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The city of Indianapolis is overrun with thousands of unwanted cats and dogs, yet some animal advocates claim leaders are largely ignoring the issue, despite numerous warnings to take action.
Calls about animals are the No. 1 complaint received at the Mayor's Action Center, generating more than 18,000 calls a year.
Yet Indianapolis Animal Care and Control's 2011 budget was $3.5 million, only 0.3 percent of the city's entire budget, Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney
According to records obtained by the Call 6 investigators, the city euthanized more than 8,877 animals last year, many of them perfectly healthy and adoptable, in part due to a lack of space and resources.
"This is a horrible situation," said Kirsten VantWoud, former kennel manager for Indianapolis Animal Care and Control and currently the operations manager for the Humane Society of Indianapolis. "Animals die in this city every day for absolutely no reason other than there's no place to put them."
The city's website touts Indianapolis as "one of our country's most livable big cities," but animal advocates question how Indianapolis can be a world-class city with such a public health and safety problem.
The Marion County Health Department received 867 animal bite reports last year.
"I had my arm out like that, and he came and grabbed me," said Chad Wasson, a Noblesville resident who said he was attacked by a stray pit bull while landscaping in Indianapolis. "The dog was loose. Obviously, it's a pretty bad epidemic."
The Call 6 investigators rode along with Indianapolis Animal Care and Control officers, who said they do their best to protect the public from the issue but sometimes end up getting hurt themselves.
While trying to catch three aggressive dogs on the city's east side, one of the dogs bit Officer Amanda Farmer on the leg.
"It's definitely an issue," Farmer said. "Unfortunately, there's not enough of us to respond in time and get out there when we need to."
Several times when the Call 6 investigators were riding with officers, Animal Care and Control officers intercepted stray dogs near schools and children.
"Yeah, it would be a public safety issue," said Officer Emily Clark. "I've only been bit once, but not every officer's as fortunate as I am."
Once confiscated, the animals end up at the city shelter, which has taken in more than 63,000 animals since January 2008.
Records show about half of those animals never made it out alive, which roughly equates to one animal killed every hour.
The Call 6 investigators watched as workers dumped euthanized animals into the garbage to be hauled to a nearby landfill. VantWoud said workers have no choice.
"There's just too many being born," VantWoud said. "It's a very hard thing to take a perfectly placeable, awesome dog and end its life simply because there's not a cage to keep it in."
It's something animal advocates said they've tried to make clear to the mayor and members of the City-County Council, by putting together two reports, one in 2002 and another in 2009.
Advocates said that Mayor Greg Ballard and Public Safety Committee Chairman Ben Hunter both received a copy of the 2009 report, which detailed the animal overpopulation problem.
The Call 6 investigators asked Hunter if it was acceptable for the city to kill thousands of animals.
"I'm not aware of thousands of animals being killed," he said.
But in the 2009 Animal Welfare Report
that Hunter received, it said, "Just under 11,000 (animals) were temporarily housed and then destroyed by IACC" in 2008.
Animal advocates contend that little has been done since they issued the reports for city leaders.
"Well, I'm sure there's probably things that haven't been done," Hunter said.
Ballard told the Call 6 investigators that he did not recall receiving the report but acknowledged the city has an animal overpopulation problem.
"Yes, it has been for quite a while now," said Ballard, who indicated he did not see a discrepancy with animal control's budget versus the number of calls coming into the Mayor's Action Center. "You do what you can with the resources given."
Ballard said the trend is heading in the right direction, citing dropping euthanasia rates as proof that more animals are making it out of Animal Care and Control alive.
Records show the city euthanized 10,817 animals in 2008, compared to 8,877 in 2010.
"We've had some dramatic improvement in the last few years," Ballard said. "Nothing in this city is adequately funded. We always want more resources."
But animal advocates point out that the number of animals coming into the shelter, through surrenders, confiscation or other means, remains steady at roughly 18,000 a year.
It's proof, some argue, that the city's animal problem is widespread and will continue without a drastic change in policy and strategy.
"It's sad. It's sad it has to happen," Ballard said. "Again, (it comes down to) resources. That's what you do."
After the Call 6 investigators interviewed Hunter, he pushed to restore money that had been cut from Animal Care and Control's budget.
Earlier this month, the City-County Council approved a $3.8 million budget for Animal Care and Control in 2012, an increase from the agency's 2011 adopted budget.
"ACC funding was maintained in the face of sharp revenue declines for the City/County," City Controller Jeffrey Spalding wrote in an email to the Call 6 investigators.
But Animal Care and Control Administrator Teri Kendrick told RTV6 that the additional money will have little impact on day-to-day confiscation and care of animals.
2009 Animal Welfare Report
2008 Indianapolis Animal Care and Control Statistics
2009 Indianapolis Animal Care and Control Statistics
2010 Indianapolis Animal Care and Control Statistics
2011 Indianapolis Animal Care and Control Statistics
Marion County Health Department Info On Animal Bites
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