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Indianapolis consultant to study city's animal welfare crisis

City shelter's live release rate is 82%, which is the worst rate since 2015
An Indianapolis consultant will spend the next 10 months examining the city’s animal welfare crisis.
Posted at 4:36 PM, Sep 12, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-13 07:01:04-04

INDIANAPOLIS— An Indianapolis consultant will spend the next 10 months examining the city’s animal welfare crisis.

Shelters are beyond full with dogs and cats, shelter volunteers and workers are burned out, and too many animals are being born every day in Central Indiana.

The city is turning to an outside consultant for answers and solutions.

They’re partnering with the nonprofit FIDO (Friends of Indianapolis Dogs Outside), which signed a contract with Hedges, an Indianapolis-based consultant that works with companies, nonprofits and government agencies.


Starting October 1, Hedges will look into the city’s animal crisis by talking to shelters, rescues and members of the community about problems and solutions.

The project will cost $58,538 and is expected to be funded with donations and grants.

According to the contract, the consultant will hold listening sessions, focus groups, and phone interviews and also conduct a comparative analysis of other cities with model animal welfare systems.

WRTV Investigates met with Abbey Brands, the city’s new director of Business and Neighborhood Services (BNS), which oversees Indianapolis Animal Care Services.

  • WRTV: What do you say to people that say, uh a consultant?
  • Brands: I think it's important that we are all working together to solve this problem. It's not one organization's problem. It's all of us collectively. Sometimes it takes a consultant to bring all of us to the table and getting the appropriate research and making the appropriate recommendations.
  • WRTV: Once that report is finished, what will you do with it?
  • Brands: I'm looking forward to what recommendations it makes. I don't know if it will come down to funding and staffing or whatever it may be. But I'm certain there will be some policy recommendations within that document.
  • WRTV: Who will pay for it?
  • Brands: FIDO is currently covering the cost. They had a charitable donation of about $10,000 to start off. We've also reached out to our standard philanthropic partners to see if they will also fill that gap.

According to FIDO, the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust will cover the cost of the project.
The city’s live release rate is currently 82 percent, meaning 82 percent of animals make it out of the shelter alive through adoptions, rescues, or returning to owner.

That is the worst live release rate since 2015. Just two years ago, it was 90%.

RELATED | City says animals will die without fosters or adopters | Animal shelter workers verbally and physically assaulted

Since January 2022, the city has euthanized more than 2,000 animals. Volunteers say many of them were adoptable.

RELATED | City takes new approach to shelter staffing

WRTV Investigates also found the city’s new animal shelter is delayed 2.5 years after it was announced.

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.

Here’s how you can help:

FIDO Statement on Hedges Contract

“Our city-wide strategic planning will include input from local animal welfare organizations, in addition to pet owners, and other stakeholders in our community. We want to make sure that we are hearing from all sectors impacting animal welfare. In addition, we will be seeking information and guidance from other communities who have begun solving some of the issues we face. We are lucky to have Hedges as our planning consultants to guide the intensive process using their objective data-driven approach.”