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City's new animal shelter is delayed two years after announcement despite $5 million spent

The site at Sherman Park is taking longer to remediate than expected
On August 31, 2022, the city announced its plans to build a brand new shelter at Sherman Park— located at N Sherman Dr and E Michigan St, the site of the former RCA plant.
Posted at 3:47 PM, Aug 25, 2023

INDIANAPOLIS— WRTV Investigates has learned plans for a new animal shelter have hit a snag two years after the city announced the project,despite the city spending $5 million so far.

In February 2021, the city announced its plans to build a brand new shelter at Sherman Park— located at N Sherman Dr and E Michigan St, the site of the former RCA plant.

And on August 31, 2022, the city announced it will receive $3 million in grants for the new shelter.

The new animal facility is expected to be at least 62,000 square feet and include more space for the animals, adoption offices, indoor/outdoor kennels and other features.

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The city’s current animal shelter on South Harding Street was never meant to house dogs and cats for long periods of time.

It’s cramped, loud, and it’s often so full the city puts crates in the hallways.

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Shelter volunteers and animal advocates have expressed their concerns to the Indianapolis Animal Care Services Advisory Board about the conditions at the shelter.

Dogs that could have been adopted get so stressed at the packed shelter, they become unadoptable and then euthanized.

“Available dogs are being euthanized and it seems like a quick decision,” said Elaine Thiel, an IACS volunteer at a recent advisory board meeting.

Animal advocates have hoped the city’s new animal shelter would bring much needed relief to the dogs and cats, get more animals adopted and save lives.

WRTV Investigates took our questions to Abbey Brands, the new director at Indianapolis Business and Neighborhood Services (BNS), which oversees IACS.

  • WRTV: What's going on with that? Where is the shelter?
  • Brands: Where we are today is just a delay with the site, unfortunately. And I think it’s good to remember that the Sherman Park site is kind of two projects. There’s the larger city project to get the site rehabilitated for reuse and redevelopment and then there’s the project to place the animal shelter there.
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The city has already spent $5 million remediating the site, however, they need at least another $10 million to make the shelter a reality.

"The city has made two federal funding requests over the last few years and we haven't received any of the funding we applied for unfortunately, so that leaves us in the position of figuring out what options are available to us at this point,” said Brands.

  • WRTV: Is it possible at this point the shelter could be moved to a different location?
  • Brands: I think it's fair it's an option on the table, but if we were to move to another site, there's additional costs that we would have to pay whether it's purchasing the site or leasing the site and we're likely going to run into site remediation issues.
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The Nina Pulliam Trust has already paid $2 million to Friends of Indy Animals for the new shelter and is planning to gift another $1 million in 2024.

The city has not yet spent any of the dollars from the Nina Pulliam Trust.

"I know we have a lot of philanthropic partners who have made commitments and we want to honor those as well,” said Brands.

Brands said the city is looking at other funding sources to get things moving.

"I want to break ground somewhere on some type of site before the end of the year,” said Brands. “That's my main goal."

The city's live release rate is 85% meaning 85% of the animals make it out of the shelter alive.

While that might sound good, that still means hundreds of dogs and cats are being euthanized in the shelter each year and advocates say a new facility would save lives.

Meanwhile, the city is getting ready to unveil a “block captain” program for stray animals.

It will allow the city to have captains in neighborhoods throughout the city who can take in strays and hold them for 48 hours.

Once the 48 hours is up, they can hold onto the dog or take it to the shelter who will try to get it adopted.

The plan will free up space at the shelter while trying to locate the pet’s owner.

“We plan to be providing kits to some degree so dog food, crates, anything you'd need,” said Brands. “We hope to have a formal announcement about that program here soon,”

The city says the program will be modeled after the Keep Indianapolis Beautiful “Adopt a Block” program.