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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Ind. Gov't. - IndyStar reports on appalling conditions at Animal Care & Control

"Years of Neglect" is the headline to this long, front-page story today by Bruce Eason. Some quotes [ILB emphasis]:

For more than a decade, Indiana’s largest animal shelter has failed to provide for the most basic needs of the 17,000 animals entrusted to its care each year.

From time to time, well-meaning people come together and try to fix the problems. Task forces are assembled. Studies are conducted. Solutions are found. But the city of Indianapolis has never implemented them.

A 2003 task force called for better medical care, more staffing and clearer euthanasia procedures at Animal Care and Control. A report commissioned this year by the Department of Public Safety found that little has changed.

The lone veterinarian position has been vacant since March, and because of a shortage of staff, decisions to kill a wounded animal are routinely made without even a basic medical workup. To meet bare minimum standards, the study found, the kennel staff needs to double.

Conditions have become so dire that the report’s authors suggest the shelter may even be in violation of the city’s own animal cruelty ordinances. * * *

Administration officials and some City-County Council members blame the problems on budget constraints in a city that has seen revenue plummet because of property tax caps and the national recession.

But animal welfare groups and others on the council say that explanation obscures the true culprit. A city that spends more than $350 million a year on public safety, they say, has never made animal care a priority.

“We’ve known this since at least 2000,” said Sue Hobbs, chair of an advisory board that oversees Animal Care and Control. “There have been committees and studies and panels, and nothing ever changes. It just doesn’t. It’s seriously like Groundhog’s Day.” * * *

[M]ost damning in the recent report is the suggestion that conditions at the shelter may violate the city’s own animal cruelty ordinances.

City code requires food “in adequate amounts to maintain good health.” The city doesn’t budget for food at all, instead relying on a hodgepodge of donations that veterinarians say is detrimental to the animals’ well-being.

Additionally, “there’s no budget for emergency care and this, the team members believe, is contrary to local laws on humane care,” the report said. “With lack of budgeting for emergency medical care, IACC staff is forced to make euthanasia decisions without adequate diagnostic information, such as X-ray and bloodwork results.”

The law requires animal owners to provide proper medical care and to segregate animals when they are sick to prevent the spread of disease. But the study, conducted this summer, found that poor sanitation and the lack of a quarantine area presented a high risk for disease. In October, a deadly viral outbreak killed two dozen cats before animal rescue groups took the remaining cats away to prevent its spread.

“The city is charged to investigate cruelty,” said John Aleshire, CEO of the Humane Society of Indianapolis. “How ironic it is that we would bring an animal back to a shelter that is not properly staffed, that does not have proper medical care and (where) the staff has to scrounge around for food.” * * *

“There have been all these points where it has kind of come to a crisis,” said Republican Councilwoman Christine Scales. “There have been various times where we’ve gotten a lot of publicity about the problems, and then there’s a hurry-scurry by the administration to do something, and then it kind of dies down again.”

She suspects animal care is simply easy to ignore.

“They (the animals) are voiceless, they don’t have someone politically well-connected to advocate on their behalf,” Scales said. “In a sense, it’s almost like the administration knows: They’ve heard it before, (animal welfare groups) get upset, they make their passionate pleas, and then they go away. They go back to working for the animals.”

From a letter to the editor in today's Star, written by Susan L. Gerhart:
Let’s call it what it is — an appalling, terribly run, severely underfunded attempt to handle stray animals in Indianapolis. Animal Care and Control periodically surfaces in a news story when some near catastrophe inundates the department. In between crises, the shelter slogs along, mishandling unfortunate animals on a routine basis. * * *

It is my hope that others will feel the outrage that I do and contact city officials, requesting that they stop doing studies and reports, and start funding the shelter. Surely, if we can spend millions for cricket fields, and give millions of dollars to billionaires to fund their sports teams, we can raise enough money to adequately feed, house and humanely care for the stray animals our irresponsible Indianapolis residents render homeless. To do less only lessens our humanity.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on November 16, 2014 06:24 PM
Posted to Indiana Government