While many animal shelters across the country are coming under fire for inadequate care and facilities, including several in Indianapolis, the Muncie Animal Shelter wants to show the community what a good shelter should be.
"People think 'the pound,'" Synna Mills, animal care, said. "We want to put misconceptions down."
Mills has worked for seven months at the Muncie Animal Shelter located on S. Gharkey St. She believes her facility works because of the volunteers and donations, not just tax dollars.
Several kennels in Indianapolis were taken over by the Humane Society two years ago after a city ordinance was passed requiring shelters to provide veterinary care and a healthy environment for the animals. These kennels were recently investigated by reporters Bonnie Harris and Bill Theoblad of the Indianapolis Star who found the conditions for animals appalling.
Among the laws broken by the Indianapolis shelters were the absence of fresh bedding, overcrowding and diseased and healthy animals living together.
In Muncie, the city's animal care ordinance states that "The neglect or abandonment of an animal is a criminal misdemeanor."-á
Although the Muncie ordinance does not cater directly to shelters, Mills and her staff try to take an extra step.
Mills or other staff members greet those who enter the shelter and take them on a tour of the animals who are up for adoption. The only smell in the air is disinfectant. The walls are painted brightly with pictures of flowers, dogs and cats.
In addition to well lined cages, dogs receive disposable blankets to curl up with on their heated floors.
"This way it's not just hot air, it's healthier," said Mills.
Outside, more dogs are kept in large "runs" which are small rooms with fenced doors. No more than two dogs are kept in a run and they are generally separated by age and breed. All dogs are walked regularly -- providing the shelter has enough volunteers.
People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals is one national organization that has been associated with the reform of animal shelters. From their Web site, www.peta.org, they describe the ideal shelter as having large and sunny cat rooms, spacious dog runs, a spay/neuter program and comprehensive humane education programs in addition to sick wards and rooms for isolating newcomers.
Although this may be ideal, immense funding would be needed to put the kind of programs PETA wants into place at many shelters.
"We can guide you or we can help guide you to more information," said Mills. "Pet ownership is a big responsibility, but it's worth it."
Although the Muncie Animal Shelter was built from some tax dollars, the bulk of the money came from Mary Virginia Leach who willed funds to the shelter after her death. This ratio is fairly accurate for the day to day running of the facility as well. Donations go directly to medical care of animals and other extras.
The Muncie Animal Shelter will be holding tours for school children, door prizes and other activities in honor of National Shelter Week Monday through November 9.