Archive for August, 2009|Monthly archive page

Progress continues at Indianapolis Animal Care and Control

Monday, August 24th, 2009

In spite of the “secret” huddling of some city county councilors with a small representation from the animal welfare community with/and at the Humane Society of Indianapolis to express to city officials their displeasure for Administrator Doug Rae (see preceding post), …improvements continue at the city shelter.

What are some of the improvements?

• Negative signage at the front entrance and lobby has been removed
• Volunteer hours have been extended to 7AM – 10PM / 7 days a week
• Improved cleaning and sanitation protocols have been instituted
• Isolation areas are established: 27 cat isolation cages and 10 dog isolation cages (at no expense to the taxpayer)
• Replacement of 30 missing stainless steel cat cage doors (at no expense to the tax payer)
• New management team in place
• Evening shift of kennel staff added for extended hours, 7 AM – 12 MN
• Volunteer veterinary medical personnel have been welcomed
• Friendly, bully-breed dogs are no longer automatically killed
• Adoptions are up 267 from this time last year 1,492 (09) vs 1225 (08)
• Deaths down by 1312
• Field response times improved
• Animal control officers have responded to 11 percent more calls so far this year than they did in the same period last year
• Enrollment in the mayor’s six sigma program to improve response times even more.

Indianapolis STAR August 13, 2009

Residents and officials worried that eliminating dogcatchers has hurt animal control service might take some comfort from numbers released at a city shelter meeting Wednesday.

Operations manager Lt. Jerry Bippus said animal control officers have responded to 11 percent more calls so far this year than they did in the same period last year despite the fact that incoming shelter director Douglas Rae cut two of the 21 officer positions there.

In the first seven months of last year, officers answered 19,968 calls, Bippus said. In the first seven months of this year, they responded to 22,191. Rae said the shelter is using workers’ time more efficiently.

Rae was placed on probation last week. Acting Public Safety Director Mark Renner declined to comment on the move but said one of his concerns was Rae’s decision to cut animal control officers.

* * *

Why are Animal Care/Control Officers (ACO’s) who risk their lives dailey, referred to by the STAR as “dog catchers?”

Would progress expect an absence of resistance (ie: “secret” meetings / media-reporting snippets) moving through the status quo?

Move to ACT
Stop the Bell

Cannibalism within animal welfare organizations takes precedent over focusing on animals

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

The observations presented in this recent posting are worth sharing so that the recent campaign to use city county councillors as leverage to remove Animal Control Administrator Doug Rae from his position can be seen with better clarity.

As improvements continue at Indianapolis Animal Care & Control (IACC), a small group, including the Humane Society of Indianapolis and councilors move to oust new IACC administrator in secret session

One year ago, a group of 50 people filed a grievance with the Indianapolis Animal Care & Control advisory board bringing forth allegations of mistreatment and abuse of animals in their care and violations of Indianapolis law and internal procedure at the city’s shelter. Two independent investigators confirmed the allegations. Although no legal action was taken, then-administrator Steve Talley resigned, followed soon by the long-time kennel manager Kirsten Vantwoud (now employed by Humane Society of Indianapolis).

A search for a new, highly-qualified administrator for the troubled facility found one in the hiring of Doug Rae. Mr. Rae had appreciable sheltering experience, and a bold vision for reform of the shelter and increasing the number of animals saved from about 7,000 per year to over 16,000 of the 18,000 that the shelter typically accepts.

Since beginning in January of this year, Administrator Rae has had more challenges than he had ever imagined. By his own admission, his job in at IACC has been the toughest. It has taken 6 months to complete his management team. Despite the considerable obstacles, today’s IACC is not the same shelter it was in 2008.

There have been too many improvements within the shelter to attempt to list them all, but they include: new cleaning practices and chemicals, isolation of sick animals, new, larger cages, and 2 shifts of kennel workers. Two of the innovations have already been publicly visible — permitting the conditional adoption of dogs that pass evaluation and appear to be pit bulls, and the amazingly successful July 4th adoption event. This well-publicized event was held at the IACC shelter and the adoption fee was reduced to $4 per animal. Over 150 animals were adopted in a single day! Definitely a record for Indianapolis, but also a bold effort to place more animals into homes.

