Following the results of two independent investigations into mismanagement and abuse at Indianapolis Animal Care and Control, shelter director Steve Talley has resigned from his position.
Investigators Karen Jensen and Joan Isaacs were each charged with following up on a grievance filed in August against IACC. More than 50 individuals signed the grievance, filed in early August, outlining their belief that there has been a pattern of neglect and mistreatment of animals by the city.
The investigators were tasked with thorough discovery of all events described in the grievance as well as assertions in the grievance that the events and conditions witnessed constitute a violation of Indianapolis animal care and treatment laws, and a violation of the legal mandate of the city’s shelter.
At a public meeting held last week, the IACC advisory board heard the results of the investigations, which largely confirmed the allegations in the grievance. Recommendations were made in several areas, but the most stringent was the call for Talley to be replaced as head of the IACC.
By noon the next day, Talley had held a press conference announcing his resignation. Denying that the investigation had anything to do with the sudden announcement, Talley insisted that he was retiring to spend more time with his grandkids.
A member of the Indianapolis City-Council for more than 15 years, Talley was appointed to the administrator position a little over a year ago, after choosing not to run for re-election of his council seat. Critics have pointed out that Talley had no experience with animals or animal shelters prior to accepting the appointment, which came with a $52,000 annual salary, other than volunteering and adopting several dogs.
Talley himself admits that inexperience made it difficult for him to oversee IACC as effectively as he should and agrees that his successor should have relevant training and experience.
“This is a very complex issue, health issues with animals are very complex,” Talley told reporters at the Thursday morning press conference. “I just think the best thing is to find someone with animal experience.”
According to investigators, Talley was a “nice man,” universally liked by his staff, but woefully under-informed about the operations of the shelter itself. Among their findings: Talley gave investigators incorrect information about the intake of animals, the sheltering of animals, the euthanization of animals and disposal of animals once they were killed.
Public Safety Director Scott Newman, who oversees Animal Care and Control, has vowed to hire a qualified replacement in the next 45 days. He has also promised to increase staffing and funding to the shelter, other recommendations made by the investigators. Newman has made several pro-animal adjustments to the city’s handling of abandoned and neglected pets since he was appointed by Mayor Greg Ballard this past January.
In addition to vowing to find a better qualified leader of IACC, Newman has also implemented several new policies at the shelter, including whistleblower protection for those who witness abuse or mismanagement of animals taken in by the city.
In recent years, 60 percent of the 18,000 animals brought to IACC have been put to death. Animal rights advocates say that number can be greatly reduced with expanded programs and policies. Every year, 5 million animals lose their lives at the hands of the animal sheltering establishment. Nathan Winograd, author of Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America, says there is no reason for the vast majority of those deaths.
His goal is to revolutionize the way activists and shelters treat homeless animals, from a “19th century model of animal sheltering, adopting some and killing the rest” to a completely no-kill approach. Shelter management, he claims, can and should save all healthy and treatable animals that come through their doors.
In Reno, Nev., for example, shelters take in 15,000 cats and dogs per year. In less than one year, they doubled their adoption rate and cut kill rates in half, according to Winograd. They now save 90 percent of dogs and 80 percent of cats, he reports, reserving death only for animals that are hopelessly ill or injured, and for vicious dogs that cannot be rehabilitated.
The formula Winograd advocates includes affordable spay/neuter services, foster care for young or sick animals, comprehensive adoption programs with expanded hours and offsite venues, Trap-Neuter-Return programs.
Newman has agreed for Winograd to come to Indianapolis later this fall and make recommendations for improved care at IACC. Many animal rights advocates hope that whoever replaces Steve Talley as the head of Animal Care and Control in Indianapolis will help implement a no-kill policy here.
For more information on the no-kill initiative in Indianapolis, go to www.indynokill.org.