INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Dec. 29, 2014) – Monday marked the first day on the job for the new leader at Indianapolis Animal Care and Control--a tough position to take on with budget shortfalls and a lot of turnover in the last decade.
“I am the 11th director in 12 years, but I believe... where the biggest challenges exist, that's where the biggest impact can be made,” said new director Dennis Papenmeier.
As FOX59 News reported in November, a task force found there wasn’t enough staff or money budgeted to feed the animals. City leaders say tax caps made it difficult to share money between other departments, like police and fire.
Monday marked a new chapter for the agency. After working in city government for about 20 years, Papenmeier says he understands the funding challenges ahead.
“We’ve started that conversation with city county council to say, look, if you believe we need more funding, you guys are the ones that fund us, so let's begin those conversations on how we can do that,” he said.
Like most city departments, public safety leaders say property tax caps and the recession hurt IACC’s budget. To make up for the difference, the agency has relied on help from volunteers and donors.
"We work with a great group called ‘The Friends of Indianapolis Animal Care and Control’ which is a separate 501C3 organization that people can donate to in order to improve the situation of the Animal Care and Control facility,” Papenmeier said.
A former IACC leader is also suggesting other solutions, like a "Pull Fee” that could potentially bring in thousands of extra dollars.
“A pull fee is a fee that is charged to rescue groups for taking animals out of the shelter. The general philosophy around here is, while it is in the paperwork that we should be charging one, it's not a good idea because we're trying to get those animals out of the shelter and I think it would discourage rescue groups from pulling from us,” said Dawn Contas, community outreach coordinator.
While city leaders work on solutions, Papenmeier says some changes will be made right away.
“As I began the conversations with Director Riggs and Deputy Director Washington, one of the very first things we agreed upon initially was that we need to have a veterinarian back on staff and we need to have a deputy director of enforcement and those are the two critical things that will allow me to do my job and continue to make these improvements that are necessary.”
Numbers already show improvement. In 2010 the live-save rate was less than 50%. Now ACC is on track to have a rate of more than 70%.