Ah, Indianapolis. Stuck in the Midwest, happy with its mediocrity. I was SHOCKED when the response to longstanding problems at the city pound last year not only ousted the politicians running the place, but HIRED A COMPETETENT, and – get this – PROGRESSIVE person with actual shelter experience! You mean we finally get to take the 64% kill rate in this city seriously? Yes, that was over 12,000 animals last year in Indianapolis. (And this number is actually down from previous years thanks to progressive ideas like FACE, while the shelters don’t seem to improve their come-in-but-never-leave rates.)
So Indy hired Doug Rae, a guy who turned around bigger shelters with higher kill rates: places like Philadelphia and Phoenix. Yes, he was a big change from what our city pound had been for many years. But that was the point.
Doug started in January. And then they fired him this week. Nuvo did a pretty good writeup of all that’s happened in these short months.
The upshot is that Indianapolis wanted everything fixed while still letting everything slide: some of the employees of the shelter and members of other animal welfare groups in the city liked the power/freedom/laziness of the status quo. The evidence of secret meetings about IACC but without their participation, canceling board meetings at the last minute, and firing board members who sided with Rae prove to me that politics won.
I have been to the pound several times recently. I went through volunteer orientation and had emails every week for all the events the shelter was doing in the community, and volunteer participation hours skyrocketed in the kennels. I went to fostering orientation. I met with the woman running that program a few times, the latest in a new bimonthly meeting with Rae himself inviting local animal rescue groups to come share their concerns. It was an open meeting to discuss whatever we wanted (I was there on behalf of IHRS). Radical changes were made: they actually wanted copies of the rescues’ nonprofit paperwork! You know why? Because no one had bothered to collect this information before. How does the shelter know who is a ‘real’ rescue? And this was good news to us, because I know of at least one active rescue in our community who takes an awful lot of animals and they never seem to get adopted anywhere. They do end up in veterinary clinics badly injured from poor sheltering at the rescue though. Are they hoarded? Are they sold to laboratories, fed to wildlife? Not as farfetched as you might think–that’s the path many free to good home pets take, as well as those in less-than-upfront rescues. There has to be some accountability if you are going to work with the city pound. Hell, even having some paperwork about who took what animal and when would be an improvement.
So I’m disappointed but not surprised that Indy put politics first. Not surprised at all. Here’s the thing: if you want change (and it surprised me they got that far), you have to be willing to change.
I’m sure the new politician in charge of the pound will be great. She has no shelter experience either, just like every other person who has ever been in charge of IACC before.
Some pro-animal blogs in Indy: Move To Act, Indy No-Kill Initiative. Note I’m not self-identifying as a member of the no kill movement, but what’s coming out of their mouths seems to be in the animals’ best interests compared to the political crap coming out of everyone else’s.