ELWOOD — A controversial ordinance that would have let Elwood’s shelter have animals left longer than six weeks or who have veterinary bills exceeding $1,000 euthanized was tabled Monday by the Common Council.
The ordinance was developed because of the high expense of housing and treating animals that come into the facility, 511 N. 14th St. Critics said it was created by three council members without consulting animal rights organizations or local veterinarians.
The council agreed to let a group, including local animal rights activists and council members Todd Buckmaster and Linda Moore, first develop and implement an adoption fee structure as a temporary reprieve. Volunteers also will be allowed to create fundraisers, something they say the city has rejected in the past.
“We strongly oppose the euthanization of of healthy animals that are brought in through no fault of their own,” Kerry Kane of Heart of Hoosierland told the council during public comments. “If you enact this ordinance, you will get no support from your citizens.”
Several of the activists, including Kane, said even though the trend for years has been toward no-kill shelters, Mayor Todd Jones’ administration repeatedly has shown no interest in saving the animals, rejecting suggestions for raising money.
Jones said the annual budget for veterinary expenses is $4,000, but that it’s generally used up by April. He said the budget for the shelter had been raised only $3,700 from 2013 to 2016 but that it’s been raised $40,000 during his administration.
“Every month, we seem to be chasing dollars,” he said. “We’re trying to do the right things without jeopardizing other city services.”
Kane said the city’s financial problems are of its own making. For instance, there are few records of what is going on at the shelter, which limits the ability to apply for grants.
“We have no idea of the number of adoptions, surrenders at the shelter.”
In addition, Kane said, those calling for assistance rarely are able to reach anyone, reducing the confidence of potential donors.
“They are more apt to adopt and support it financially if they can reach someone.”
Costs also would be reduced if residents were held accountable for their animals by having them vaccinated and spayed or neutered, using Hamilton County as a model, Kane said. Vaccinated animals, for instance, would reduce the number of sick animals brought into the shelter, preventing other animals housed there from becoming infected, she said.
“We should be making every citizen spay and neuter.”
The shelter has a variety of partners that can help it operate efficiently and cost effectively, Kane said.
“We’re reaching out right and left to established partners.”
One of the reasons council members appear unaware of this, Kane said, is that only one has ever visited the shelter.
Vicki Savage of Heart of Hoosierland said it’s a mistake for the city to consider euthanization as it tries to attract new residents and business because most expect a no-kill shelter. Still, the shelter can be marketable, she added.
“I know there aren’t a lot of municipalities the size of Elwood that have a shelter.”
Annie Hinshaw said a euthanization policy is just plain inhumane.
“Killing animals is throwing them away. Nobody deserves that.”