INDIANAPOLIS | More than 100 dogs and cats set to be killed at an Indianapolis animal shelter instead will find new lives in homes halfway across the country, thanks in part to the work of state Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond.
Lawson ignored drenching rain pouring on her Thursday as she helped load cage after cage into four vans operated by the CanINE Express Transport Project, which each month takes unwanted Indiana pets to animal shelters in New England, where spay and neuter laws have minimized the surplus pet population.
The dogs and cats will travel about 1,100 miles over three days before arriving at facilities and adoptive homes vastly different than their former stomping grounds on the streets of central and southern Indiana cities and towns.
"We knew if they stayed here they would be killed by the shelters because there's no space in their kennels," said Cathi Eagan, founder of the transport project. "It's not their fault, they're doing the best they can here in Indiana, but there's too many dogs and cats for the facilities that we have."
Lawson, who is planning to make a trip with the animals later this year, said it's a tragedy Indiana has so many dogs and cats that people don't want or can't take care of and which end up in municipal facilities, costing taxpayers money, or Humane Society shelters.
However, her efforts to enact a spay and neuter program for low-income pet owners and to charge a $50 fee on Hoosiers purchasing unsterilized pets repeatedly have failed to advance in the Republican-controlled General Assembly.
"It's really hard to convince folks that this is the right thing to do," Lawson said. "This is not something that they are familiar with and it's not something that they really support."
Jessica Lifford, executive director of the Indianapolis Humane Society's Animal Welfare Center, said studies show targeted spay and neuter programs are successful at reducing the number of animals that come into shelters and the proportion of those animals that subsequently are euthanized.
Lawson vowed to keep fighting for spay and neuter legislation and plans to continue supporting programs like the transport project, which has relocated more than 9,000 animals in the past decade, so at least some of Indiana's unwanted dogs and cats get a second chance at life.
"We don't need to be doing this; it's absolutely unnecessary," she said.