Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Move To Oust Animal Control Director Spearheaded By Councilors

Pressure by several City-County Councilors may have led outgoing Public Safety Director Scott Newman and the current acting director, Mark Renner, to make a reckless and short-sighted decision to oust Douglas Rae as Animal Care & Control Director, the first qualified professional the agency has had at the helm in its history. The Star's Heather Gillers presents a one-sided hit piece on Rae's management of the agency, disclosing the decision by the Ballard administration to place him on probation until September 30. Acting Public Safety Director Mark Renner suggests to Gillers that Rae's aggressive efforts to adopt out shelter dogs, including dogs with a propensity to bite, and his elimination of dogcatchers triggered the move to place him on probation. Gillers writes:

Rae took the helm of Indianapolis Animal Care and Control in January with the goal of reducing the percentage of animals euthanized from 60 percent to 20 percent. (Right now it is 56 percent.)

Then-Public Safety Director Scott Newman -- who touted Rae as the city's first animal-control chief with expertise in that area -- backed that goal. But Rae's plan -- which included adopting out pit bulls, previously condemned to death at the shelter -- raised considerable public opposition.

Newman, who recently resigned for personal reasons, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Rae's decision to take two of the city's 21 animal-control officers off the street and add two caretakers in the kennels troubled Renner, City-County Council members and animal advocates.

Rae's aggressive marketing tactics -- including adopting out dogs for $4 -- also have concerned some.
Rae defended the hiring of more kennel attendants to avoid paying overtime due to under staffing. Critics accused Rae of deliberately leaving strays on the street to drive up the percentage of adopted animals for his agency according to Gillers. Renner claims some of the dogs adopted out had bitten people, a charge Rae says cannot be substantiated.

Prior to Rae's hiring from Philadelphia by Newman, the animal control agency has been run by a string of political hacks. Rae's predecessor, former CCC President Steve Talley, was a prime example. Talley was forced to resign after a group of 50 activists filed a grievance with the agency's advisory board, alleging allegations of mistreatment and abuse of animals in the care of the shelter, as well as violations of city ordinances and procedures for running the animal shelter. Two independent investigations confirmed the allegations.

Newman hired Rae for the position after conducting a nationwide search. By one account, Rae has successfully implemented many improvements during his short six-month tenure at the agency, including new cleaning practices and chemicals, isolation of sick animals, new, larger cages, and 2 shifts of kennel workers. Two of Rae's innovations have already gained notice -- permitting the conditional adoption of dogs that pass evaluation and appear to be pit bulls, and the successful July 4th adoption event. This well-publicized event was held at the IACC shelter and the adoption fee was reduced to $4 per animal. Over 150 animals were adopted in a single day. That's a record for Indianapolis and helped place more animals into homes.

Rae's defenders charge that Renner moved to oust him after Public Safety administrators held a secret meeting with several City-Councilors and activists in late July shortly before Newman's departure as Public Safety Director. Councilors in attendance at the meeting, according to a source, included Benjamin Hunter, Christine Scales, Mike Speedy, Angela Mansfield, Mary Moriarity-Adams and Virginia Cain. The councilors were accompanied at the meeting by representatives of local animal groups, including Humane Society of Indianapolis, IndyFeral, F.I.D.O and Indy Pit Crew. Rae's defenders note the discussion and actions arising out of that meeting were an obvious violation of the grievance procedures set out in the Indianapolis Code relating to IACC. They wonder why these councilors believed they were entitled to a secret meeting to discuss Rae's management of the agency without conducting a public meeting, or at least an opportunity on Rae's part to be heard and answer the charges leveled against him in the secret meeting.

Rae's defenders take note of the fact that one of the participants in that secret meeting, the Humane Society of Indianapolis, now employs Kirsten Vantwoud, the former kennel manager ousted with Talley last year. Given the fact that activists followed public grievance procedures in the removal of Talley and Vanwoud, why didn't the councilors and these activists resort to the grievance procedures this time? HSI, for example, is a sitting member of the IACC's advisory board by virtue of an Indianapolis ordinance. Rae's defenders wonder why HSI and others didn't address their complaints directly to Rae in person or during an advisory board meeting instead of orchestrating the secret meeting with councilors. Were they more interested in muscling Rae out of his job than affording him the due process to which any public administrator should be afforded?

A source says Rae has faced resistance from the beginning of his hiring. That includes threats and vandalism to his car during his first two weeks on the job. It's very sad that someone who picks up roots and relocates to Indianapolis in an effort to help our city right a ship that has been badly steered by political hacks is treated so shabbily by the management of our Public Safety department and meddling councilors. I wish those councilors were as interested in meddling in the affairs of the management of the CIB and the water company where some real savings could be achieved for taxpayers as they have IACC's affairs.

