Based on a principle that a humane community is safer, Safe Humane Chicago (SHC) is an innovative organization that was founded to make communities safer by reducing violence for our children and companion animals. Our focus on education, advocacy, and second chances for at-risk youth and animals continues to make a difference.
The fundamental idea that led to Safe Humane Chicago (SHC) is that community safety and the humane treatment of animals are closely related. Violence towards animals in a community is highly correlated with violence towards people. The Chicago Police Department recognizes that where there are gangs, guns and drugs, there is felony dog-fighting and there are abused animals. The founders recognized that a campaign to reduce the violence against children and companion animals could make a community safer and more humane. They also understood that the development of empathy is often enhanced in children by positive relationships with animals and that a proactive and positive approach to combating violence would be to promote compassion and caring for people and animals with positive, beneficial relationships and opportunities.
SHC began as a project of D.A.W.G. (Dog Advisory Work Group), a 501(c)(3) incorporated on April 18, 2000. D.A.W.G. focused on bringing dog owners and non-dog-owners together and to educate the community about sharing public spaces wisely. It began as a committee of a neighborhood association in 1998 before expanding its mission beyond neighborhood boundaries to the entire City of Chicago and elsewhere. The focus was on responsible care of companion animals, including the creation of dog-friendly public spaces, public education and a broad coalition of stakeholders.
As SHC programs were piloted, expanded and endorsed by a coalition of supporting organizations and agencies, the programs became the focus of the nonprofit. One of SHC's most successful programs, D.A.W.G. Court Advocacy, has been with the nonprofit since the beginning.
Through our programs, SHC has become a leading resource for education and training about the benefits of the human-animal bond, and we have made a significant impact in Chicago and elsewhere by partnering with other organizations that recognize the power of that bond. Since our first pilot programs, we have engaged hundreds of volunteers and other community members to offer resources to make our communities safer and more humane. We now have four key programs:
- Lifetime Bonds: Programs for at-risk youth and at-risk dogs in disadvantaged communities, the Illinois Youth Center detention facility, and re-entry internships, which provide opportunities for youth to connect with, train and socialize shelter dogs.
- Youth Leaders: A program developed at Walter Payton College Prep and taken to Lindblom Academy in which high school students and Ambassador Dogs take positive messages of safe, humane communities to elementary schools in disadvantaged neighborhoods and teach about issues related to animal welfare and safety.
- Collaborative Justice: Includes our Court Advocates who track and monitor criminal cases involving animal abuse and neglect, training for law enforcement and court personnel in humane laws and procedures, and resources for effective prosecution and sentencing. Also includes our Court Case Dogs, a program implemented in 2010 in which abused and abandoned animals associated with criminal investigations and court cases are trained, socialized and loved by volunteers and placed in good homes by our partner rescue groups.
- Community Outreach: Venues for taking the positive messages of the human-animal bond to disadvantaged neighborhoods, teaching community members about safety around dogs, and partnering with other groups to offer health and wellness clinics for companion animals.
So we have just begun.
SHC is poised to do more toward fulfilling our mission—education, advocacy, knowledge development and second chances. We want Chicago to be a model for safe, humane communities. We want Safe Humane to be a respected, impactful brand and model here and elsewhere in the world.