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IACS raises pay for union workers, pleads to community for help controlling shelter overcrowding

The Indianapolis facility has been on emergency intake status since February because of the overcrowding and the understaffing.

INDIANAPOLIS — Local animal shelters are asking for support from neighbors and city leaders.

A lot of them are feeling burned out, saying they're overworked and underpaid. Right now, Indianapolis Animal Care Services has more than 200 animals in their care in their facility. At certain points this year, that number has topped 300.

Now, shelter workers say they need the community's help.

"We are feeling the emergency. We are feeling the crisis, for lack of a better word," said IACS manager of community outreach Roxie Randall.

The facility has been on emergency intake status since February because of the overcrowding and the understaffing. They've only recently taken down crates in their hallways.

"These animals are spending the majority of their days inside of their kennels. Without staffing or volunteer help, they don't get to go outside for very long. It's heartbreaking being an animal lover and knowing there are so many animals here that are deserving of that forever home," said Randall. 

The reasons for the staffing shortage are burnout and low wages.

"It's really hard when you're giving animals every bit of yourself, but it's not enough," said Randall. 

Amber Marks with German Shepherd Rescue Indy works with IACS and other local animal shelters. She said the crisis inside many local rescues has never been worse.

"The pressure becomes too much and you get hopeless. Why should I kill myself for another dog when there's just going to be another?" said Marks. 

Credit: WTHR
Until recently, IACS had crates set up for dogs in their hallways.

She believes if the local government doesn't step in and work with rescues to create an ordinance to discourage backyard breeding and encourage spay and neutering, this could have a devastating impact.

"They are not just numbers, they are actually living creatures. Someone has to walk that animal down the aisle. The last walk to be euthanized. For what? Because someone didn't care enough about their animal and there is no space," said Marks.

IACS is hosting an adoption event this Saturday, April 21 at the shelter on South Harding Street from noon to 5 p.m.

They also announced they are increasing salaries for union positions with IACS, effective immediately.

Brian Madison, director of the Department of Business and Neighborhood Services, announced the raises in a statement: 

“Today, alongside AFSCME Local 725, Indianapolis Animal Care Services announced that salaries for union positions at the shelter will be increasing, effective immediately. The retention and attraction of a talented workforce is what allows our city to function at a high level. We know competitive pay is essential to accomplish that. 

A city-wide compensation study that’s coming soon will be a longer-term solution to correct a decades-old challenge. In the meantime, on a case-by-case basis, we are addressing acute situations, which is the case here. IACS is also working to temporarily add 2 part-time Senior Animal Care Tech positions to help on days when fewer staff are scheduled, such as weekends and holidays. IACS, with assistance from the Department of Business and Neighborhood Services, is also exploring the possibility of having a private vendor come in to temporarily help with cleaning kennels so staff can be more focused on caring for the animals, giving them a better chance at leaving the shelter by adoption, foster, or rescue. 

For IACS, this is the latest step in the City’s ongoing commitment to the shelter. In the last year, the City has invested more funds into IACS operations for things such as the shelter’s diversion program, Indy CARES. At the same time, planning and design are also underway for a new shelter facility at Sherman Park with groundbreaking expected next spring.”

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