Animal Welfare Center uses new strategy to keep animals in homes, off streets, out of shelters

Coordinator aims to reduce unwanted pet population

INDIANAPOLIS - Indianapolis has a new approach to reducing the city's unwanted pet population.

More than 8,000 animals are euthanized every year on taxpayers' dime, mostly due to lack of space at the shelters.

In August, the Humane Society and its partners opened up a new Animal Welfare Center in Haughville, which is located in one of the worst ZIP codes for stray dogs and cats.

With the new center opening, they have hired a community outreach coordinator, whose job is to keep animals in the homes instead of on the streets or in shelters.

"I'm kind of a social worker for animals," said Rebecca Warren, community outreach manager. "I want to provide resources they need to keep their pets, but not just that, to make sure they're healthy."

The Call 6 Investigators followed along with Warren as she did a home visit with Barbara Smoot.

In August, Smoot was cited 24 times by Animal Care and Control for care and treatment, not having proper ID for her animals and not having rabies vaccinations and tags.

She is only allowed to have two neutered animals in the home.

Smoot has two dogs and 11 cats, but the cats are considered feral.

"I just love animals and I'm just trying to help out," said Smoot when asked about the violations. "They're company for me. I feel like I'm doing the right thing by giving them a home."

Smoot's home was soaked in urine, and at one point, Smoot had to swat away the bugs during the interview.

"I don't really think I have that many animals," said Smoot. "The neighbors started complaining and turned me in."

Warren works with Smoot to make sure her animals are getting veterinary care and are not in violation of any laws.

"A lot of the dogs and cats I see, they're not in the best of circumstances," said Warren.

Since it opened in August, the new Animal Welfare Center has taken in 361 clients, almost all of them new clients for the Humane Society.

Workers say it's a sign they're touching a new population in some of the worst areas for unwanted pets.

"People are coming in with everything," said Warren. "I almost can't keep up with it."

Warren hopes her work will eventually reduce the number of animals being euthanized in the city each year, which is more than 8,000.

"If we're not putting pets in the shelter, obviously we're not having to put them down," said Warren. "The shelter is already way over their capacity and trying to adopt out as many as they can."

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