Updated: Thursday, 24 Sep 2009, 7:17 PM EDT
Published : Thursday, 24 Sep 2009, 6:57 PM EDT
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - The embattled chief of the city's animal shelter may soon be out of a job. Wednesday afternoon, the mayor removed the chairman of Animal Care and Control's advisory board and some believe the shelter chief is next.
Warren Patitz, the board chairman, was not paid for his service. But he said the volunteer position put him in the middle of a political firestorm. He believes politics guided decisions about his removal, not concerns about the welfare of animals and Circle City citizens.
Patitz believes conditions at the shelter have dramatically improved following the December 2008 hiring of Douglas Rae as shelter director.
"There were animals slammed against the wall in the euthanasia room. They were killed in front of banks of animals watching. There were animals dragged down the hall in control sticks urinating and defecating. There were animals left bleeding in the kennels. And Mr. Rae put an end to all that," said Patitz.
But Patitz believes the new shelter chief will soon be out of a job.
Patitz' removal leaves a litany of questions. Does this signal a change of direction? And if so, might more firings follow?
Patitz believes the answer to both questions is yes. He strongly believes the mayor asked him to step down so he could more easily fire the shelter chief. Patitz supports the changes Rae has made at Animal Care and Control.
Paul Okeson, the mayor's chief of staff, said it's possible the shelter chief is at risk of being fired just nine months after his hiring. He points to the fact that the shelter director is on 60-day probation.
"Conscientious decisions have been made to disproportionately favor the kennel operation by pulling animal control officers out of the field in favor of the kennel operation," said Okeson.
Okeson believes that decision put citizens at risk from dangerous stray dogs -- a claim Patitz disputes.
"There have been 55 less dog bites reported this year in relation to the same period last year. There have been over 1,200 more officer runs," Patitz said.
But Okeson said there are more complaints concerning stray dogs at the mayor's action line than any other citizen concern. They said as of August 1, 2009, stray dog complaints ranked number one with more than 17,000 calls placed.
But Patitz said stray dog complaints have been the number one complaint since 1995, indicating it's an ongoing problem and cannot be attributed to Rae's leadership.
Animal Care and Control has faced budget cuts in recent years and an increase in the number of animals it houses.
The Ballard administration acknowledges that they're asking the
department to do more with less, but they said public safety should
not be sacrificed because funding is tight. They believe public
safety should always be the shelter chief's first priority.