Animal Care Services "backlogged beyond belief" because of bitter cold

Animal Control officers have been busy helping get abandoned pets in out of the cold.
Animal Control Cold Pets
Cold Pets

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - It was the first call of the day for Animal Care Services Officers Bowling and Sayer. They pulled up to the near east side home after a man called worried about his neighbor's dogs.

The man said, "they're outside dogs. The only ones inside are the puppies. I just want to make sure they don't get killed or freeze to death. I got one myself."

The two officers would respond to a total of 17 calls between them before day's end - and that would barely put a dent in the backlog. The number of calls from people worried about pets being left outside has surged since temperatures dropped to zero and below.

"We're backlogged beyond belief," Bowling said, noting ACS has implemented mandatory overtime for its 19 officers to catch up with the backlog. As of Friday afternoon, there were 289 pending runs.

Bowling said there is an urgency to it, noting one dog was found frozen to death January 1, with three of its companions also left to brave the elements. Friday, IMPD issued a summons for the owner's arrest. She faces four counts of abandonment and neglect of an animal.

He said leaving dogs out in the bitter cold isn't just cruel, it's a violation of city ordinance, which says when the temperature drops below 20 degrees, dogs can't be left outside, unless they're in a climate-controlled shed or building with access to fresh water.

Bowling said that wasn't the case at the east side where he and Sayer began their day. Since the owners weren't home, the officers had to wait for a search warrant to remove the dogs. Then they had to figure out how to get the dogs out of the locked, fenced-in yard. Once they did, it was a struggle them loaded in the truck. Though friendly, they didn't want to leave.

Unlike some of the dogs the officers come across, these two appeared to be healthy and well-fed.

Bowling said of the owners, "they tried to do the right thing. They put heaters in the shed but they kept it open so they couldn't keep it warm enough for the two dogs, so when they come in (to pickup their dogs) we'll see what way they want to go."

If the dogs' owners are cited for violating the ordinance, they could face a fine up to $200. But Bowling says he's most concerned about educating people, making sure they know the consequences of leaving their pets outside.

"I always tell people think about it," he said. "I understand your dog has fur, but if you walk outside without, see how cold it gets and we'll see what happens."