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Humane Society eyes city for $3M clinic

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The Humane Society of Indianapolis is shopping for donors to support construction of a $3 million spay/neuter clinic in the Fountain Square area.

Humane Society Executive Director John Aleshire said this morning that he’s negotiating for an undisclosed site in the Fountain Square area, which he hopes to reserve until he can raise $700,000 to $800,000 to get the clinic up and running.

The hoped-for clinic is a significant departure from Aleshire’s original plan to add spay/neuter services at the group’s Michigan Road headquarters.

The Humane Society hired Aleshire last August to dig the organization out of a financial hole while also improving relations with the animal-welfare community. One of his first stated goals was to add low-cost spay/neuter services by early this year.

“We can’t do this until the donors show up,” Aleshire said.

Aleshire is billing the clinic as an “Animal Resource Center,” where local groups, including Indy Feral, Indy Pit Crew and Friends of Indianapolis Dogs Outside, would have office space. The building would include a room for community use and sell pet supplies.

The Humane Society’s quest for a location just southeast of downtown sets up the possibility for competition with the city’s only existing low-cost spay/neuter clinic, the Foundation Against Companion-Animal Euthanasia, or FACE, which is on the east end of Massachusetts Avenue.

“I find that a little awkward,” said Ellen Robinson, executive director of FACE. “If you’re looking at a part of town where there’s nothing, it would be west of Indianapolis.”

Since FACE opened in 1999, the number of animals euthanized by Indianapolis Animal Care and Control and the Humane Society has dropped from 22,000 to 12,000 in 2008.

The Humane Society is telling donors that Fountain Square is ideal for a spay/neuter clinic. According to its statistics, 72 percent of local shelter animals originate from 10 zip codes, most of which are southeast and southwest of the city.

“There’s no question Fountain Square has a big problem with stray cats and dogs,” Robinson said.

The Humane Society is also taking a different philosophical approach to low-cost spay/neuter services. Because cats can bear litters at a very young age, Aleshire wants the new clinic to operate on juvenile cats and dogs – animals as young as six weeks old that weigh as little as 2 pounds.

FACE operates only on animals that are at least four months old or weigh 4 pounds. Robinson acknowledged that juvenile spay/neuter is becoming more popular with animal-welfare advocates, but said FACE takes a conservative approach. “I don’t know that there have been long-term studies to see how it affects the patients,” she said.

The Humane Society is likely to base its fees on a sliding scale and pet owners would have to prove that they qualify for low-income services.

Robinson said FACE has always used a low flat fee in order to avoid discouraging participation. The clinic spays or neuters cats for $20 and neuters all dogs for $30. Sterilization of medium and large female dogs costs $30, while the fee for small female dogs is $50.

FACE employs seven veterinarians, including three surgeons, and performs an average of 73 surgeries a day.

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