State’s changes lead to cancellation of Barktember fundraiser

A black lab jumps into the pool at a previous Barktember event. (File photo)
A black lab jumps into the pool at a previous Barktember event. (File photo)

Barktember, the annual fundraiser for the Humane Society for Hamilton County that allows dogs to swim in the pool at the Monon Community Center, will not be held in 2016, and questions have been raised about whether the popular event can proceed in the future.

Previously, dogs were able to play in the Waterpark pool on one day in September after the pool had closed for the season. Past Barktember events have raised thousands of dollars for the animal shelter.

Carmel Clay Parks and Recreation Director Mark Westermeier said the entrance will be under reconstruction to allow for increased attendance at the facility during the time Barktember is normally held. In addition, the Indiana State Dept. of Health has released new guidelines regarding animals and pools that complicate the future of Barktember.

The changes require that at any future Barktember event, no humans could be in the pool with the dogs. All dogs must have their updated veterinary records displayed prior to entrance, and all lifeguards would have to be trained in both human and dog CPR.

The biggest health concern comes from dog feces, which can be toxic. If a dog has an accident in the pool, it could raise concerns about diseases and infections that include campylobacter, salmonella, cryptosporidium, giardia, hookworm, tapeworm, and roundworm. Some of them can be very resistant to chlorine. There are also parasites such as ticks, fleas and others that could pose a problem.

The state health department recommends only using shallow areas of the pool and raising the chlorine level prior to such events, yet residual chlorine can’t exceed a certain level because it could negatively affect the dogs. They also recommend hosing off dogs before entering the pool.

“We were disappointed to hear Barktember won’t be possible any longer as it has been one of our most popular events each year,” said Rebecca Stevens, executive director of the Humane Society for Hamilton County. “We’re hopeful we can work through any new requirements or challenges the event now poses for the Monon Center so we can do it again in the future.”

Westermeier said the event’s future depends on state guidelines. Some states, he said, have completely banned such events. He said Bloomington still holds its event and his staff is communicating with officials there to see if solutions could be found so the event could return to Carmel at some point.

“It’s tough, because it’s an event that’s been really successful,” he said.