Emanuel says animal safety concerns reason for firing head of Animal Care and Control

CHICAGO -- Mayor Rahm Emanuel responded Monday about firing the head of Chicago's Animal Care and Control on Friday—a move that many found questionable.

Susan Russell, the executive director of the Commission of Animal Care and Control for about two years, was fired Friday and said she was given no explanation. Russell said she was asked to resign in a meeting at the mayor's office with Emanuel's chief of staff, Joe Deal. Russel said when she said she didn't wish to resign, she was terminated.

Kelley Gandurski was named as Russell's temporary replacement.

CACC is the city’s main pound where all rescues and shelters in the city come and find cats and dogs looking for a forever home.

Those supportive of Russell pointed to a decrease in euthanasia rates of animals, an eradication of dog flu at its facility and an increase in its volunteer program. However, some criticized her leadership, including 15th Ward Ald. Raymond Lopez.

"For a long time, I felt that CACC was not meeting its fullest potential," Ald. Lopez said.

The mayor also commented on his decision to terminate Russell.

"I don’t usually get into personnel decisions. I do want to thank Susan for her service. There were some issues that were involved," he said.

In a statement, a spokesman for the mayor said, "...serious concerns arose about operations at the shelter, particularly when came to dogs, posing a health and safety risk for agency staff, volunteers and residents looking for a new family pet. Our office raised these concerns a number of times with Susan for months, and when they were not fully addressed we made a change."

For rescue groups, the reasoning did not pass the smell test.

"Animal control is not perfect any situation where you're dealing with so many animals coming in, a limited budget and limited resources," Heather Owen, One Tail At A Time Rescue, said. "There's going to be issues but there hasn't been anything worthy of her removal."

Facebook event was created in support of Russell. The event calls for supporters to gather for a peaceful protest at Animal Care and Control at 2741 S. Western Ave. at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

"Susan has been the best Director CACC has ever seen and leaves the shelter with the lowest euthanasia rates ever," the event says in the description.

According to a Tribune report, Emanuel also fired the head of Animal Care and Control in 2012 without an explanation.