City begins planning for new Animal Care Services site on east side

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INDIANAPOLIS– The former RCA plant, where east side residents made good livings building television sets for decades, was first abandoned, then an eyesore, then torn down and now the property is a vacant lot.

But in two years, that site is planned to be the home of Indianapolis’ new Animal Care Services facility.

“They should build something there,” said Sherry Dugan with her dog Bailey May on her front porch within viewing range of the proposed facility. “Anything is better than an empty lot.”

And, said Katie Trennepohl, Deputy Director of Animal Care Services, just about anything is better than the current facility in the 2600 block of South Harding Street.

“This building is just failing,” she said. “The mechanical systems, the plumbing systems, the HVAC are all just continual issues and the City just keeps investing money into this building but we’re just trying to keep our head above water.”

A contract was signed at the end of the July with KRM Architecture+ to design construction of the new facility with a total price tag not to exceed $26.4 million.

“I think it’s important for the public to know that we’re not looking to build another shelter like this one,” said Trennepohl. “We want to be a resource center for the community and we want to support pet owners so they can keep their pets and the never have to enter the shelter in the first place.”

Every year, 15,000 animals are housed at the current shelter facility with an adoption rate of 90%.

Trennepohl hopes the new building will boost that number.

“We will have more visitation rooms inside so that people can meet with animals inside versus right now we’ve got people meeting outside regardless of the weather,” she said.

When the current building was designed in the 1980s, Indianapolis’ philosophy was to euthanize instead of adopt with no more than 200 animals finding new homes.

“It was not designed with the humane housing of animals in mind,” said Trennepohl.  “The animals are all facing each other which is very stressful for them. The cats are housed right across the hallway from the dogs which is very stressful for a cat. We have no space designated for housing exotic animals like rabbits which are currently housed in a small closet-like room.

“The animals will have double-sided kennels so they can get away from the view of the other animals so it’ll be easier for staff to clean, everyone will have a view to the outside and then easy access to get outside because a tired dog is a happy dog,” she said. “A lot of the design that we’re talking about is about moving animals through the building more quickly and housing them more humanely because if they’re more comfortable here, they’re gonna be more adoptable, which means a shorter length of stay and we’ll be able to help more animals.”

The City also hopes to help the Sherman Park Redevelopment near the intersection of East Michigan and Lasalle Streets where the new facility will be built.

“We’re bringing jobs to the area,” said Trennepohl. “We have about 75 employees ranging from our senior animal care technicians who do the daily care of the animals up to our animal control officers or vet techs, so, we do have vacancies there almost year round that we wound be hiring for.”

A block north of the anticipated site, Carrie Dugan sat with her dog Squeak.

“It’s gonna be awesome. It’s gonna give them more room for animals. It’s gonna help them take care of more animals. They’re gonna get more animals off the street and get them the help that they need,” she said. “Animals are family. To me, animals are family, not just pets.”

“I don’t mind a barking dog,” said Sherry Dugan as Bailey May sat quietly on her lap.

IACS will host a Wavetastic Wednesday event this week where dogs will spend the afternoon in outside run areas showing off for prospective adoption.

Saturday from noon until 9 p.m., IACS will hold late night adoption hours for free adoptions of animals that have been implanted with a microchip and have had their shots.

For more information, check out the IACS Facebook page.

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