Humane Society of Indianapolis was indifferent, so FACE fixes them

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 2000:

IDIANAPOLIS––The Foundation Against Companion Animal Euthanasia (FACE) altered 7,000 dogs and cats at $20 to $30 apiece within a year of opening, and then picked up the pace.

Reaching 10,000 in just three more months, FACE set in motion plans to add more veterinary staff and build a pet adoption center. Founders Scott Robinson, M.D., and wife Ellen––expecting their first child any day but continuing to manage the FACE clinic–– were also investigating possible expansion into Bloomington, and/or adding a mobile clinic to serve rural Indiana.

As a specialist in human internal medicine who works in a Zionsville hospital emergency room, Scott Robinson wasn’t seeking a parallel career in veterinary humane work back in 1993 when he began bringing FACE together. He and Ellen, an animal rights activist since high school, had not yet met. All Robinson set out to do, he says, was encourage Humane Society of Indianapolis executive director Marsha Spring to look into some of the breaking-edge techniques that were and are knocking down the shelter killing toll elsewhere around the U.S.––notably the Animal Foundation high-volume low-cost neutering clinic in Las Vegas.

Robinson offered to pay the cost of bringing Animal Foundation chief Mary Herro to Indianapolis to address a public meeting.

“We don’t have the funds to start such a clinic,” Spring said.

But the Humane Society of Indianapolis, with $8 million in reserve, is among the wealthiest humane societies in the U.S. relative to population served. It could have matched the Animal Foundation cash assets just with annual interest.

Robinson produced figures to illustrate that fixing dogs and cats is far less expensive over just a few years than catching and killing cast-offs and fecund strays.

Objecting to the perceived insinuation that the Humane Society of Indianapolis was kill-happy, Spring published newspaper ads claiming a 90% adoption rate, and later mailed appeals claiming a 99% adoption rate––referring only to the rate of adoption among animals offered for adoption.

Overall, the Humane Society of Indianapolis was and is killing about 70% of all dogs and cats received. Most are never put up for adoption. The Humane Society of Indianapolis and other shelters in the city killed 26.8 animals per 1,000 residents in 1998, four above the Indiana state average.

Robinson became annoyed. Spring challenged him to start a high-volume low-cost neutering clinic himself––and predicted that there wouldn’t be enough demand for the services to keep the clinic busy.

Robinson sought to get the city involved. City council member Phil Borst, DVM, blocked that effort.

Eventually Robinson realized that if a high-volume low-cost neutering clinic was to be built, he would have to do it himself. He had worked his way through medical school as an usher for The Price Is Right. Incorporating FACE, he called The Price Is Right host Bob Barker, a longtime animal advocate and supporter of low-cost neutering programs. Barker pledged $20,000 in matching funds if Robinson could locally raise $180,000 of the $200,000 estimated clinic start-up costs.

FACE bought the clinic site, a former construction company headquarters, in November 1997. Acquisition and renovation actually cost close to $450,000, with the Robinsons and other volunteers doing much of the work. Partly, the overruns were because Robinson realized as the job proceeded that what was necessary was not just a place to fix dogs and cats, but a complete physical statement that animals’ lives matter.

Junking plans of using second-hand and donated equipment, Robinson bought the best available, brand-new. The site, on the purported wrong side of the tracks, was landscaped so attractively that like Maddie’s Adoption Center in San Francisco and other new high-end animal care facilities, it helped to inspire a whole neighborhood rebirth.

Seven years ago Robinson spoke of the clinic as an end. Now he calls it just the beginning. He believes Indianapolis can become a no-kill city and Indiana a no-kill state, whether or not the Humane Society of Indianapolis ever shows any initiative at all.

[FACE may be contacted at 1505 Massachusetts Ave., Indianapolis, IN 46201; 317-638-3223; <>.]</>

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