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Opening Arguments

A dog's (and cat's) life

They seem to be having trouble in Indianapolis balancing the humane treatment and public safety parts of their animal control department. Facing accusations of animal cruelty, the animal shelter hired Douglas Rae as the new director, who ended the policy of automatically killing pit bulls and set a goal to cut the euthanization rate from 60 percent to 20 percent. But then a woman lost part of her leg when a stray pit bull mauled her, and residents started to complain about how long it took for the city to catch strays. After nine months, Rae was fired, and the city "returned to a firm focus on keeping aggressive strays off the street":

In his short time, Rae -- and his priorities for the position -- proved polarizing in the community and seemed to make his public-safety bosses uncomfortable.

You saw this shift more toward the animals," said longtime observer Ellen Robinson, who directs the FACE Low-Cost Spay/Neuter Clinic. "Then maybe public safety thought, 'Wait a minute.' Maybe it was too much too soon."

Other cities have managed to add animal welfare to their public-safety mission. But a number of people said Monday that Rae simply wasn't the right fit to coax Indianapolis into that mindset.

That last paragraph makes sense. I don't know what the right mix of welfare and safety is, but I suspect departments have to start with the safety aspect. If they get that part right, they can then take care of animal welfare. I don't know what everybody else's experience is, but our shelter seems to me to get it pretty much right. It's not a "no kill" shelter, but it doesn't, as many seem to believe, automatically dispose of strays after three days. Unless an animal is dangerous or sick beyond recovery, they'll keep it as long as they can while trying to adopt it out.