Has Rae accomplished his goals yet? Not by a long shot, and he is the first to admit it. While everyone, including Rae, would like more progress at the shelter, the fact that he recognizes – and admits to – the shelter’s shortcomings is an incredible improvement from last year. when concerns taken to IACC management were dismissed and problems observed were denied. Doug Rae is a man with a deep passion for the animals, but as a leader, he focuses on solutions and facts and has no interest in making excuses.

While he is arguably the most visionary and qualified administrator to ever helm the shelter, his straight-forward nature hasn’t made him the most popular. Previous administrators have been political appointees with no sheltering experience, but with much more political savvy.

While this release was originally intended to be just about the improvements made and still upcoming at IACC, disturbing information came to light about efforts by a small group of animal welfare interests and city-county councilors who attempted to bully the city to remove Administrator Rae from his job in a secret meeting.

The information on this meeting is sketchy, and the participants have thus far refused to comment openly. Apparently, on July 25th, a meeting was hosted at the Humane Society of Indianapolis (HSI). The meeting with representatives of the Public Safety division was insisted upon by councilors, which sources say included Benjamin Hunter, Christine Scales, Mike Speedy, Angela Mansfield, Mary Moriarity-Adams and Virginia Cain. Accompanying the councilors were representatives from local animal groups, apparently including Humane Society of Indianapolis, IndyFeral, F.I.D.O and Indy Pit Crew. While the specifics of the discussions remain unknown, the nature of this meeting raises some very serious concerns.

What complaint would be so serious to think it necessary to remove Administrator Rae by secret session after only 6 months on the job? So far, we have been unable to get participants to respond to this question. But what we do know is the procedure described in Indianapolis law § 251-335(2) for bringing forth a grievance relating to IACC was not followed. This grievance procedure allows for concerns or problems to be heard and addressed publicly. In short, it provides the people of Indianapolis the chance to be involved in decisions that affect them.

But for some reason, the parties that orchestrated this meeting seemed to believe that the public should not be able to participate in this discussion. Perhaps they believed that their grievances were so special, that they were beyond the laws of the city. Oddly, one of the people not present at that meeting was Administrator Rae himself. I think all of us would hope that if allegations were being made against our job performance, we would have the opportunity to hear and refute whatever allegations were being made. This sure doesn’t seem to be the case at the July meeting.

Since all information surrounding the meeting has thus far been kept from the public, we are left with only questions:

Were the councilors acting in the interest of the city, and considering the welfare of the roughly 18,000 animals that will go through the shelter this year?

What group were the councilors representing, and in what capacity were they functioning in calling such a meeting? Were they serving the interests of their district, the people of Indianapolis as a whole, or were they perhaps acting as the mouthpiece for a group with a narrow, perhaps even self-serving interest?

Why did the councilors or those from the animal groups they represented not use the existing mechanism for airing grievances?

Did any of these councilors attempt to discuss the animal groups’ concerns with Administrator Rae and achieve a practical, professional solution prior to convening this secret meeting?

Was there a deliberate effort to deny the public (and Administrator Rae) the opportunity to openly discuss concerns about the performance of IACC?

Why did Humane Society of Indianapolis host and participate in this meeting? Wouldn’t they want to avoid involvement in the criticism of the leader of a sister organization?

By city ordinance § 251-332(3), a representative of HSI sits as a voting member on the IACC advisory board. Does HSI’s participation in the July meeting represent a conflict of interest?

Was the July meeting an effort to achieve government change by bullying, rather than by due process?

These are questions that absolutely must be answered. They also serve to perfectly illustrate the challenges faced by Rae while trying to perform the business of reforming IACC. Many people would’ve simply packed up and left after receiving personal threats and twice having their vehicle vandalized, all in the first two weeks on the job. Anyone who talks to Doug Rae understands that he’s in Indianapolis to stay, and his job is to save lives. He is a man singularly suited for the job, and we believe he can finish what he has started, if given the support he needs.