By Nancy R. Elliott
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. — They’re really cute, and oh-so-cuddly, but kittens are also a problem for the Animal Protection League in Anderson right now. The city-sponsored animal shelter has been flooded with a huge influx of animals, both young and old.
“They have 10 kittens, they bring them to us,” said Maleah Stringer, director of the APL. “It’s not just kittens. We’re getting a lot of older animals, too.”
A stroll through the shelter reveals cage after cage of full-grown dogs, many of them pit bull mixes. The crowded shelter even has cages set up in the lobby. “I’m very frustrated right now because we have animals coming in so fast.”
“Through the summer months we get slammed,” Stringer said. The shelter population has boomed in the last couple of weeks, growing by about 150 animals. APL, 613 Dewey St., is at capacity, with about 300 animals being sheltered there.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do today. It’s only 2:30 and we’re open ‘til 7,” said Stringer. “The stress level’s high. It’s hard here. It’s hardest to watch ‘em get depressed – when they stick their paw out at you, and they follow you with their eyes. You either stay mad or sad most of the time.”
“We need people to adopt these animals,” said Stringer. The animal activist goes beyond that, however. Stringer said that people need to spay and neuter their pets. Further, Stringer sees a real need for ordinances that deliver punishment for irresponsible pet ownership.
“So there’s a deterrent,” said Stringer.
Calls could reach 5,000
While Stringer said she recognizes that there are plenty of people that get what it means to have a pet, “Other folks see it as something they do for themselves.” Then, when there are any difficulties, or the pet gets old and needs more care, “It becomes something expendable.” Then it can often wind up being dumped at the APL.
She points to Donner, a pit-mix who was used as a bait dog for dog fighting. Or Beebee, a dog who came in with two other dogs, and tested heartworm positive. There’s the tiny nameless dog who just arrived that can’t walk, with severely overgrown nails, too terrified to emerge from his carrier.
“What it boils down to, it’s the fact that they don’t want the animal anymore,” said Stringer. She doesn’t mince words. “We have a segment of this community that is irresponsible.”
“I want something that’s going to punish people that are neglecting animals and are abusing animals,” said Stringer. She noted, “We need to get a handle on these backyard pit breeders.”
Animal calls represent a significant percentage of the 45,000 total incidents to which city police respond in a year.
“I love animals, but there’s a lot of them,” said City of Anderson police chief Larry Crenshaw. “We have a large volume of calls.” Crenshaw said that animal calls are likely to exceed 5,000 this year. Many of those calls are for stray animals, others may be for abuse or neglect.
“We were chasing a goose with an arrow in it for I don’t know how long,” said Crenshaw. Another recent call involved two dogs left to die tied to the railroad tracks.
A typical day last week included 35 animal-related calls. “Not an unusual day,” said Crenshaw.
The solution is not clear. Animal ordinances such as Stringer suggests can be met with opposition, even from animal lovers.
If ordinances are passed, it’s still difficult to give animal issues priority in the context of major crime.
Noting that crime is not just in one part of the city anymore, Crenshaw said, “Ordinances are only as effective as you can administer the ordinance.”
“It’s very problematic to approach,” said Crenshaw. “It would be a better service if people just took care of their animals…. When you have an animal, take care of it. Have your animal spayed or neutered.”
The issue is a critical one for Stringer as she appeals to the community. “They’ve got to help us. Spay and neuter. Foster.”
Like Nancy Elliott on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @NancyElliott_HB, or call 640-4805.
Ready to adopt an animal? What: Animal Protection League Where: 613 Dewey St., Anderson When: Monday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday and Thursday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The shelter is closed on Sunday and Wednesday. More info: The APL is also in need of 42" wire cages, dog beds, canned pate for dogs and cats, and foster homes for animals. Check out some APL animals at www.petfinder.com/shelters/IN309.html or look for them on Facebook.