Making Chicago Safer for Dogs and Humans: Safe Humane Chicago

Chicago, also known as Chiraq, is known around the world for the violence that is perpetrated daily, even hourly, everywhere from the South Side to the Gold Coast and all the different neighborhoods in between. Safe Humane Chicago is one organization trying to make a difference. Its belief is that you can’t have a safe community if it’s not humane.

Safe Humane Chicago was the brainchild of Cynthia Bathurst. She wanted to find a way to make Chicago a more humane placscreen-shot-2016-09-25-at-6-56-57-pme for its residents. And while Safe Humane Chicago is about humane treatment for dogs, it’s also very much about bringing the community together, about education for at-risk youth, about helping veterans, and about creating youth leaders.

The Court Case Dogs program works to help dogs who are part of a criminal investigation and are housed at Chicago Animal Care and Control. Bathurst spoke with ShelterMe about Safe Humane Chicago and the Court Case Dog program.

“What we do is that we work with any and all dogs that have been rescued, seized, impounded from abusive owners or owners or situations that are not legally allowed to happen. If law enforcement makes an arrest, or when there is severe neglect, aggravated cruelty, dog fighting, or certain kinds of violent felons cannot have unsterilized dogs who are not microchipped, the dogs are taken to animal control.”

She explained how the dogs are checked for inclusion in the program. dog-and-little-dog“When the city takes ownership of the dogs, we test them, a team tests them to be sure they are appropriate with volunteers. We test them with people and with other dogs.” Volunteers from all walks of life help socialize and train the dogs. The dogs are given enrichment and exercise while the group advocates for them to be transferred to a rescue.

Something special and wonderful about the Chicago Court Case dogs is that once they are accepted into the program, the dogs receive free behavioral support for their life wherever they may go. Anywhere.

Bathurst explained that the dogs form the heart of the program at Chicago Animal Care and Control and outside in the community. Safe Humane Chicago is a community group that focuses on dogs by getting volunteers to work with the dogs. They work with kids in youth centers, and incarcerated people who work in the shelter give up their breaks to work with the dogs. The dogs become ambassadors in the community.

“Because we run playgroups and manners classes, we’ve expanded our reach to other dogs in shelter. We can exercise dogs. We work with at-risk youth, veterans who have PTSD, youth leaders who talk about being safe. (It’s all about) making safer and more humane communities. You can’t have a safe community if it’s not humane. It’s about second chances,” concluded Bathurst.

This Thursday, September 29, is Safe Humane Chicago’s benefit: Chicago’s Finest and Kindest. Seventeen police department officers including a SWAT officer, animal crimes officers, a beat officer, and others who work in gang investigations are being honored. “We chose a range (including) those who have done a lot with the community,” said Bathurst. One of the cases involved domestic violence and the aggravated torture of a cat, and others involved dog fighting.

One special case dealt with Robert, a veteran who volunteered with the Safe Humane program VALOR (veterans advancing lives of rescues), and had adopted Apollo, a court case dog. Apollo was his emotional support dog. Robert had received an award from Safe Humane Chicago. When he was murdered, the responding officers saw the award and called Bathurst — who immediately was able to take Apollo. The police pursued that case and finally apprehended the murderer in Minnesota. Robert’s dog was adopted by another veteran.

She explained, “We are honoring that group. We are not going to forget what they did for Robert. That’s the one unusual case — about 5 officers. The others are all about animal cruelty. We’ll also have one or two dogs there that we’ve saved.”

Tickets are availableThe event benefits Safe Humane Chicago and features a sit-down buffet dinner, some raffles, prizes for the officers and a copy of the book “A Ruff Road Home: The Court Case Dogs of Chicago” for each honoree. (The book can be ordered at this link.) Several high-ranking police officers will be there. (Tickets to this even can be ordered here.)


Safe Humane Chicago is an important part of making Chicago a safer, more humane community. The Chicago Tribune on Sunday, September 25, published an article with the heading, “Mayor says everyone plays part in ending city’s violence.” The article further states that Emanuel said, “…it will take more than just his efforts to reduce the poverty correlated with violence, improve cooperation between police and distrustful minority community members and put an end to gang violence.” Safe Humane Chicago is doing their best on all those fronts — will Mayor Emanuel show his support of their efforts by attending this fundraiser? 

Bathurst urges Chicago residents to get involved by volunteering to work with dogs or helping with programs. Even those outside Chicago can help. “We can always use donations to support training and care for the dogs, and stipends for the youth leaders. To find out more, email:




Pamela Kramer

​Animal lover and rescuer. Lives with 4 cats, 4 dogs, 1 bird, 2 frogs and usually one foster animal (and very understanding husband). Reviews books (especially about animals) and educates children about compassion toward animals. Former household animals include rabbits, rats, and other assorted creatures. Also writes at

1 comment

  1. Christa Velbel says:

    As a long-term Safe Humane Chicago volunteer, especially with the VALOR program for veterans working with shelter dogs, I really appreciate the light you’ve shown on the work of this idealistic group. We are glad to work with everyone–and there are so many people who fit this description–who brings compassion and patience and kindness to life in this community. Never give up hope! There is so much about which to be hopeful. Peace & love!

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