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Lawmaker proposes requiring pet return procedures for animal shelters

FISHERS, Ind. (WISH) — Staff at an Indianapolis-area animal shelter say new legislation would help more pets get home.

Humane Society for Hamilton County spokesperson Megan Davis said her shelter alone takes in more than 4,000 animals a year, a majority of which are lost or stray pets. She said her shelter has written procedures for returning such pets to their owners. The shelter starts by checking for any microchips, collars, tags or other identifiers. Staff then try to track down the owner. If they aren’t successful within seven days, the animal becomes available for adoption.

Davis said the existence of pet return policies currently depends on a shelter’s contract with a city or a county. That might change under legislation filed by Sen. Ron. Alting, R-Lafayette. The measure would require every animal shelter in Indiana to have written policies and procedures governing the return of lost pets to owners. The bill’s language leaves the structure of such policies up to the shelters but suggests, among other things, processes for identifying the animal and its owner and then notifying the community.

Davis said the bill likely would help more pets get back to their owners. In many cases, she said a pet gets lost simply by accident, such as by wandering out a door. She said cats are especially difficult to return because they are less likely to approach a human than a dog.

“We don’t want them to end up in our shelter. As much as we care about all the animals and love them, we don’t want them here,” she said. “We want them in loving families.”

Alting’s bill, along with every other piece of legislation, faces a tight deadline. Lawmakers return to the Statehouse on Tuesday and will adjourn no later than March 14. His bill would have to pass out of the Senate by Feb. 1 to have any chance of clearing the legislature and heading to the governor.