Recently my family took a shelter dog out for a day of fun, and it was one of the most rewarding experiences we’ve ever had! Indianapolis Animal Care Services (IACS), located on the south side, now has a Freedom for a Day program that allows individuals who are at least 18-years-old (and their families) to take a dog out for a day or just a few hours. The goals of the program are to relieve stress on the dog, help the dog find a forever home, and publicize the dog and the program on social media.

You do not need an appointment to participate in this program. Just show up at the shelter any day they’re open, which is every day except Wednesday. You can pick the dog up as early as 10 am, but you’ll need to bring him/her back by 5:30 pm. The shelter asks that you choose a dog who has either been at the kennel for at least 30 days or one who is showing signs of kennel stress. Here’s the process:

1. Finding the Right Fit

When you arrive, just tell the workers that you’d like to take a dog for the day, and you will be escorted back to the kennels to look for your next best friend. The kennel area is very loud and there is a strong odor, so if you have children who do not do well in spaces like that, you may need to have them wait in the lobby with another adult in your group. You’ll also be cautioned to not stick your hands or fingers inside of the kennels while walking around. On each kennel, there is an intake date and some basic information about each dog. Some dogs’ kennels have more extensive notes about medical issues or special needs. If you’re looking for a certain type of dog, a dog that will do well in certain situations, or a dog who will most likely do well with certain ages of kids, then you can ask a worker to help narrow down the selection for you. On the day we participated, there were around 40 dogs who we could have chosen.

Need some ideas of where to take your dog?

  • Eagle Creek Park (ask about a FREE pass)
  • Garfield Park
  • Three Dogs Eatery
  • Pet Valu on Kentucky Ave
  • Starbucks
  • Metazoa
  • Fountain Square Brewery
  • Silver in the City
  • Rolstons
  • Chatham Tap
  • Bru Pub
  • Brics in Broad Ripple
  • Broad Ripple Brew Pub
  • Bru Burger
  • The Monon Trail

2. Alone Time

After you’ve picked a dog, you and your family can go outside to your own dog run that is about 20’ x 30’. In that area, you can get to know the dog, play with toys, and make sure everyone feels comfortable with each other.

3. Paperwork

After you’ve decided your dog will be a good fit for your family, the dog will return to his/her kennel while you fill out a very small amount of paperwork. You’ll need to show your government-issued ID to the workers, and then you’ll sign a foster agreement where you’ll need to agree to these terms:

  • The dog will be kept on a short non-flexi leash and harness that will be controlled by the person signing the agreement.
  • The dog will not be allowed in a dog park or around other animals.
  • The dog will be returned before 5:30 pm.
  • The IACS will not be held responsible for any damages arising from the agreement.

4. Have Fun!

The workers will provide you with a harness and leash, so now all that’s left is to take your dog to your vehicle and get going! If you’re interested in going to Eagle Creek, just ask the adoption counselor for a voucher to get in free! You can also ask for a water bowl if you aren’t going home and forgot to bring one with you.

Our Experience

We took home a sweet, fun-loving, and energetic 2-year-old boxer named Gerrard. I brought a large crate with us so that the dog would not be loose in our minivan, and I am glad I did because he moved around quite a bit during the ride. We first went home to play fetch in the backyard and then cooled off in the air conditioning while checking out some squeaky dog toys and fun human toys.

Gerrard was extremely patient with my 2-year-old and 4-year-old boys. He even used his paw and nose to push a toy dump truck back and forth with the boys. All that fun made us hungry, so we loaded back up in the van and swung through McDonalds and Dairy Queen to pick up a cheeseburger and a pup cup (those are free from DQ!). Gerard ate his cheeseburger outside and then cooled off with his ice cream on the back porch.

After all that, Gerard took a short nap and then it was time for him to go back to the kennel. I won’t lie, it was very hard to take Gerard back, but I just kept telling myself that we made him happy for the day (his tail wagged nonstop!) and that I would share our story on social media in hopes that Gerrard’s forever family would find him sooner. Both of my boys agreed they’d had “the best day ever!”

Looking for other ways to help IACS?

The Freedom for a Day program is in need of medium and large-sized harnesses and leashes. Please take them to the Freedom for a Day desk which is located to the right in the lobby.