Shake-up at Animal Care and Control - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

Shake-up at Animal Care and Control

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Paul Okeson, Mayor Greg Ballard's chief of staff Paul Okeson, Mayor Greg Ballard's chief of staff
Warren Patitz Warren Patitz
Doug Rae Doug Rae

Mary Milz/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - The director of Animal Care and Control, Doug Rae, is still on the job, but some wonder for how much longer.

Warren Patitz, who was removed as Animal Care and Control Advisory Board chairman Wednesday, said, "I'm not surprised at all. I think it's all part of a calculated campaign to get rid of Mr. Rae. There's no question they will eliminate Rae."

Acting Public Safety Director Mark Renner put Doug Rae on probation in August. While Renner hasn't commented on Rae specifically, he has voiced concerns about Rae's decision to devote more resources toward adoption than picking up strays.

The mayor's Chief of Staff Paul Okeson said stray dogs rank as the number one complaint to the Mayor's Action Center.

"We still have people waiting days for stray animals to be picked up and it puts families at risk and it's not the mission of this administration," Okeson said.

Patitz said, "From my perspective there's a lot of political manipulation going on," noting "we have 55 less reported bites so far this year than the same time last year."

Rae, who's worked in other shelters across the country, took over Animal Care and Control in January. Then-public safety director Scott Newman hired him to turn things around at the troubled shelter.

Former shelter director Steve Talley resigned last September amid allegations of animal abuse and neglect on his watch.

Three months after Rae began, Newman praised him for upping the adoption rate, saying the shelter was making progress.

At the time Rae told reporters, "I'm surrounded by people who believe in me."

But some employees began questioning Rae's leadership. In August, several workers accused Rae of mismanagement. They said the shelter was overflowing with animals, stacked in crates, that some were sick and dying.

The union president said Rae didn't respect employees, calling the shelter a "hostile work environment."

Rae's defenders said he was instigating change and workers didn't like it. Last week several of Rae's supporters demonstrated on the Circle.

Michael Cacia said, "Every time [Rae] tries to make rules, the union gets involved so he can't do his job properly."

Patitz said he worries about the future of the shelter.

"I'm concerned we're going to return to the way it was prior to Mr. Rae, which saw a lot of animal neglect and abuse. I think we're going to return to more animals being killed," he said.

Okeson said, "At the end of the day, many understand we can't save the lives of animals at the expense of the quality of life and public safety in the neighborhoods."

Reached by phone, Rae said he was "very sad" to see Patitz removed, but he declined to comment on his own situation.

Rae's probation period ends Wednesday.

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