INDIANAPOLIS -- If you call city animal control about a stray cat or a neglected dog, you could be waiting a while.
Call 6 Investigates learned Indianapolis Animal Care Services enforcement operations has a backlog of more than 750 runs.
Animal lover Jim Hale is just one of many concerned citizens who has experienced long wait times as a result of that backlog.
Hale was working on the west side of Indianapolis when he spotted a dog tied up in the woods.
“A male pit bull was leashed to a tree,” Hale said. “His bowl of food or water was laying there, but it was knocked over. You could see his ribs.”
The city shelter was closed, so Hale contacted the Mayor’s Action Center and asked for animal control to come out.
“I still haven’t gotten a call back yet, and it’s been six days,” said Hale. “Nothing.”
Indianapolis Animal Care Services enforcement operations normal backlog is around 100-150 runs, but the current backlog is around 750.
The backup includes first calls as well as follow-up runs, according to IACS deputy director Katie Trennepohl, and those requests can come via phone and RequestIndy.
“With the summer, we see an influx of calls for care and treatment which are going to be those neglect calls and for dog bites and animal attacks, and those types of incidents happen more often this time of year,” said Trennepohl.
Right now, they’re prioritizing calls based on urgency and public safety.
“So if an animal is biting someone or attacking another animal, we get out there, or if the heat is above 90 degrees we feel that is more critical for the animals,” said Trennepohl.
Priority Level 1 calls include dog bites and attacks, Priority Level 2 calls include dogs that are on chains but are not in immediate danger and Priority Level 3 calls would include a stray dog that is ready to be picked up from a citizen.
The city says the backlog is a result of a high volume of calls and complaints about animals in the summer and a shortage of animal control workers.
The reality is, the city is down eight animal control officers.
Staffing levels call for 19 animal control officers, but right now they have only 11 of those positions filled.
“It’s a hard job,” said Trennepohl. “It's hard for people who get into it because they love animals and then they see them in neglectful situations. It definitely takes its toll on you."
Officers start at $16.65/hour. However, the city offers opportunities to make more on nights and weekends.
“Ideally we would pay every employee in the city more money, but there’s only so much money to go around, and we have to be responsible with it,” said Trennepohl.
IACS has four new officers starting this month, and they’re working to fill even more positions.
You can apply online. Training is provided, and you need to have a high school diploma and live in Marion County.
In the meantime, IACS is asking pet owners to be responsible and if you call about an animal, provide as much detail as possible so officers can prioritize the call.
“It’s overwhelming to look at the number of runs that we have,” said Trennepohl.
As for Jim Hale, he’s not happy about the backlog.
“It’s very terrible,” said Hale. “If people would spay or neuter their pet we wouldn’t have this problem.”
For now, he’s taken matters and the dog into his own hands.
"I unleashed him, I put him in my truck, and he jumped right in the passenger side,” said Hale. “When I tried to leave he laid his head right down in my lap."
A happy ending for the dog Hale found, but so many other animals are still waiting for help.
The Animal Care Services Advisory Board plans to discuss the backlog at its meeting this Thursday.
“We would like to have more information on a plan to resolve the delay in completion of runs,” said board member Christian Mosburg. "We would like to know what can be done to complete them in a more timely fashion given the reduced amount of ACOs and if there is anything we can do to encourage other organizations to assist if necessary. This year seems particularly bad for delays, and we know that something needs to be done very soon to prevent animals from dying because of delays.”
IACS plans to ask the Indianapolis City-County Council for more money in a budget meeting later this month, and if approved, some of those funds would be used to address the run backlog.