20 comments:

Paul K. Ogden said...

I don't know everything going on, but I remember watching Rae at a couple of committee hearings, in which he talked about his philosophy and approach to animal control. I thought he was so impressive, someone who brought a fresh look to the issue. He seemed genuinely concerned about the animals and enthusiastic about his job.

I'm sure there's more to the story though so I'll keep an open mind.

Advance Indiana said...

I saw that presentation as well, Paul, and thought the same thing. It's hard for me to believe that a decision like this is being made after only about 6 months on the job. I also can't figure out why these councilors are spending time meddling in the small dollar agencies while ignorning the ones consuming the most money. It's a misplaced priority as far as I'm concerned.

Sean Shepard said...

Is there a possibility that the Humane Society didn't like the competition from the $4 adoption offer (I may not fully grasp any relationship between HSI and Animal Control - just thinking out loud here) or are there some other possible conflicts that might occur by the government entity actually doing a good job vs. the interests of the listed organizations?

Something certainly smells fishy here.

Unigov said...

Which minor jurisdiction has more political machinations - Animal Control or the city of Southport ?

I have three cats, all strays, so I am very sympathetic to animal needs, but groups like IndyFeral strike me as going too far. IndyFeral catches stray cats, neuters them, and then *releases* them again. After they catch the cat they could just euthanize it. It is just an animal.

The people most opposed to animal euthanasia - the far left - are also those most in favor of abortion.

Concerned Taxpayer said...

Maybe they can sell enough cats and dogs to give Ir$ay and $imon what they want.

Paul K. Ogden said...

First, I would say I've never been a fan of the Humane Society. My experience with it and those of friends of mine, have not been positive. I told the story on my blog about someone in Pike who went to the Indianapolis Humane Society to get an adult cat to live in his barn which was filled with mice. When he told the Humane Society folks about what he wanted to do, they refused the adoption, telling him they did not allow "their" animals to be "working animals." He tried to explain that cats actually enjoy catching mice and actually considered it fun, not work, but it was no dice.

I have other Humane Society stories. I'm with Sean, I think there might have been a financial reason why the Humane Society was opposing Rae's policies.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Unigov,

From what I have read, "Catch, Neuter and Release" programs work rather well to reduce cat feral populations. I don't think euthanization should be the first choice for these animals. Stray cats simply don't pose the same threat or get into as much trouble as stray dogs, which are also pack animals. I say that as someone who loves both dogs and cats.

I don't like the Humane Society's emphasis on euthanasia either. I think Rae was right on point regarding his comments on that subject. As far as dogs and cats "just being animals", well I think a certain former NFL quarterback learned that animals, especially ones that are pets, are deserving of more protection.

It has always been difficult for me to articulate why Vick's crimes were so offensive and such a hars punishment was appropriate. Then I ran across a column by, I believe Jonas Goldberg, who explained beautifully why animals like dogs, which have come to trust humans, are deserving of legal protection when humans abuse that trust. I'm going to have to try to find that column.

Paul K. Ogden said...

I would add that from the comments, it seems like Rae was suspended for policy differences, not because he did anything wrong. I'm pretty sure if you have policy differences, what you do is change directors. Not that I would recommend that. Like I said, there may be other things I don't know about, but from what I saw of Rae, I thought he was one of the most impressive appointments Ballard had made. He was energetic and innovative, a stark contrast to the people who normally serve in these positions.

artfuggins said...

Doug Rae came to Indy from Philly where the Animal Care and Control was in chaos and disease ridden. He has managed in little over 6 months to do the same in Indy. there is currently a Parvo epidemic sweeping kennel 4 and at least 11 dogs have died and numerous dogs have been adopted to unsuspecting persons who now have a dog with Parvo. Almost 50% of the 54 dog specials have been returned to IACC or other agencies even in Johnson and Hendricks Counties.......Doug Rae needs to go.

interestedparty said...

To Unigov-

"The people most opposed to animal euthanasia - the far left - are also those most in favor of abortion."

Please cite a resource for this statement. Oh, you can't.

artfuggins said...

There were no independent investigations. After Talley resigned and during the search for a replacement, two people did an investigation. Both were applicants for the job. This fails to meet the test of independent!!

Monty Basking said...

so sayeth artfuggins

...there is currently a Parvo epidemic sweeping kennel 4 and at least 11 dogs have died and numerous dogs have been adopted to unsuspecting persons who now have a dog with Parvo. Almost 50% of the 54 dog specials have been returned to IACC or other agencies even in Johnson and Hendricks Counties



If there was any truth to this, it would be worrisome indeed. Fortunately, it's completely unfounded rumor.

