Animal Shelter of the Week: Episode 46 – Indy Humane

IndyHumane is a leading voice for the welfare of animals and improving their quality of life. IndyHumane provides direct services for shelter cats and dogs, including adoption, foster home placement, positive reinforcement behavior training for adoptable animals, appropriate medical care, and affordable spay/neuter services. As the voice for the animals, IndyHumane brings together like-minded, animal-focused individuals and groups to educate the public about animal welfare issues and concerns. For more than 110 years, it’s all about the animals.


“Welcome to the ARPA animal shelter of the week podcast, where we introduce you to incredible organizations around the country that are focused on helping animals. We’re proud to be sponsored by Doobert is a free website designed to connect volunteers with rescues and shelters and the only site that automates rescue relay transport. Let’s meet this week’s featured animal shelter.


Indy Humane is a leading ways for the welfare of animals and improving their quality of life. They provide direct services for shelter cats and dogs, including adoption, foster home placement, positive reinforcement behavior training for adoptable animals, appropriate medical care and affordable spay and neuter services. As the voice for the animals Indy Humane brings together like minded, animal focused individuals and groups to educate the public about animal welfare issues and concerns. For more than 110 years, it’s all about the animals.

Hi, Colleen. Hi, Hayley. Welcome to the show. Hi. How are you guys doing today? Great. Good good. Thanks for having us. Of course. I’m happy to have you. I checked out your guys’ web site and I was really intrigued with what I saw, so I had to reach out and ask if you guys wanted to join me.

So, Colleen, you’re the community outreach coordinator, Is that correct? Yes. And Hayley, you are the marketing coordinator, right? I am. Perfect! So since there’s two of you that is a little bit different than what I’m used to, but I’m excited. So can you guys share with me a little bit about your organisation and how each of you got started? We are with Indy Humane. We’re the Humane Society of Indianapolis, Indiana. We have been around since 1905 in some capacity saving animals and people and doing different things in the community over the last 115 years. But Indianapolis is a cool city. We’re this little urban hub in the middle of the Midwest. So we are proud to be one of the biggest nonprofit shelters, definitely in Indiana and throughout much of the Midwest. So, I am a marketing department of one, here at Indy Humane. So, traditional marketing and social media, some community outreach and events. So I wear a lot of hats, which is really cool, most of the time. I actually got my start here in Indy Humane doing adoptions. So I was an adoption counselor for about a year, and then a position opened up in marketing, and that’s actually what my education my background is. So it was kind of my dream job, that I always thought I would have, you know, in college, 20 year old me. But I think it was actually a real job that people looked into. But here I am. So did you kind of get into the marketing field with the animal aspect, or was it just kind of marketing? And then later down the line, you kind of realized, “Hey, I want to work in the animal field.” Yeah, I always wanted to work in a non profit rather than like an agency or corporate world. And I grew up with pets, always loved animals, volunteered at a shelter in the city where I went to college and my previous job before coming to Indy Humane. I worked in pet supplies retail, so it was a, sort of a natural progression. That’s great. So Colleen. Let’s kind of hear a little bit about you. I definitely have a different story because I went to college for film. I studied film in college, moved out to Los Angeles for a couple of years, decided it wasn’t what I wanted to do. So I came back, bounced around for a couple of jobs and ended up just being kind of like Hayley, where I didn’t want to be in the corporate role anymore. I wasn’t really enjoying it. I was in a tech company and I was just kind of overdoing the desk job thing. So I took a job at Indy Humane doing our animal care technician work, which is kennel cleaning. Okay. So, I did that for, on the dog side, for about six months until the community relations position open, and it was kind of on aligning of the stars because I was doing community relations with my last job. I had the six months of working with dogs under my belt, and then I was able to do that. So my job as community outreach is, we have this big truck this big, massive struck that we use called P.A.W., which is a pet awareness wagon, it has built in kennels and everything, and I get to take dogs to different events in it, so it’s honestly a job that I didn’t know it exists.

So what is the main vision in your mission at the Indy Humane? I know that the main vision is kind of make sure that all animals in central Indiana have part of the five freedoms. It’s basically just making sure that the animals that we have are well taken care for, but also working with other organizations. Sometimes people bringing surrendered animals. And instead of just accepting the animal right away, we try to work with them. Like if they need food. May be we can provide some food for them. Maybe they need some sort of medical care and we can give them options that are cheaper than what they normally would. So it looks like the five Freedoms are the freedom from hunger and thirst, discomfort, pain, freedom to express normal behavior and freedom from fear and distress. So those are, kind of, our five freedoms that we stick to for the animals.

