(CBS) — For months, the city of Chicago let hundreds of calls about possible inhumane treatment of pets languish in the files — and then managed to clear nearly every one in short order.

WBBM’s Steve Miller continues his series about Chicago Animal Care and Control. This is the fourth part.

Records obtained by WBBM show the city had a huge backlog of calls about possible mistreatment of animals.  There was a backlog until February, that is, when WBBM started asking questions.

For instance, in December of last year — just three months ago — the city got 554 calls about inhumane treatment of animals.

That’s 58 percent higher than the previous December.

And as it happened, WBBM is told, a lot of employees at Animal Care and Control were on vacation during the holidays.

So, the backlog grew.

Then in January and February, Animal Care and Control Spokesman Brad Powers says, officials made a big push to close those old cases, closing roughly 26 a day.

Powers says 719 were closed in January alone.

How did they work so fast — given the fact that some cases were still open after four months? And how close a look did those cases get from city inspectors?

“We were able to dedicate as many staffers as we could, starting at the beginning of the year to looking at these type-codes to determine which calls should be responded to, which calls were anonymous and we couldn’t respond to,” Powers said.

Did Animal Care and Control neglect these cases? Powers says no.

And the backlog of cases: Could that discourage people from calling about suspected abuse or neglect — if those cases are just going to languish in the files for weeks or months?

“I think people would be pleased that we’re abating potential public safety concerns as much as we can before responding to anonymous calls about dogs that have an owner at their home that someone might be concerned about.”

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