathurst (a founder of Safe Humane Chicago) to co-chair.

The Task Force also rejected mandated pediatric spay/neuter of dogs and cats (which proved to be on the right side of science) an absolutely unenforceable idea which would have whacked responsible breeders for no good reason. The Task Force also rejected limit laws. Even rescuers and foster could not have had more than either three or four companion animals total!

Many people may be unaware, don’t recall or are too young to know how close Chicago came to the archaic pet limit law, to mandated spay/neuter of very young puppies and kittens (health issues of such very early spay/neuter may impact some larger dogs), and to a ban of all dogs called pit bulls and other breeds.

The Task Force proactively did good in many ways. One was to create guidelines for dog daycares (which didn’t previously exist), as some bad operators were doing bad things at that time because there were no guidelines. And help of support of state and county lawmakers to legalize dogs to dine outside on patios and sidewalk cafes if restaurants so desired. Previously, Mayor Daley’s inspectors periodically fined restauranteurs if dogs were found dining on patios and cafes.

The Task Force ultimately fizzled away after around 10 years for various reasons.

Chicago Animal Welfare Advisory Council

Vallas wants to bring back a Companion Animal Task Force, and the group would report directly to the Mayor (instead of a City Council Committee, first led by Coleman and later now retired Alderman Gene Schulter).

Interestingly, it was often Alderman Ed Burke who was often on the other side of the Task Force. On one occasion – and this may be the first time I have publicly spoken about this, Burke called for a ban on all animals (except fish) sold at pet stores for fear of monkeypox. Of course, I was no fan of dogs/cats being sold at pet stores because of where they sourced from, but to deny the sales of leopard geckoes or other reptiles, like corn snakes, because of monkeypox made no sense, as reptiles could never get monkeypox. Instead of embarrassing Burke publicly, I phoned his office and at that time FAXED the scientific data and information from the Chicago Veterinary Medical Association. He quietly but instantly changed his stance.

Vallas realizes that while he cares a great deal about animals, he’s no expert in animal behavior or welfare, or veterinary medicine. And he also realizes that companion animals do matter. He also understands the emotional value of companion animals. Dogs are social lubricants and provide community cohesion, and even support public safety. And companion animal provide emotional support to thousands of Chicagoans. .Maybe other candidates know this too. But for Vallas – unlike other candidates – this is really important, and his feelings and actions are earnest.

Paul Vallas statement:

Paul Vallas announces that one of his first acts as mayor will be to create the Chicago Animal Welfare Advisory Council to the Mayor to represent Chicago’s animal welfare community. On the organizational representation of the CAWAC, Vallas explains, “It is vital that Chicago’s animal welfare groups who are engaged in this humane work be represented on the CAWAC, and that they have a voice at City Hall.”

Formation of the Council

Mayor Vallas will create a vehicle for all of the various animal welfare groups of Chicago to come together and caucus to recommend which organizations will be represented on the CAWAC. From there, each organization will choose their representative on the Council, and the Council members will select the chairperson or co-chairs. As mayor, Vallas will not select any members of the board.

Vallas defines his role, “I will be the facilitator in the initial convening of the animal welfare activists and organizations, and then become ‘listener-in-chief.’ The construct of the CAWAC will be totally determined by the community.”

Role of the Council

CAWAC will recruit and recommend any future directors of Chicago Animal Care and Control (CACC) to the mayor, when the need arises. The CAWAC will report animal welfare issues to the mayor, and make recommendations on budgets, programs and policies, as well as recommendations for changes in ordinances and statutes.

The Council and CACC will also make budget recommendations to the mayor, including funding requests. Vallas says, “As mayor, I will endeavor to develop a budget based on such recommendations, and would be inclined to support all reasonable requests. However, I will, of course, retain executive authority to make final budget recommendations to City Council, balanced against competing needs in the city.”

The CAWAC will help develop the city’s legislative agenda in Springfield, in terms of animal welfare, and as the city’s chief executive officer, Vallas will be guided by the Council on animal welfare issues. “Imagine the impact we could make on the quality of life for Chicago’s animals if we are pulling in the same direction,” Vallas says.

On why Vallas will directly seek the input of the animal welfare community, he explains, “These organizations are in the trenches, passionately doing hard, and often heartbreaking work. They are the experts and they need to be heard. Embracing them will not only expand the animal welfare community of Chicago and enhance its capacity to address the city’s animal welfare needs, but it will also raise its profile, hopefully generating increased awareness, interest and excitement that will enable CACC and nonprofit rescue organizations to secure additional funding and support. There are a lot of individuals and organizations that care deeply about pets in need.”

Vallas continued, “There is clearly tremendous potential for good in embracing an aggressive animal welfare agenda and becoming a model city for the nation on how animals cannot only be protected, but how they can be a source of comfort and healing.”