So the animals, how did they usually come into your care? Are they strays? I know you mentioned owner surrender. Can you share with me a little bit about that? Yeah. Great question. So we are a private nonprofit. We’re not the city shelter for our area. So we are fortunate that we have a little bit of control over where our animals come from. Of course, we do have about 25% of our population are strays. We’ll find them. They come in, we file a report, we try to reunite them. Some of them don’t know, of course. Yeah. And another, about 25% are owner surrenders. So people who have made arrangements, “I had this change in my life”, “I’m moving”, “My family is sick”, whatever it may be, I mean, they make arrangements to bring them in. But about half of the animals in our care actually come from other shelters. But we’re really fortunate to have a full medical staff, a full veterinary staff. Basically a veterinary suite in our shelter that we do all of our surgeries in house. We can do leg amputations, eye enucleation, cold laser therapies, anything you can get in a private vet clinic, we can do here for a much lower cost. And we also have a full behavior staff. So we take a lot of cases from either our city shelter or smaller mom and pop type of rescues. Because we have the resources to help some of those more challenging animals. Animals that have really severe needs we’re able to do a more comprehensive service to them to help them be adopted.

So what kind of programs do you guys offer to your community? I know that you had mentioned that you guys do the pet awareness wagon, and then I actually noticed some things that kind of stood out to me was you guys also offered youth programs as well? Can you share with me and elaborate on some of those? We have a really massive volunteer program here. Volunteers do about 60,000 volunteer hours a year, and we also try to include children like kids in the community in that so we actually have a parent in the volunteer program. Kids as young as eight can come in with their parents to do volunteer work. They’re doing the dog walking, you know, they’re hanging out with cats. Sometimes they’re doing feeding and stuff, too. So we have that program, and then when they get older, we have our Pat’s Paws Program, which is another volunteer program for 13-15 year olds, and then once they’re 16 they’re able to volunteer on their own. We also have our summer camps, which we offer every year. And these summer camps fill up almost immediately. And it gives kids hands on, like firsthand experience dealing with dogs and cats. They also have rabbits, they have like, goats and pigs and rabbits and all of that. So it’s a nice way of kind of, showing kids how to handle animals while also giving them the experience of dealing with animals they probably wouldn’t ever really see outside of a zoo, or maybe the fair. I have been mostly going to just like events or corporate things or, you know, big festivals throughout the summer. One of the things that I really, really enjoy doing is going to elementary schools. A lot of teachers have reached out to me about bringing the PAW and bringing an animal. And going to these schools I’ve noticed that there are kids who’ve never pet a cat or they never touched a dog or, you know, they’re terrified of them. They don’t really know much about anything — animal welfare related, so it’s really nice to be able to go out to the community and talk to kids and actually be the one to introduce them to the first job I’ve ever had. I was waiting for me, and that was really cool. That’s awesome. And I can see that you’re very enthused about that.

So what other type of events do you bring? The animals to? It’s a bunch of different things like we did Pet Pride this year, which is the Pride Festival. We’re actually gonna hopefully be in that next year. So we’ve done stuff like that. We do corporate cuddle parties. We basically just get a go over a lunch break to different corporations in the area. Like for a donation. We gotta go there, brings the animals. It’s kind of a nice break for their employees, and then I also do just third party events. Maybe somebody just wanted to do a fundraiser for Indy Humane. Different bars in the area we’ll do like a special night and they’re pet friendly so I could bring some dogs. And while we don’t do mobile adoptions, we do allow animals still like basically, to just go out, meet them. If you’re interested, you have to go to the shelter to apply. It’s a nice way of getting the animals out of the shelter, getting them around people and allowing some line–people to kind of see animals that may not be great in the kennel, but are really good outside of it.