Two litters of puppies succumbed to Parvo in kennel 4 (the investigation kennel), but if that's an "outbreak" then every open admission shelter in the state has an "outbreak" weekly, or more often. When a shelter is mandated to accept all dogs/cats/rabbits/snakes/gerbils/horses, etc. from the public, regardless of condition, diseases will always be a problem. Many people surrender animals when they become ill or injured for financial reasons, or simply out of ignorance. Places like the Humane Society get to turn animals away whenever they wish. Sure makes their job much easier.

By "dog specials", I assume you mean dogs adopted during the July 4th event? There were far more than 54 dogs out of the 153 animals adopted on 7-4. As of the 8-12 board meeting, the accounting was 3 returned animals of all species.

I would encourage everyone to watch the IACC board meeting online or on Govt channel 16 for a more accurate accounting of recent IACC activity than can be derived from Art's virtual rectum.

artfuggins said...

Monty....you have just pinpointed one of the problems with Doug Rae. He manipulates or lies about the stats.....talk to people who work at IACC and see how many dogs were returned from July 4th and also see how many adult dogs died from Parvo including some who had been adopted to families.

Quicklygone said...

Art,

Check the time sequence you're citing...
Talley gone, Investigations, Applicants

It was:
Allegations, Investigations, Talley gone. Applicants

So, if they applied for the position, as you say, did either one of them get the position?

Monty Basking said...

from the virtual rectum ofartfuggings:

...one of the problems with Doug Rae. He manipulates or lies about the stats


I've talked employees and volunteers at IACC and nobody has made a comment (even a hint) inconsistent with the official numbers presented at the August 12 board meeting.

While I think everyone appreciates your enthusiasm for pushing your agenda, it's hard to match credibility with the division administrator who is putting himself in front of the whole city and presenting the numbers, while you post comments anonymously under an screen name on blogs.

If you know of so much damning factual information from these employees, bring them forth in some credible manner rather than wasting your time skulking around here. Use your energy and knowledge and the whistleblower laws which protect employees to create the kind of sensational story you're trying to create here.

artfuggins said...

Monty, you inane name calling is inappropriate for an adult...the facts are there and the right people know them and they know there has been wholesale fraud perpetrated on the citizens of Indy. Things has gotten worse under Rae not better....I could list a page of examples...but on numerous occasions, Rae has ordered the animal control officers NOT to bring any stray dogs in as he wanted to keep the count down....get a copy of the OSHA report on the kennel after it had been under Rae's direction for several months. GEt a report about the EEOC meeting held re: Rae...and I could go and on...but I doubt that you are listening anyway......

Monty Basking said...

Yes, Artfuggins, please do go on, but remember that it is you who must substantiate your claims. I guess you could obtain copies of the reports that you believe exist and substantiate your claims and present them publicly, but why do that when you can simply add them to your list of other claims for which you offer no backup.

If the right information is already in the right hands, why waste your breath here? Just sit back, confident that the right information and the right people work their magic.

artfuggins said...

Monty, The info, photos and documents are in the right hands and when the results of the investigation is made public, I expect that you will apologize here for the misinformation that you have posted.

Quicklygone said...

Art..or Sue..whichever ...
I've seen those 'photos' , they are nothing but dirty cages, stacked cages, a cooler instead of a freezer in the euthanasia room. Dirty cages happen especially on Sundays when some staff decide not to come in because they are all 'sick'.
Stacked cages happen when 30-50 animals come in at a time with no place to put them. It's always temporary and by the next day they are unstacked. The other option is to put the animals to death immediately upon arrival.
Quick paraded the news reporter and cameras through the euthanasia room and snapped a picture of the 'cooler'???. That was the same area volunteers last year were slapped by the union for 'illegally' entering.
That cooler has been there for 30 years, nothing new here?

All the 'charges' alleged to Rae are about things that have been going on in all the administrations before him. Somehow he is taking the blame for his predecessors because he dares to make union staff do their jobs and he wants the animal interest groups to work together. THAT they will not do.
What I think what is really bugging you is the fact that these animals are trying to be saved instead of killed.

kcaccsharon said...

Philly did not benefit under Mr. Rae, nor will Indianapolis. Once you begin justifying stacking cages you have lost the focus. A well run shelter does not stack cages, a well run shelters keeps a percentage of kennels open for heavy intake days. When kennels are kept at capacity to keep the numbers looking good, the influx catches up quickly. The first thing this movement does is fill every cranny with a creature and creat a critical situation. Read Lieds Nevada...or any of a dozen failures in this genre.