INDIANAPOLIS — "Today a dream becomes reality."
That's how John Aleshire, CEO of the Humane Society of Indianapolis, opened his remarks during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Animal Welfare Center and Vaccination Clinic.
The center is in the Haughville neighborhood at 456 N. Holmes Ave. That's in one of 10 zip codes the humane society has identified where nearly 75 percent of Indianapolis' stray animal population originates.
When the facility officially opens at 10 a.m. Monday, it will offer vaccinations for $15 to $37. There are no income restrictions.
"We'll finally be able to reduce the number of homeless pets and give the city cost savings," Aleshire said. "It's a dream born from a vision of boldness and fueled by a passion that we can and must do better with animal welfare."
It started three years ago and took many people to make happen.
"The mantra 'it takes a village' is actually only partially true here," said Kirsten VantWoud, the center's director. "In this sense, it's taken a city."
It was originally supposed to be in Fountain Square, but that location fell through. The current address is in a 10,000 square-foot building that most recently housed a mechanic's shop, bakery, and restaurant. The humane society took ownership after it sat vacant for about a year. Reconstruction started in May.
Deputy Mayor Olgen Williams said he's happy to see it in his neighborhood.
"I live a few blocks from here, and I appreciate that someone cares enough to do this kind of work," he said. "One of the problems we've had for years is stray animals. This will teach people how to be responsible pet owners."
He added that some of the most frequent complaints to the mayor's action center involves homeless animals. About 18,000 strays are brought annually to the city's animal control department. Of those, nearly 10,000 are euthanized.
"Through this resource I think we'll start to see the numbers come down," Williams said. "Hopefully we can get three or four more around the city."
It took many donations, including $250,000 from Larry Reuben, to open the center. For that it's named after his parents, Albert G. and Sara I. Reuben.
"We couldn't open these doors or be here without you," Aleshire told Larry. "We promise to make you and your parents very proud."
The center also boasts partnerships with multiple animal activist groups: Spay-Neuter Services of Indiana, Friends of Indianapolis Dogs Outside (FIDO), and the Indy Pit Crew and Casa Del Toro, both of which offer assistance for pit bull owners.
"Having so many groups in one space - sharing wisdom and resources - is a model we think is unique to the nation," Aleshire said.
Humane society officials eventually want to offer spay-neuter services at the clinic. They estimate needing an additional $750,000 to add surgical rooms, buy equipment, and hire extra staff. They'll rely heavily on volunteers and donations.
"No one here is going to get rich," said Jim Luce, chair of the humane society's board. "They're here because they love this mission and want to serve these neighborhoods, this city, and these animals."
The animal welfare center is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Tuesday and Thursday-Friday. For more information, call 872-5650 or visit the website at IndyHumane.org.