Animal advocates push for change in how long strays are held

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INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - Animal welfare advocates hope a change in city ordinance will result in more dogs being adopted. It has to do with how long a stray has to be held until it's put up for adoption.

Currently, Marion County rescue groups that take in strays must wait 30 days before adopting them or even spay, neutering or microchipping the dogs.

The current ordinance, in effect for years, was meant to ensure pet owners had enough time to find or claim their missing dog before it was adopted. But advocates say with help from social media and online sites like IndyLostPetAlert.com, it's become easier and faster to find lost pets.

Darcie Kurtz with the South Side Animal Shelter said cutting the hold time to 14 days will help rescue groups place more dogs more quickly.

"If rescues are sitting on dogs waiting for them to get spayed, neutered or adopted, they can't pull more from the city animal shelter and take in more owner surrenders or more strays, so it slows down the rescue process," Kurtz said.

She said the South Side Animal Shelter was recently granted an exemption from the rule. Like Animal Care Services, they need only hold a stray dog for four days. She said it's helped them free up space. She believes cutting the hold time for all rescue groups will ultimately help Animal Care Services.

"It's going to divert some of the strays from coming into Animal Care Services," she said. "It will allow these rescues to re-home animals more quickly."

Tara Harris, who heads up Every Dog Counts, agrees. Her group helps dogs with medical needs. In December, it took in seven puppies found in a dumpster because they needed to be bottle-fed round the clock.

"They were a medical emergency where we took them in directly," she said. "But if they were older, say four weeks, we would have had to refer them to the shelter."

Harris said her rescue group is unable to take in strays because of the 30-day hold.

"The reason a long hold is such an issue is because as a foster-based rescue, we're always pretty short on foster homes," she said. "They're a valuable commodity so we can't hold a foster spot for a dog on hold for 30 days. It's too long to be feasible."

But she said if the hold time is cut in half, they may be able to take in some strays "relieving some of the burden of Animal Care Services."

The City-County Council will vote on the change Monday.

The legislation's sponsor, Democratic Councilor Zach Adamson, expects it to pass without issue.

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