I’m kind of curious to see what your community is like. Indianapolis, it hovers around the 12th or 14th most populous city in the country, and people kind of forget that. We have a really awesome community. It’s becoming very local-centric, local businesses, a lot of local breweries and restaurants. And we also are home to a lot of pretty big corporations, and headquarters. So it’s a cool city. I love living here, so we kind of get the best of both worlds and that we have the midwest hospitality. But we do have a pretty rich cultural scene in the city, too. And again we’re one of the biggest shelters in the area, and we have been around for a bazillion years– and we have the name recognition. We have the rapport within the community that we do get invited to a lot of these events. A lot of new local businesses, when they’re looking for a charity to partner with, we’re always happy if they choose us. And everybody likes cats and dogs, right? So a natural fit for a lot of those kinds of those partnerships, which we really lean into. From a marketing perspective, it just is a really natural fit, to be able to have those partnerships and cross promote and just become a part of the community in that way. Within our organization, it’s very collaborative. Everyone kind of touches a lot of these different programs, and everyone’s work is very co-dependent on everyone else, which is great! And I feel like as an organization, we have a pretty good corporate culture. I guess you’d say, and everyone is super passionate, But from an operational standpoint, we’re still pretty grassroots. And that’s where our volunteers are instrumental. Yeah, when it comes to community, the Indianapolis community is great. There’s still a lot of education that needs to go on there. But our volunteers are amazing. It’s like 600 volunteers in our system, and I think that’s probably a little bit over that at this point. But like I said earlier, they do like 60,000 hours volunteer work a year, which is about 38 full time boys, we couldn’t pay. So just to have that kind of support from the community in a very functional and like, operational way. I mean, they process paperwork for adoptions even. All my events are staffed by volunteers. So if we have an event coming up or I need 5 dogs, so I have to have 5 people. There is a massive group of people that we lean on all the time. And we could not function without them. It’s one of those like, really humbling things, cause some of these people come in every day. They work with our behavior dogs, they do training plans, and we’re passionate, but they’re very, very passionate. And it’s amazing. That is a large number of volunteers. That is amazing. At first when I thought I heard 600 but I was like, Maybe I didn’t hear that right. But I’m glad that you clarified that because that is a huge amount of support.

So you kind of shared with me a little bit about your community and the people in the business is what is the community like for the animals? Where did they come from? And how is it for them? Again, we’re not the city shelter. We’re not animal control shelter for our area, so their burden in that way is much, much greater than ours. So where as we might have 5 to 7 stray animals show up at our doorstep on a given day that we have to figure out something to do with them. Our city shelter, they’re getting between 50 to 100 or more a day. There are pockets of the city that are fairly economically challenged, so they see the majority of the really heart wrenching cases. The abuse, the neglect, the legal cases and then down the line. You know, we do everything we can to help them with their extraordinary cases that need extra help in order to be re-homed and rehabilitated. But as far as like dumping or dog fighting or things like that, it’s not nearly as big of a problem in our city, as it is. Others across the country. There are a handful of other organizations in Indianapolis that do a lot of great work for dogs that are housed outside, dogs on chains, if they were experiencing homelessness. Yes, so there’s been a huge push for education and advocacy in the last 10 years or so, on behalf of a handful of organizations.

You have mentioned. You guys are able to kind of pick and choose the animals that you guys bring into your care. What is that usually like? As far as restrictions, we really don’t have any. So, for example, we take dogs that have bit people, all day long. I’m kind of guessing at numbers, but I would say probably 20-30% of the dogs in our care, have a bite history. At any given time. Some are surrendered. Some are surrendered. A lot of them come from other shelters. So again, about 25% of our animal come from owner surrenders, for any number of reasons. About 25% are strays that we have no idea where they came from before that. And about half of both dogs and cats are from other shelters, so those of the 50% that come from other shelters about 60% of them have some kind of extraordinary need. Whether that be, this is a cat who’s had litter box issues. Or maybe it’s a cat who has been declawed and now has chronic pain and behavioral issues because of that. Or a dog who has a bite history or a dog who has some kind of medical need, heart worm treatment or any number of other medical issues. So we have the teams both medically and behaviorally to take those things that a lot of other well intentioned and great shelters would see on paper and say “This is a barrier. This is gonna make it really tough for this animal.” And we’re able to put the context around that and kind of troubleshoot. Well, why is this behavior happening? What can we do for this medical need? And we were happy to do that. And we have great success in doing so. Yeah, and we’re very fortunate because we do have that medical suite and we do have the behavior department and one of the things that’s been really awesome lately is the behavior department started to do a new program called “Project Dogs”, Essentially. And so the staff is now getting involved with working with these animals. They have a mid level, so they select like a bit easier dogs, like go towards people, have traffic in the area, but you’re able to take these dogs and just like you have an office dog every day and it’s great because it gets him out of the kennel. They get to interact with people a little bit more, and even then, like I mean, that’s something that we’re privileged enough to be able to do because, like, busier shelters, they probably couldn’t even function to have a dog in there — and keep it productive productive. Most offices you go to in here has a dog on them now. The fact that they’re trying to get everybody to kind of be more involved in the dogs and I think in other departments, we we’re trying to kind of foster those relationships, too, and it’s been really nice to get the help that out.

