Animal issues, as they relate to neighborhoods, are often overlooked. When I took charge of the Indianapolis Animal Care & Control Division of the Department of Public Safety in September of 2012, I was not aware of the existence of many of the animal ordinances in effect in the City of Indianapolis. As a resident of Admirals Bay and a Geist Harbors Property Owner’s Association board member, I would like to pass on some tips and information regarding responsible ownership of our furry friends.
Please note that the rules and ordinances outlined below only affect the City of Indianapolis. The four excluded cities in Marion County (Beach Grove, Lawrence, Southport, and Speedway) have their own animal-related ordinances and enforcement component.
Marion County has a large pet overpopulation problem. It is estimated that tens of thousands of homeless animals roam the streets and neighborhoods of Indianapolis. Indianapolis Animal Care & Control takes into the shelter approximately 16,000 animals per year. The best way to ensure that we keep this problem under control is to spay or neuter your pets. While not required in Indianapolis, spaying or neutering all pets goes a long way to reduce the number of unwanted animals. Additionally, spayed or neutered animals have a reduced risk of health issues.
The city’s Community Cat Program, which allows for the trapping, spaying or neutering, and release of feral or stray cats, is effective at reducing the number of stray and feral cats in the community. The idea is that if we can fix as many cats as possible they will reduce in number by attrition. This program has been successful in other cities and can reduce the number of cats brought to the city shelter, thus reducing the number that must be euthanized. If you have stray cats in your neighborhood you may register with IndyFeral as a community cat caretaker. Caretakers are responsible for feeding the cats in their colony, identifying cats which require spay or neuter, and seeking assistance for cats with medical issues. Note: It is a violation of the ordinance to feed “at-large” cats, or other animals, without being registered with IndyFeral.
Indianapolis has ordinances addressing “at-large” animals. With the exception of cats that are a part of the Community Cat Program, all animals must be on a leash or confined without means of escape and under the control of their owners. Basically, owned cats and dogs must be kept indoors or in a fenced-in yard. Please do not let your cats roam outside, especially if they are not spayed or neutered. At-large animals can be a nuisance to your neighbors, may breed, thus adding to the homeless pet population, may be aggressive toward other animals or people, or they may be at risk of being injured by other animals.
“Curbing” is the confusing term for allowing animals to defecate on public streets, byways, municipally owned or public land or buildings, or upon private property. Per ordinance, citizens must remove and dispose of any feces if not on their own property. Obviously, this is difficult to prove, but please be a good neighbor and pick-up after your dog or cat.
All owned animals in the City of Indianapolis must have permanent identification. Permanent identification can be accomplished by having a tag affixed to the collar of your furry friend or an implanted microchip. The identification method must contain the name of the owner, and a current address and phone number. I push the microchip option because the chip cannot be removed from the animal. The reason for this requirement is to allow for the safe return of your pet if they get lost or stolen.
You must keep your animal up to date on their rabies vaccination. This rule seems obvious, but Animal Care & Control officers write thousands of citations for this violation every year. We have not seen a dog or cat case of rabies in decades because of the rabies vaccination requirement. Skunks, opossums, and bats do sometimes carry rabies and can be a risk to your pets.
There are relatively strict laws about keeping your dog on a tether in your yard. The reason for the ordinance is based on providing the best care and treatment for your animal. If you choose to tether your dog in the yard the tether must be at least 12 feet in length, have swivels on both ends, and the collar must not be a choke collar. Additionally, the animals must have access to food/water, a dog house sufficient to shield it from the elements, and it must be fixed. A dog may not be tethered between the hours of 11:00pm and 6:00am.
These are a few examples of ordinances, which apply to residents of the Geist community; however, there are many more. For a complete listing of all of the ordinances for the City of Indianapolis, please go to http://www.municode.com/Library/IN and select “Indianapolis – Marion County.” Animal ordinance, specifically, are under Chapter 531 of the Revised Code of the Consolidated City of Indianapolis – Marion County.
Daniel Shackle is the Administrator/Chief of the Indianapolis Animal Care & Control.