City animal cops on the prowl for cold pets

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Jan 7, 2014)– Indianapolis Animal Care & Control Officer Austin Webb guided his four-wheel drive SUV down a snowbound northwest side alley. Webb and his partner were tipped by a neighbor to two backyard kennels of dogs exposed to the sub-zero temperatures of Central Indiana’s big chill.

As Webb approached the property he was greeted by a chorus of barks. There, inside two large fenced in pens, were ten huskies, bred for cold weather, but still shivering and exposed to the elements. Their water troughs were frozen solid, there was no trace of food in the kennels and the only shelter were plastic 55-gallon drums sunk into the earth and lined with straw.

“We’re going to have to call for backup,” said Webb. “We can’t take ten dogs in our truck.”

Several knocks at the backdoor, and the howls of the huskies, finally brought a young woman outside who argued that IMPD officers told her the dogs were okay to stay outside.

“Look at that short-haired one there,” the officer pointed out. “He’s shivering.”

The owner agreed to take the pets in the house, but Webb knows other officers will have to doublecheck the address in the days to come as he assumes the dogs will be back in the kennels minutes after he departs.

ACC has received twice the typical number of neglect complaints during the recent cold snap. At least 17 animals have been surrendered for voluntary emergency shelter by owners who can’t protect them from the weather. Three deceased dogs have been delivered to the ACC facility on South Harding Street though officials don’t know if the deaths are weather-related.

“We have officers on the streets 24 hours a day,” said Administrator Dan Shackle. “Our run total is down compared to the same last week but our neglect cases are more than doubled. That’s primarily we’re going out on animals that are confined that are out in the weather that we know we can respond to.

“We have confiscated dogs and cats that are outside in the weather.”

Officer Webb knew it would be a chore to confiscate and house ten huskies as the Animal Care & Control facility is challenged to house the animals it already has after multiple system breakdowns have left half the center unheated.

“It was a power outage and then there was a natural gas valve and then it was a boiler and now we’re having issues with the control system that controls the air handlers,” said Shackle. “We still have half the building without heat…just happens its the half that houses the animals. We’ve taken measures to transfer heat from the warm part of the building to the kennels in the part where the animals are. We are maintaining 60 degrees so its safe for the animals.”

One kennel where the temperature dipped to 40 degrees because its two walls are exposed to outdoor cold was evacuated.

Shackle said Walmart donated ten space heaters to keep parts of the facility warm.