Karen Celestino-Horseman: Be the voice for our animal companions

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Celestino-HorsemanAs tears welled in my eyes, my little dog Bailey sat on my lap, burrowed close to my chest, pushing against me as if she were trying to escape into my heart, a place she already held. We were with the veterinarian because both Bailey and I knew she could not go on living with the large tumors that were closing her throat and limiting her quality of life. While Bailey sat within my arms, the vet injected the catheter in Bailey’s leg. She was gone, and I was left alone to weep.

I had the privilege of fostering Bailey through the fospice (foster plus hospice) program of Indy Humane. And Indy Humane was able to rescue Bailey because Indianapolis Animal Care Services took Bailey in when she was in need. Because of her cancer, Bailey was unadoptable, so my volunteer job was to give her a final home. While Bailey was lucky, there are thousands of loving dogs and cats in Indiana that are not given a second chance. Private no-kill shelters can remain no-kill because when they are full, they can make the difficult decision to close the doors. That’s something they work to avoid because it puts more pressure on ACS, which, by law, must accept every animal surrendered. When ACS is full, the animals still keep coming and it has no option but to select animals to be euthanized.

ACS has done an outstanding job on a limited budget with limited resources. We who should be ashamed of our failure to properly support ACS. It has an annual budget of approximately $5.6 million. This sounds like a lot of money, but consider this: ACS took in approximately 14,400 animals in 2017. That averages to $388 per animal for care, which can include spay and neuter services, shots, parasite treatments and preventatives, medicine, food, shelter and comfort as well as the salaries of staff and the cost of keeping its horrid facility (another story) operating by paying its utilities and upkeep. Anyone who has ever had to pay for animal care knows that this is wretchedly little money to do a big job.

Without the aid of private organizations such as the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust, Spay-Neuter Services of Indiana, Indy Humane, Southside Animal Shelter and Friends of Indianapolis Dogs Outside as well as many, many rescue organizations throughout Indianapolis and lots of personal investment by their thousands of volunteers, ACS would be overwhelmed.

Obviously, the work of the private organizations and their volunteers is a labor of love. And thanks to everyone’s hard work and the dedication of the staff, the euthanasia rate at ACS has dropped dramatically. But ACS is still left to beg for donations of food, paper towels, dog leads, carriers, etc. (you can donate via the Indianapolis Animal Care Services Animal Wish List page on Amazon at http://a.co/j8a2yjv. I can think of no other Indianapolis government agency that depends upon the kindness of strangers to operate and fulfill its mission.

We can and must do better. As government cannot or will not, we all need to step-up. Make a difference, and this Christmas, donate money to the animal shelter of your choice. And yes, the Friends of Indianapolis Animal Care Services Foundation can accept money donations on behalf of ACS. And if you happen to see an elected official, please, remind him or her that the care and treatment of surrendered animals is a priority—not an afterthought.•

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Celestino-Horseman is an attorney and represents the Indiana Latino Democratic Caucus on the Democratic State Central Committee. Send comments to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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