How many animals do you guys usually have in your care? It is a rough estimate, so we have our shelter, and in the shelter we have between 2 and 300 animals at a time. And that varies wildly, especially with kittens. Yes, we can have a handful of kittens, or we can have literal hundreds of kittens, but we also have a network of about 400 foster parents, but also foster parents will have animals that need medical care. There’s animals that will need a break from the shelter, babies, elderly seniors and then we also have cats at a pet supply store here in town, will have a couple of our adoptable cats at any given time. And then we also partner with the cat cafe here in the city so they’ll have a handful of adoptable cats that people can hang out with their cafe. So long story short we take in about 4,000 animals a year total. We have 122 dogs kennels, but we–we keep our shelter full enough–for what we call our “capacity of care”. While we have 122 kennels, we don’t necessarily always have 122 dogs. Yeah, the number of kennels we have is not the number of animals we have. Yeah, well say also our cat rooms. So all of our cat rooms our free roaming. So we have three big cat rooms. They all have their little “catio” area. (That’s one of my favorite puns.) We have a decent amount of cats and it’s there. But we do have a couple of cages and a couple like smaller rooms. But the majority of our cats are free roaming, so we don’t even have kennels for them. They do very well with that.

So what would you say? Is your organization’s biggest challenge? I would say, Big picture, the biggest challenge we face is the lack of education across the city going back to our previous point. There are a number of organizations doing different things to provide resources to help keep animals in their home, to promote spay/neuter across the city. But it’s always an uphill battle. Despite all the amazing work that is happening in the city, it’s just a revolving door of–for every animal that we’re able to spay, neuter, vaccinate, and find a great home for. There’s 10 more waiting for that service. We haven’t even talked about our downtown clinic. That’s something too. So this kind of feeds really well into that only because, like Haley said, we do have a lot of low income neighborhoods and people who have issues just financially keeping their dogs. So we have our downtown clinic, which is also a low cost spay and neuter clinic. But we have a whole warehouse and a deal with, where they give us damaged stock and, like returns and that kind of stuff. So we have a whole warehouse full of basically, like food and litter and all of this. That we do pop up shops twice  month and people could buy, like, you know, a big bag and food for, like, $8. So we have that. But we also feed shelters throughout not only Indiana but like surrounding states. Because you can come to rescue relief, for a small fee, which is really cheap. And I mean, you have to get on the list and everything, but Nikki Stubbs is the one who does all the –she manages the warehouse, and she does amazing job constantly providing food for people who normally have to spend, maybe like $1,000 on food. Yeah. You can come with lot less with us. That’s awesome in the fact that you guys use that stock that you guys have that you guys are being provided with to kind of support the people of your community and other organizations and everything like that. That’s amazing, you know, because you’re not just willing to say, “Hey, you know, we’ve got this stock back here. Whenever we need it, we’re gonna use it.” You guys are giving that and, you know, even for like you said a big bag of dog food, those can range from — depending on brand. So the fact that you guys offer that to the people of your community for a lower cost is and I mean, I can only imagine how many people actually are touched by that because you guys are helping him out. That’s an important thing. And I like that you guys led into that with the challenges because you kind of shared with me your challenges. But you also kind of shared with me challenges that the people of your community are facing and what you guys are doing to help that.

