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'They get violent' Indy area animal shelter workers say they're verbally, physically assaulted the public

Frustration stems from appointment system and understaffing
“Everyone rolls up and they have automatically decided they will not take no for an answer,” said Dayna Warren, a vet assistant at IACS. “They call us names. They get violent with us.”
Posted at 4:20 PM, Nov 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-21 10:21:48-05

INDIANAPOLIS — Workers at the city’s animal shelter say members of the public are verbally assaulting them on a daily basis, and sometimes, things get physical.

The issue came up at this week’s Indianapolis Animal Care Services (IACS) Advisory Board meeting.

Indianapolis Animal Care Services is understaffed, and because of that, the shelter has been operating on emergency intake status.

That means when someone shows up at the city shelter on South Harding Street to surrender an animal, workers tell them they have to make an appointment—and sometimes members of the public have to wait weeks or months to get in.

The shelter will only accept animals without an appointment in emergency situations, such as if the dog is injured or an immediate danger to the public.

While the information on emergency status is posted on the city shelter’s website, workers say a lot of people show up to the shelter expecting to immediately surrender an animal.

“Everyone rolls up and they have automatically decided they will not take no for an answer,” Dayna Warren, a vet assistant at IACS said. “They call us names. They get violent with us.”

Warren told the advisory board workers concerned for their safety with the public.

“They don't care what we have to say,” Warren said. “They want this dog out of their life right now. The amount of times we feel threatened and exhausted, and it's such a fine line because we need to know information about these dogs.”

Warren said they try to speak with members of the public who are wanting to surrender an animal.

“We need to know if it's had a bite,” Warren said. “We need to know if it's good with kids. They're not going to tell us that if they're screaming at us."

According to the Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters from the Association of Shelter Veterinarians, the standard of care for shelters is 15 minutes of care per animal each day.

Current staffing levels at IACS have the city falling below this standard every single day.

According to IACS:

  • Two days per week, they have staff to care for 39% of the animals at the shelter
  • Four days per week, they have staff to care for 49% of the animals at the shelter
  • One day per week, they have enough staff to care for 88% of the animals at the shelter

The city is working on increasing staffing and is also asking the public to help by volunteering, fostering or adopting dogs and cats.

Back in April, the city announced 13% raises for Indianapolis Animal Care Services but even that doesn’t appear to be helping much.

“We’ve already lost people because they can go to a warehouse job and make more money than they can do here where it smells bad, is physically hard,” IACS Deputy Director Katie Trennepohl said. “That comes with significant risk. The hours aren’t great. There’s a lot of things working against.”

Trennepohl said they’re working on getting IACS workers de-escalation training to help deal with the public.

The city is also looking at having volunteers follow up with adoptive families to help them through the process.

“Adopters will not listen when we tell them this decompression period is crucial,” Warren said. “So we are euthanizing our friends. We are euthanizing good dogs who could thrive in these homes if only they would listen. That is probably the primary factor in returns is adopters ignoring advice of adoption counselors.”

Fewer dogs and cats are making it out of the city’s shelter alive.

The live release rate is dropping and is currently 82.5 percent for dogs and cats, which means 82.5 percent of the animals are leaving the shelter alive – through rescues, adoptions, fosters or by being reunited with their owner.

In 2016, WRTV reported the live release rate was 85 percent.

The city also partners with IndyCARES for families who need help keeping their pet in the home.

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