Former Animal Care Director Susan Russell on Her Falling Out with City Hall

In a June 30 press release announcing the new executive director of Chicago’s Commission on Animal Care and Control, the office of Mayor Rahm Emanuel gave no reason for the departure of Susan Russell.

Russell, who had served as head of the city’s shelter for two-plus years, later said she was fired after refusing to resign – sparking questions and even protests from the city’s animal rescue community.

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According to the Chicago Sun-Times, City Hall insiders said Russell was “warehousing” or overcrowding animals at the shelter, risking the safety and health of staff, volunteers, residents looking to adopt and the animals themselves.

Russell disputed those claims in a recent conversation with Chicago Tonight.

“Warehousing animals – what is that?” she said. “We have never put more than one animal to a kennel, unless of course they were a bonded pair, mothers and children.”

Russell and her supporters say the city placed a de facto gag order on all staff at the shelter earlier this year after Russell said the city would have to consider euthanizing dogs because the space was overcrowded. Publicity of that need led to the adoption of 59 dogs in less than a week (fewer than two dogs are adopted there per day on average, according to data for 2017 posted on the agency’s website).

Russell joins us to discuss her tenure and firing from Chicago Animal Care and Control.

Follow Evan Garcia on Twitter: @EvanRGarcia

Related stories:

Before Firing Head of City Shelter, Mayor’s Office Squashed Talk of Overcrowding, Euthanasia, Sources Say

Aldermen: Chicago Animal Shelters Should Be ‘No-Kill’ Environment

Rescue Dog Finds New Home at Shedd Aquarium

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