Animal welfare alliance 

A coalition of local animal rights groups has joined forces with the city's largest public and private animal shelters to create a long-term plan of action for improving the welfare of stray, abandoned and unwanted animals in Indianapolis.

On Tuesday, February 1, Humane Society of Indianapolis Director John Aleshire presented Mayor Ballard with the group's report, based on months of research and community outreach.

Ã's we continue to improve the services of Animal Care and Control, partnerships with groups and individuals are "essential in order for us to achieve our goals of humane treatment of animals and safe neighborhoods," said the mayor about the alliance and long-term plan.

Last fall, the Central Indiana Community Foundation received a grant from the Efroymson Family Fund for the purpose of addressing long-term animal welfare in Indianapolis. CICF contacted the Humane Society of Indianapolis to lead the effort.

"I think it was just the right time," says Aleshire about the resulting coalition. "These groups were very gracious to me and having us all remember it is about the animals, and focusing on our common goals, and getting acquainted just made this the right time. CICF stepped up and provided the funding."

In addition to HSI, representatives from FIDO, Cats Haven, Indy Pit Crew, Indy Feral, Southside Animal Shelter and Spay Neuter Services of Indiana and other organizations are part of the newly formed Indianapolis Animal Welfare Alliance that ultimately created the report which outlines a common vision and desired goals for improving animal welfare conditions in the city.

Most important, city agencies and officials, including Indianapolis Animal Care and Control, are also a part of the coalition and committed to the collaborative efforts of the group.

The plan details goals and initiatives in the areas of animal welfare, prevention, placement, outreach and safety and names a chairperson responsible for overseeing the implementation and advancement in the various areas.

The plan for animal welfare is organized in two loose categories of animal control (safety of humans) and animal care (saving abused, abandoned and unwanted animals). The city's largest public shelter, Animal Care and Control, will take the lead in the control category, while the largest private shelter, Humane Society of Indianapolis, will take the lead in care. In both cases, committed and necessary networks of animal welfare organizations and legions of volunteers will be needed to carry out the plan.

Goals of improved efficiency and effectiveness at IACC, as well as a focus on working with the City County County Council on legislation issues such as ordinances and licenses, and better enforcement of existing ordinances by IACC officers top the list of responsibilities for IACC and public safety.

While the adoption and fostering of animals surrendered to the city's shelter is also a priority, IACC will rely heavily on HSI and others in the private sector to care for animals.

Support for a network of effective shelters, safe havens, rescue groups (including Trap Neuter Release for feral cats), outreach groups and volunteers will fall primarily under the direction of HSI and Aleshire.

At the heart of the collaborative effort is a commitment by all the organizations involved to be active participants in working toward the goals of a 10-Year Vision presented by the Animal Welfare Alliance and fulfilling any promises they make, particularly as they relate to the network of volunteers charged with finding homes for unwanted dogs and cats as part of an "animal exchange" where they help each other based on individual missions and capacities.

The plan also includes respect for varying differences and philosophies among the welfare groups. The differences are often "deeply held values," according to the Alliance. In order for the long-term plan to work, however, "compromise is valued over competition and egos are checked at the door."

A vision for the future

Members of the Indianapolis Animal Welfare Alliance aim to make Indianapolis a model city for animal welfare, particularly in its ability to balance safety in its neighborhoods with the humane treatment of its animals.

To that end, the group has identified a series of goals they believe are attainable over the next ten years, as part of a collaborative effort among both private and public animal welfare organizations and advocates.

Those goals include:

Pets and all animals being valued and respected, and their importance interwoven into the fabric of our community.

Pet owners and caretakers providing humane treatment and adequate care for their animals.

Neighborhoods being safe places to live and play, free from aggressive animals.

Creating a safe haven for all animals and making all shelters safe havens.

No animal is euthanized for space.

Abuse, neglect, animal fighting, and abandonment are not tolerated by our residents and these behaviors are readily reported. When authorities must step in, they receive respect for the work they must perform.

Shelters will increasingly become scarcely populated, and all adoptable animals will quickly go to responsible homes.

Due to awareness of and easy access to low-cost spay neuter resources, both private and public, there are fewer and fewer unwanted litters, and fewer resources needed for animal control.

As a result of effective targeting of direct assistance and humane education, pet owners become more responsible rather than dependent on assistance.

The City makes animal welfare one of its cornerstones for residential quality of life and allocates adequate resources and progressive ordinances to allow for an animal friendly landscape to support the goals and efforts of the Indianapolis Animal Welfare Alliance.

The full report by the Indianapolis Animal Welfare Alliance outlining the ten-year goals will be available at beginning Monday, Feb. 8.

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