‘Back to the drawing board’; Animal Care and Control expansion halted in City Council budget cuts

Local News

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Fort Wayne City Council made a number of cuts to the 2022 city budget at Tuesday night’s meeting.

One cut: funds allocated to Animal Care and Control for an expansion.

“It was definitely disheartening but not totally discouraging,” said Amy-Jo Sites, the shelter’s director.

Council voted 7-2 to cut the funds from the budget, which was $54,200. Councilmen Geoff Paddock (5th District) and Glynn Hines (At-Large) were the two who voted to keep the request in the budget.

Officials with the shelter previously spoke to the council about the need for the extra money to help expand the services and design a new wing at the shelter.

The room the shelter currently uses to assess dogs that come in. When the building was built, the room was intended for food storage.

“I feel like it was just maybe [some Council members] not understanding ‘the why’ completely,” said Sites. “And potentially felt like it was a want versus a need… I mean, they have a hard job. They’ve got to figure out the entire city and what every department does, so they’re making the best decisions that they can with the information they have.”

Sites said the building Animal Care and Control is in at Butler and Hillegas roads was designed 22 years ago. The theory for shelters back then was to “catch and euthanize,” meaning the facilities weren’t meant for long stays and progressive sheltering.

“That’s just not what the design was for. We were retrofitted into a church, and that’s what our shelter is,” said Sites. “We’ve now come across the point in time where we are progressive and we are advancing our programs where we need a larger footprint and more space to do the life saving programs that we’ve already implemented.”

The director further explained how the current space is not meant for animals.

“We currently use a food storage room for our deeper assessments,” said Sites.” We utilize our Pooch Playground, which is amazing. It’s our outdoor play space, but reality is, we live in the Midwest, so the weather is not always conducive to having those proper assessments outside.”

The money the shelter was seeking would’ve went towards adding on a Behavior Training Center, along with an additional kennel space. The expansion would allow the shelter to have the space it needs to properly correct the behavior issues it’s seeing in about a fourth of its animals.

Sites said as a result of not getting the funding the shelter needs, the expansion isn’t able to be pursued. Animal Care and Control will continue to use its current education center, which will have a domino effect on the shelter’s operations.

“It does limit the amount of programs that we can offer to both youth and children here at the shelter because we need [the education center] for the dogs that are in our care currently and that means we won’t be able to offer more training programs for citizens of Fort Wayne with their own pets,” said Sites. “So, it’s just something we won’t be able to expand at this time.”

She added that internally, the shelter will “try to get a bit more creative” with the current space.

In regards to getting funding elsewhere, Sites said Animal Care and Control’s donors “don’t necessarily have the responsibility to pay for any expansions.” The donors typically pay for the programs implemented to save the animals lives.

“Now, we just have to go back to the drawing board and see what we can do to help City Council feel more comfortable with this expansion and approve it,” said Sites. “We’ll have a better plan in place and maybe some clearer objectives.”

In the meantime, Sites said the shelter is always looking for owners to foster its animals. Information about how to adopt can be found here.

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