INDIANAPOLIS — According to statistics from the Humane Society of Indianapolis, 18,000 animals are brought annually to the city's animal control department. Of those, nearly 10,000 are euthanized.
With the IndyHumane Animal Welfare Center, the humane society hopes to address that problem at its root.
A few years ago, the organization began a study to determine where the strays and drop-offs are coming from. They identified 10 metro zip codes where 75 percent of the animals originate. The animal welfare center, set to open at the end of August, is in the Haughville neighborhood - the heart of one of those target areas.
"We thought we can make a difference by offering services, and in particular high-volume spay/neuter, to the public in the zip codes where the animals are coming from," said Kirsten VantWoud, director of the animal welfare center. "We've done about 150,000 surgeries in the last 10-plus years in the city, and yet we're missing the people who are constantly turning in animals."
The center is at 456 N. Holmes Ave. It's in a 10,000 square-foot building that most recently housed a mechanic's shop, bakery, and restuarant/bar. The humane society took ownership after it sat vacant for about a year. Reconstruction began in May.
Once complete, the animal welfare center will include two exam rooms with a holding area for pets undergoing surgery and two surgical rooms. They'll start with offering discounted vaccinations, then use those profits to subsidize surgeries. Officials hope to eventually add transportation services to all 10 zip codes.
VantWoud stresses that while the animal welfare center will operate like a vet clinic, its services will be basic and not fully replace what veterinarians offer.
"People who can't afford these services or get to them love their pets just as much as anyone else," she said. "If we can bring these services to them, it's a win-win for everybody."
It certainly seems like the demand for such a clinic is there.
"We have people stopping by every day asking when we're going to open," VantWoud said. "By being close to the services that people need, I think this is going to be beneficial. The community has been really welcoming."
Just after the humane society signed the lease, the Indianapolis Arts Council contacted them to see if they wanted a mural painted on the side of the building. A group called the Fab Crew painted a cat and dog having fun with string.
"It's certainly our best billboard," VantWoud said. "When people drive by, they know exactly what's going in here."
Another unusual aspect of the animal welfare center is that it comprises a partnership between multiple groups: Spay-Neuter Services of Indiana, Friends of Indianapolis Dogs Outside (FIDO), and Indy Pit Crew, which offers assistance for pit bull owners.
"We're looking to solve the problem on the front end," VantWoud said of the consortium. "If we can provide basic services for families that don't have access or are unable to afford them, we can keep those animals in homes so that they're not ending up in shelters.
"That will allow animal control to focus on things they really should be doing, like investigating abuse cases. Now they're spending a lot of time just picking up stray animals."
For more information on the humane society, call 872-5650 or visit the website at IndyHumane.org.