INDIANAPOLIS — Staffing shortages and a lack of kennel space has Indianapolis Animal Care Services operating at a new level of crisis as staff members say animals keep coming into their shelter, but it is no longer humane to keep them all.
“We’re facing a lot of challenges here right now,” said Katie Trennepohl, deputy director of IACS. “It’s definitely reached a peak that we’ve never seen before.”
Trennepohl said the shelter has been in Emergency Intake Status since February. That means staff are only accepting animals in emergency situations and all surrendered animals are at high risk for euthanasia.
“We moved to the Emergency Intake Status as a reaction to the crisis mode but that crisis has continued to get worse over the last several months,” said Trennepohl.
Officials said the biggest issue right now is the growing list of vacant positions the shelter is not able to fill. Trennepohl explained there are a total of 18 kennel staff positions and in a few weeks only eight of those positions will be filled. Intake positions are also only 60% staffed.
“Even with our volunteers and even with our staff working overtime and picking up shifts we just – we cannot continue. It’s not humane to continue,” said Trennepohl. “We are at the point where we have more animals than we can humanely care for on any given day.”
Trennepohl said it has been a struggle to both attract and retain staff. She said some are leaving for better wages at other shelters, while others are feeling burnout as the pressure to save lives becomes overwhelming.
“I mean it’s an impossible situation to be in because everybody that does this job does it because they care about the animals,” said Trennepohl. “But to know that you’re giving everything you can to the animals and it’s still not enough – it’s really hard.”
“It makes me wish I could do more,” said Wendy Spencer, a volunteer with IACS for the past 10 months. “I’ll be here 4-5 hours and I’m exhausted but I want to stay.”
Spencer said she adopted her own dog from the shelter and now she dedicates roughly 10-15 hours a week as a volunteer.
“These animals are here through no fault of their own and I just want to do what I can to make their life better,” said Spencer. “There’s times when it’s overwhelming – coming in and knowing that there’s just – there’s only so much a person can do.”
Now, Spencer spends her time in the shelter’s cat room and helps train new volunteers looking to take on some of her responsibilities.
“Everyone needs that support when you’re doing this kind of work,” said Spencer. “And I really do feel that from the other volunteers and from the staff.”
To learn more about adopting a pet from IACS, or to sign up to volunteer, foster or donate, click here.