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New fee surprises Speedway Animal Rescue; town worries about lawsuit

SPEEDWAY, Ind. (WISH) — An animal group in Speedway was surprised and upset when its members found out this week they have to pay the town to take animals off the town’s hands effective immediately.

But, town officials said it’s not so simple. They are worried about a lawsuit.

But until they can revise their ordinance, town leaders said they have to stick to the letter of the law.

The nonprofit Speedway Animal Rescue fears it could cost them dearly.

The animal living quarters at the Speedway Street Department don’t look like much. But there’s no animal shelter in town.

Inside on Thursday afternoon was Penske, a Chihuahua mix.

After five days here, dogs like Penske can be released to the group.

“We do a lot for the community,” said the animal group’s treasurer, Anna Weber. “We do a lot for animals.”

Until this week, the group had a handshake agreement for years to get the animals for free. It frees the town from costly medical bills or from having to pay to send animals to the Indianapolis shelter.

But, that changed Monday morning with an email.

“Felt like a stab in the heart, like we weren’t appreciated for what we do,” Weber said.

Speedway Town Manager Carlos May is just two months on the job. He’s been working to update the town’s ordinances.

He’s already found a number of major rewrites that will be required, including in the animal section where there are several inconsistencies from paragraph to paragraph. But, it does state all adopters must pay a $30 fee.

“It basically covers the cost of our employees doing nonstreet stuff,” said May. “The animal rescue group, they do a great job. I just couldn’t unilaterally decide what is going to be followed and what is not going to be followed.”

While May plans to have an updated ordinance at the next town council meeting — the measure will include an exception for nonprofits dealing with animals — he said the letter of the law must be followed or else the city could be liable for an expensive lawsuit, even if it’s frivolous.

“I didn’t want to take that chance. I couldn’t take that chance,” May said. “I don’t want us to get sued especially now when town revenues and all government revenues are down.”

But for Speedway Animal Rescue, which takes in from 100-120 animals a year from the town, the worry is how many dogs like Penske are going to arrive at the Street Department with no one to claim them until the ordinance can be updated.

“Thirty dollars once, fine. But when we’re trying to raise $4,000 currently for the dog who is at the vet with chemical burns, every little bit adds up,” Weber said. “There are literally times when we don’t have $30 in our account.”

She’s also frustrated because a temporary exception couldn’t be made by the town. She doesn’t see the Speedway Animal Rescue as an adopter and by other parts of the ordinance which are not being followed either, like having a microchip.

“We might not have money to save dogs,” Weber said.

May said work is underway right now to rewrite the ordinance. He’s asked Speedway Animal Rescue for input to make it better.

The next council meeting is set for Sept. 14.