INDIANAPOLIS -- What happens when you see two dogs fighting? Or maybe an animal that was hit by car? Some people call their county's non-emergency number or 911 to report the issue to animal control.
Call 6 Investigates has discovered that more than 13,000 emergency and non-emergency calls made to the Marion County 911 center between April 2017 and April 2018 for animal-related incidents never made it to animal control officers.
Call 6 began looking into the issue after an Indianapolis family reached out about a dead dog they spotted in the tree branches just off the Monon Trail near 21st Street. They said they had called the city's non-emergency number multiple times over a few weeks, but no one ever responded.
Indianapolis Animal Care Services told Call 6 Investigates that they never had any reports about a dog in a tree near that location. They sent an animal control officer out that night and removed the dog's body.
Call 6 requested records from the computer aided dispatch system at the Marion County 911 center for animal-related calls and records from animal care services' computer-aided dispatch system.
Call 6 learned that the two agencies use two different computer systems and that many of the calls that came into Marion County's 911 center never made it to animal care services computer system.
While Marion County's 911 center received 24,099 calls for animal-related issues between April 2017 and April 2018, only 10,577 made it to animal care services' computer-aided dispatch system. 13,522 calls never made it to their system and were never responded to by an animal control officer.
"You wonder what those calls were for and how many of those animals didn't receive assistance from Animal Care Services," said Darcie Kurtz, the President of Friends of Dogs Outside.
Call 6 Investigates went to the Marion County 911 Center to find out why calls aren't making it to animal care services.
Major Mike Hubbs says the two computer systems don't talk to each other and the 911 Center has no access to animal care services computer-aided dispatch system.
Hubbs says when an emergency or non-emergency call comes into the center, dispatchers call an animal control officer over the radio and give them the run information. Because the computer systems don't talk to each other, that animal control officer has to manually enter the details into their computer dispatch system.
Call 6 learned that if animal control officers are on another call or too busy at the time, the call information often doesn't get entered into the computer system.
"I'm not sure the 13,000 is an accurate number," said Deputy Directory Katie Trennepohl, Indianapolis Animal Care Services.
But when Call 6 told her where the number came from, Trennepohl said sometimes IMPD officers respond to the calls instead of animal control officers and sometimes those calls don't get entered into their system.
Trennepohl went on to say that animal control officers are already stretched thin. The county's 19 animal control officers cover the county 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days per year. Animal care services tells us they receive more than 100 calls each day from the Mayor's Action Center and the Request Indy online portal.
"There are times where we may only have one officer covering the entire county," Trennepohl said
"I think animal control has a lot of great, big-hearted people doing their best. But it does seem like they could use more help," said Tara Harris, the founder of Every Dog Counts, an animal rescue organization in Indianapolis. "I know our animal control officers stretched very thin and they may know there is an animal out there in distress and they want to get there, but they have ten calls there to get through."
So what is being done to fix the problem?
"We're always working on ways to improve communication between our agencies," said Trennepohl.
The Marion County 911 center is in the process of switching to a new computer-aided dispatch system which will allow for more integration with different systems.
"ACS will be having conversations with the Marion County Sheriff's Office and Public Safety Communications to explore the process of integrating our systems to allow for better communication among our agencies," said Brandi Pahl, Chief Communications Officer for Indianapolis Animal Care Services.
In the meantime, if you have an animal-related incident to report and want to ensure that it gets to animal care services, use the Request Indy app (available for iPhones and Android devices) or through the Request Indy website.