This kind of leads me into, and I’m curious because you guys are doing great work with your community. You guys are, you know, working with other organizations. You guys seem like you’ve got that great mindset of what you guys are doing and where you guys are going. What does the future look like for Indy Humane? One of the things is that a lot of our development department is new. I started in April –within the year. Yeah, within the last year. So a lot of us are newer. A lot of us have that burning passion of being able to like, help animals. But it’s also a lot of fun and so it’s just kind of like, when we’re looking at the future. There’s so many people doing so many new things. We have a really big fundraiser over here called Mutt Strut. It’s our biggest one and it was in April last year and I’m pretty sure they’ve been working on it since since April of last year. It’s a new team, but our CEO has kind of ah, the same reasons, we’re better than our best and that’s kind of what we’re trying to do so we’re always trying to push the limit and try to figure out what we’re doing. But what more can you be doing? How can we do it better? Luckily, we have a lot of resources to be able to move forward with that. But I don’t know if you have any numbers or if you know of actual like, because I know there are like, new goals that have been set. As far as fundraising and events, I think we are on a really good trajectory to just keep the momentum going operationally this year, 2019, we as an organization hired two new veterinarians, and we have created a new position that’s called director of animal welfare collaboration, which is really unique. So we are kind of looking inward but also outward. So how can we best use our resources to both, more directly serve the animals, but also not forgetting about those relationships and the people. So I think, looking holistically at how we can help other organizations do better, how we can help our community do better. I mean, of course, adoptions are the most–the single most important thing we do. That’s why we exist. That’s our lifeblood. But that’s kind of reactive to the problem. So how we, as a community better work toward ending at homelessness, you know, keep animals in their homes, help people take better care of their animals, help other organizations better serve their adopters. And I think that internally, there’s also a lot of changes that happen. And I know that the board had voted to basically bring everyone in the shelter up to a living wage. So for Indiana, that’s the $13 an hour. So just recently where I think it will be in 2020 and that will go into effect so everybody in the shelter will be making a living wage. And that was really important and something I was really happy with because I’ve done the ACT position, which is the lowest paid I think right now, but it’s just cause it’s your kennel cleaning and you’re doing all of that. To be able to have a living wage with that job is immensely important and they’re probably the hardest working people we have because they’re doing eight hours of physical labor and so it’s nice to not only know that we’re working towards helping the community and stuff, we’re also making sure that everyone who works here is supported.

The fact that you guys have that goal to do better and be better and the fact that you guys are taking that time to realize what others are doing, what you can do to be better than that, that’s what it’s about, and the fact that you guys have that as a goal and a mindset, that’s awesome. I love everything that you guys have shared today. One of the best things about my job and being able to do this podcast is to share your guys’ experiences what you’re doing with other org’s. So hopefully they can hone in on some of the stuff that you’re doing and do what you guys were trying to do. See what you’re doing, and you know, how can we make that better? How can we incorporate that here and another one of the things that I love about talking to you guys, because I talk to organizations in different states, and a lot of people don’t realize the differences and just everything, overall. What you’re doing in Indiana is totally different than what the organizations here in Texas do, like, completely different. So I love being able to share that with listeners that are listening in different states. And one of the things that I kind of wanna touch base with you guys before we get things wrapped up here is if anybody is looking to engage with you guys or be a volunteer or become part of your guys’ team. How can they go about getting in contact with you? What’s the best way to do that? Best way to do it is to go to our website. It’s and there you can find–You can sign up to be a volunteer. It’s an online application. You can browse all the animals that we have that are available. You can check to see if you are in the area and you want to book our PAW, it’s there. You can check out our calendar to see where we’re going to be. You can donate on our website as well. So there’s pretty much anything. If you want to be a foster, the application is gonna be on the website, too. So is our hub. It has everything that you would need if you wanted to talk to somebody. Online forms are also the best way to do it. It’s not always possible for us to answer the phones. Yeah, So emails and only forms are always easiest for us.

Okay, awesome. Well, ladies, is there anything else that you guys want to share with us today before we wrap things up? I think the one last thing I do want to say and one thing that I’ve been impressed with working at Indy Humane is the lack of ego, that I think a lot of people have that I think could be something that can really be damaging to a company or to a nonprofit like ours. And I do think that a lot of people have that mindset of like, “It’s not about ego, it’s not about, I want to get recognition for this”. On an individual level, people are just like I just want to help these animals and that’s really inspiring and awesome to me just to be around all these people who love these animals like their own, and that’s all they want to do. We want to make sure that when we’re working together. There’s no ego, it’s about the animal. And all honestly the fact that you guys have that, those are the type of people that we need in the animal welfare industry, because it truly is the ultimate goal. It’s about them. It’s about the animals. It’s about giving them a voice again. From talking you guys, I’m truly inspired by what you guys were doing. I’m excited to see what the future holds for you guys. I would love to check in with you and see how it’s going. Yeah, definitely! I would say whatever you’re doing, it’s right. Businesses wanna be partners with you. You guys have got it all down. So yeah, it makes a difference. If you love what you’re doing, you’re going to do everything you can in your power to make it better. And I can clearly see that and how enthusiastic you guys are about what you’re doing. So thank you for taking the time to talk with me today. And like I said, I would love to check in with you guys in the future and see how it’s going. Absolutely. Thank you so much.

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