Community expresses concerns about IACS during advisory board meeting after dog, kitten deaths

INDIANAPOLIS — Major concerns are being raised about the state of the Indianapolis Animal Care Services (IACS) facility on the city’s southwest side at 2600 S. Harding Street.

At a board meeting Friday night, numerous IACS volunteers and community members spoke up about issues they say need to be fixed before more animals die.   

This already scheduled board meeting comes after two dogs died this week of what was likely Streptococcus zooepidemicus, commonly known as ‘strep zoo’ in the facility. 

Strep zoo is a bacterial infection that is rare but can be deadly.   

Currently, all dogs are being treated for the deadly bacteria. Right now, the board said there is not any protocol for humans to be tested, as transmission to humans is rare. 

After multiple volunteers with IACS voiced their concerns Friday, it was clear the problems don’t stop there.

Multiple volunteers for the shelter and community members detailed issues with overall cleanliness, staffing shortages and a lack of checks and balances when it comes to how sick animals are taken care of. 

One volunteer told the board six kittens died in IACS’ care last month, saying there was no urgency from staff to look at the kittens until it was too late.  

FOX59/CBS4 confirmed late Friday evening those kittens were never seen by a vet. 

“It really sucks when you’re there and animals are dying and you thought somebody could have helped,” said IACS volunteer Ren Hall. “I’d like the medical staff to not just be looking at the clipboard where staff and volunteers write it down. I’d like them to go in with their own eyes.” 

Another IACS volunteer shared a packet of photos with the board of what she calls deplorable conditions inside the shelter.

Some of the pictures showed cockroaches and a dead mouse in dog kennels.    

“Let’s start putting our money where our mouth is and start actually doing something for these animals,” said IACS volunteer Elaine Thiel.

Another volunteer told the board she was told there weren’t enough gloves and not to change them between animals and said overall sanitation was an issue.   

During the hour-long meeting, the board was open to hearing the issues and openly admitted the shelter has problems.  

One board member had this to say after she saw dried feces on the ground during surgery in what is supposed to be a sterile field. 

“It was a hot mess back there, I’m not going to lie,” said Samantha Swartzentruber. “I realize that everyone is busy and that you’re understaffed, but in a situation like this where it’s an overcrowded facility, cleanliness does matter.”

That same board member also said the shelter needs to “do a better job” at tracking parvo, and determine if the animals are coming in with it, or if it’s already spreading in the facility.  

When FOX59/CBS4 asked to speak to IACS’ Deputy Director, Katie Trennepohl, about all of these issues, she declined to go on camera, instead deferring to a city communications officer. 

“We do take every individual claim that’s brought to us seriously. You heard yourself from the board, cleanliness is of the utmost importance in a situation especially where we are facing high populations,” said Kurt Christian, chief communications officer for the Department of Business and Neighborhood Services.

During the meeting, the board gave multiple things they are doing to fix the problems. 

Those include:

  • Creating a department-specific checklist and review process for department supervisors
  • Additional hand sanitizer stations have been requested.
  • A more formalized process for reporting animal concerns. 
  • Updated and streamlined online foster application form. 
  • The city has engaged with a vendor to conduct a market analysis to evaluate union staff compensation which will be used for negotiations during the next bargaining agreement negotiations. 
  • IACS leadership and community animal welfare partners participated in a kick-off meeting this week for their joint animal welfare strategic plan.

But volunteers Friday evening told FOX59/CBS4 these fixes are merely band-aids on a growing problem.  

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