By Jack Molitor
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ANDERSON — Maleah Stringer can still remember the horrific scene from a Boone Township farm near Summitville early this spring. Dozens of dead animals, and nearly as many still alive but in terrible shape. She was overwhelmed.
Friday night, she said she was overwhelmed again, but for a much happier reason. The executive director of the Animal Protection League received two large checks from Hoosier Park, one for $3,810 and another for $5,000, that will help fund her organization.
Responding to neighbor complaints on April 9, authorities discovered 171 dead and rotting animals, including horses, sheep, goats, cows and rabbits in several barns on farm property owned by Daniel and Carrie Ault on County Road 1700 North near 350 West near Summitville.
APL was charged with nursing the surviving animals back to health, removing them and getting them adopted. Stringer said the outpouring of support from the community has been tremendous during a summer where her organization was stretched thin.
"It's huge," Stringer said. "The budget we get from the city, it frankly isn't enough to do what we want to and what we need to, so to get support like this from Hoosier Park and the people in the community, it's overwhelming."
The event comes shortly after the passing of new animal cruelty ordinances in Madison County. The stiffer rules about animal care couldn't have been done without the attention the Ault farm brought to the issue, Stringer said.
"It opened everyone's eyes to the fact that, this can't go on. It opened the door for us to do something new," Stringer said.
Casino officials chose Friday night to honor the organization's volunteers and donors and to raise money for APL, which was founded to house stray animals and raise awareness of cruelty to animals. After roughly 40 volunteers were acknowledged, they were brought down to the track to help show off about 10 dogs in need of adoption.
"It's really to give people an idea of the kind of animals that are in the shelter, the kind of animals that need homes," said Hoosier Park gaming manager Jahnae Erpenbach. "We feel like it's a natural fit with what we do here. Our horses are team members just like everyone else here, so we feel a responsibility to give back and help other animals."
Erpenbach said APL's limited budget also prevents the organization from honoring its volunteers and donors the way it should, so the casino moved in to offer a means for acknowledging them and raising money. She said the entire card Friday night was dedicated to APL.
"I can't say enough about how good Hoosier Park has been to us," Stringer said. "I really think a lot of people don't realize just how helpful they are to the community."
Stringer also said the shelter is currently inundated with dogs and especially cats. The organization took in dozens of stray felines over the summer and is trying to get them into good homes. Stringer asked anyone with room in their homes for a dog or cat to visit the shelter at 613 Dewey Street.
One of the dogs up for adoption that was at the park Friday was Tanner, a rat terrier with a healthy bark. The dog's owner died, so he was taken to the APL and is still looking for a home. Volunteers Jake Smith and Steve Duncan played with Tanner in the winner's circle after the volunteers were honored at the track.
"I try to help them out whenever I can," Smith said. "Anything we can do helps."
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