Animal Care and Control director Doug Rae fired
The move comes after a morning meeting with Acting Public Safety Director Mark Renner. Rae held the position for nine months.
Rae's practices came under criticism from union employees and other agencies that work with Animal Care and Control. He took on the job in January 2009 and was put on probation recently following the complaints, which among other things concerned Rae putting more resources towards adoption at the expense of dealing with stray animals.
Renner said Mayor Greg Ballard's administration wanted Rae to focus more on public safety. He also cited statistics to back up the decision to let Rae go.
"So we have 2,000 more calls. We have nearly 2,000 fewer animals taken off the street. The response times have gone up some nine-plus hours this year over last year. And a decision was made to have fewer officers in the field performing those functions. When you look at those numbers, that is inconsistent with the mayor's approach and his vision for the city and for his administration," said Renner.
Teri Kendrick, who has no experience running an animal shelter, will serve as interim director until a permanent replacement can be found.
"I'm not an expert on shelter management but there are best practices out there that I can learn and there are people out there that do have experience and there are many partners in the community that have experience, and I intend to use all of those resources to the fullest extent possible," said Kendrick.
Rae, the city's first professional animal care director, came from Philadelphia. He was hired to turn things after former director Steve Talley resigned amid allegations of animal abuse and neglect occuring on his watch. Rae vowed to increase the adoption rate but clashed with union employees, who said he was "disrespectful." Several animal welfare groups, meantime, including the Humane Society of Indianapolis, said Rae refused to collaborate.
"For whatever reason, we didn't have Animal Care and Control at the table in that process and it's frustrating, because we need them. They're the biggest kennel in town," said John Alshire, Humane Society of Indianapolis.
While Indy Feral's Lisa Tudor declined to comment about her interactions with Rae, she said, "I don't think it has to strictly be public safety or animal welfare. I think we can have a healthy balance between the two."
Rae's probationary period came to an end last week. It also coincided with Warren Patitz, an advisory board chairman for Animal Care and Control, being removed from his position by the mayor's office. He was appointed by the mayor last year to head the board.
Rae's supporters held an afternoon news conference at the Broad Ripple Dog Park. While not surprised at Rae's firing, Patitz said he was "disappointed in the Humane Society and Indy Feral for orchestrating a campaign to oust Mr. Rae."
Patitz and others disputed Renner's numbers and the reasons for Rae's firing.
"It's not about the animals. It's all about politics, power and control," said Patitz.
Greg Brush, another Rae supporter, said he feared the shelter "would go back to the way it was before Doug Rae was on board." He said Rae was trying to improve conditions by making employees accountable.
As for the shelter's latest director, Brush said, "I think she'll find it a challenging job to do well, because you have a lot of people to satisfy."
Kendrick, though expected to be on the job just six months, becomes the fourth shelter director in the last two years. She said her first order of business will be a review of operations.
Renner said as he searches for a replacement, the city will consider other possibilities of the troubled shelter, including privitization.