It would be impractical for Kirsten VantWoud to wear a suit to work. Her dark jeans and bright-colored shirt are reflective of the office atmosphere: professional, bright, and active. Even with 50,000 hours worth of help from volunteers this year, it’s still necessary for her to be hands-on with cats and dogs all day long. No one needs a good suit to wrestle with a puppy. And she wouldn’t have it any other way.
Animal care is a long-standing love for Kirsten. At least three factors that contributed greatly to her affinity were the children’s book series “All Things Great and Small,” working for a veterinarian in junior high, and her father deciding he didn’t want to hunt anymore.
“My brother wanted to go with him, and my dad realized he didn’t want to teach him how to kill something. So he stopped.”
Fortunately for Indy’s Animal Welfare Center, this series of events led Kirsten to become their Executive Director in 2012. The center offers targeted, low-cost, high-volume spay/neuter surgeries; “Urban Transport”, a mobile vaccine clinic that is located in Fountain Square each Tuesday from 4 to 6 p.m., at 924 S. Shelby Street; and behavior training for at-risk pets. Kirsten is passionate about providing pet-owners convenient, cost-effective ways to make sure their furry loved ones are safe.
“By having your dog spayed before her first season, there are cancers we prevent by close to 100%. So, it’s not just about keeping them from getting pregnant. It’s also about keeping them from getting sick.”
This passion for animals led Kirsten to receive her Veterinary Technician degree from Purdue. She went on to become Animal Control Officer for Noblesville and then the Director of the Humane Society for Hamilton County, before ending up at Indy Humane in 2009 as Kennel Manager. She was soon promoted to Director of Operations before beginning the dream of her life’s work at the Animal Welfare Center. She believes that by supporting pet owners and helping to control the stray population, Indianapolis will see less and less abused and abandoned pets.
“You can’t adopt your way out of too many animals in your city. There are more humane and effective actions we can take.”
With the assertion that “every animal we meet has a person attached to it,” Kirsten is adamant that animal workers be respectful to the human families they work with, as well. The center is a No-Judgement zone based on the assumption that pet-owners love their animals, but don’t always have the tools or knowledge to provide them the best care.
“We don’t let perfect get in the way of good.”
At the end of the day, the Animal Welfare Center is most interested in seeing healthy animals in loving and happy homes. The goal is to fix 5,000 animals in their first year and they hope to increase that number to 13,000 in their third year. There’s no interest in slowing down until shelters in Indianapolis have fewer animals to help!
Click here for more information about the Animal Welfare Center.