INDIANAPOLIS | Piloting a cargo van of caged and barking shelter dogs, state Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond, set off Thursday on an overnight drive to New Hampshire to deliver unwanted Indiana pets to facilities where they'll be adopted.
Lawson and Anne Sterling, Indiana director of the Humane Society of the United States, shared driving duties for the nearly 1,000-mile, 16-hour drive on behalf of the Canine Express Transport Project. Five vans brought a total of 92 puppies and dogs to 16 animal shelters in New England.
"There's puppies and kittens being born every single day that there's no home for," Lawson said.
She estimated that at least 30,000 cats and dogs are euthanized in Indiana every year due to the overabundance.
The six-term representative has sponsored numerous measures to protect animals, including regulations on dog breeding that have been used to shut down southern Indiana puppy mills. Lawson said she plans to introduce legislation in January, requiring nearly all Indiana dogs and cats to be spayed or neutered.
"People understand that this is the right thing to do," Lawson said. "They don't want their pups to be put to sleep or end up in a garbage can somewhere or end up on the side of the road if they truly care about their dog."
Strict spay and neuter requirements in New England states have reduced the number of shelter animals there. Since 2004, the all-volunteer, privately managed Canine Express Transport Project has relocated nearly 6,000 dogs slated to be euthanized in Indiana to shelters in New England for adoption.
"Every single one of these dogs that are going to New England are going to have a fabulous life," Sterling said. "The shelters there are waiting for them. They know all the dogs by name. They're welcoming them with open arms. It's a very, very, very happy outcome for these dogs."
Before leaving for New England on Thursday, Lawson and Sterling toured the Indianapolis Animal Care and Control Center. Over the course of the year, some 18,000 dogs and cats will end up at the taxpayer-funded facility. Most will not leave alive.
Lawson said that outcome makes it even more urgent that Indiana enact mandatory spay and neuter rules for most dogs and cats.
"You've got 14 animal control officers here in Indianapolis and you have a shelter bursting at the seams with animals," Lawson said. "This takes thousands and thousands of tax dollars, and it doesn't need to happen."