Questions surround top choice for Animal Control director

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The City of Indianapolis will soon name a new director for Animal Care and Control.

While the Department of Public Safety, which oversees the shelter, hasn't yet named the top candidate for the job, critics are already scrutinizing the City's top choice. And it's not because of who he is, it's because of what they fear the City will expect him to do.

DPS spokesman Al Larsen confirms they're in the process of offering the job to a veterinarian. If he accepts the job, that person will serve as shelter chief and shelter veterinarian. Instead of filling two separate positions, those two roles will be combined and that's what worries animal welfare advocates.

Sue Hobbs, who chairs the Indianapolis Animal Care and Control Board calls that "a huge mistake, because they are two different skill sets. You cannot combine those two [positions] and have both done successfully. That facility needs a leader and a veterinarian."

While Larsen said it was premature to comment on the changes until the hire is finalized, he indicated the new model addresses those concerns and will lead to improvements in how the shelter is run.

That doesn't satisfy skeptics who have long argued the state's largest animal shelter is under-staffed, under-funded and typically ignored by the city.

Democratic Councilor Zach Adamson calls it "riddled with problems."

Adamson served on a task force assigned to come up new criteria for the director's position after another stepped down in April. The new hire will be the shelter's 11th leader in 12 years.

"Without passing judgment too soon, I have extreme concerns (about combining the positions)," Adamson said. "I fear, and I think that was the sentiment of the committee, that we're setting that person up to fail...we were told that's not what they were going to do and I thought they understood why it was a bad idea."

John Alshire, who heads the Humane Society of Indianapolis, sat on that same task force.

"Unless there's something I don't know about his person, he or she would have to be Superman or woman to pull off both these jobs," Alshire said. "I'm the CEO and not the veterinarian and if I were to be replaced or if I retired, they're not going to hire a veterinarian, they're going to hire an administrator who knows how to lead the organization and work with people and so forth."

Teri Kendrick, who served as director for four years was also "disappointed" to hear DPS was combining the two jobs. Kendrick is a former city prosecutor.

"In my opinion, enforcement is the most important part (of the job,)" she said. "You have to know how to enforce the code."

She and others said, they hope they're wrong. They hope DPS has it figured out, hope they have a plan that will keep the new chief on the job far longer than most of his predecessors. But like most of those before him, he too starts off facing yet another budget cut for Animal Care and Control, this one to the tune of $185,000.

Larsen is hopeful DPS will name a new shelter chief sometime next week.