On Friday morning, May 21st, a beautiful dog named Buddy was killed at Town Lake Animal Center. A series of miscommunications both internally at TLAC and between TLAC and APA! resulted in a tragic death that could have been prevented by improved protocol and communication. Buddy was a favorite of APA! and TLAC volunteers alike and had been a regular at our trail site, as well as a specially requested attendee at our SoCo adoption site. Those of us who knew him are heartbroken and dismayed. APA! was told there was a hold on Buddy through close of business on the 21st (clear instruction that he not be killed) while we determined our course of action. By late that morning, we had a foster home ready, Behavior & Enrichment Team volunteers lined up to work with Buddy in his foster home, and additional volunteers ready to pay for and take Buddy through professional training classes. While we were spending the afternoon organizing this, we had no idea that Buddy was already dead.
Buddy’s death is a tragedy that never should have occurred. He was a wonderful and highly adoptable dog whose life at the shelter ended just as it had endured while he was there; unfairly. The focus now must be to ensure that something like this never happens again. When the Animal Advisory Commission submitted their recommendations to the city, there was a provision included to ensure that there were safeguards in place in the form of step by step procedures that had to be followed and signed off on before any animal was killed at the shelter. This provision did not make it into the final implementation plan, but it needs to be there. Had these safeguards been in place, Buddy would still be alive. Taking a life is both tragic and irreversible, regardless of the circumstances, and something that should never be done until every possible alternative has been exhausted.
In honor of this dog that so many of us loved, we are starting Buddy’s Fund in the hope to give Buddy a legacy that will help other dogs in need. This fund will pay for dogs like Buddy who need extra enrichment and support in their lives while they wait for their forever homes, as well as continued training for adopters of high need dogs.
Some dogs need the socialization benefits, structure, boundaries, or social skills offered through professional training classes or work with a behaviorist. Some dogs are simply high energy and, while they may need or benefit from the aforementioned support, high energy dogs just do not often thrive in a shelter environment. It’s why so many of them find their way to the kill list, just as Buddy did. In a lower energy dog, the stress of the shelter environment often results in a less visible kind of depression. In a high energy dog, it manifests through acting out behaviors like jumping, mouthing, or biting on the leash. APA! has the Healthy Dogs, Healthy People program and professional behavior program led by trainer, Robin Cupell and TLAC has the trail dog program to get active dogs out for exercise. Buddy’s Fund will supplement those programs by financing a variety of professional training classes and behaviorist support for our dogs. We would like to offer support through the fund to dogs housed at TLAC as well.
Buddy’s Fund and the additional behavior support programs mentioned will not always be enough. A dog who is highly adoptable but demonstrates that they cannot thrive in a shelter environment should have a foster home made available for them. APA! can always use more foster homes and would love to have more fosters dedicated to behavior cases. As TLAC grows their foster program, foster homes should be opened up, not just to underage, pregnant, or sick animals, but to animals like Buddy who’s best chance at adoption exist outside the walls of the shelter.
When something like this happens, it can feel hard to go on. I’ve been crying since I sat down to write this and have been struggling for days to deal with what happened to Buddy. I know I’m not the only one. But giving up or walking away would be both selfish and ineffectual. We can stand around feeling sad and mumble about how we’re doing our best or we can stand up for Buddy and realize that we can still do better. Austin is a city with all the potential in the world to be a leader in what a humane, compassionate, and just society looks like. But if we want to live in that city, it’s going to take hard work on the part of everyone here. Start small, start big, speak out, break a sweat…do what needs to be done to create the type of world where Buddy would be living happily in his new family’s home.
Volunteer with APA!: http://www.austinpetsalive.org/get-involved/volunteer/
Volunteer with TLAC: http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/health/animal_services_help.htm
Find a local volunteer opportunity that works for you: http://kut.org/get_involved
Photo one by Savannah Lightfoot of Scarlett Blue Photography at APA! South Congress adoption site. Photo 2 by TLAC Volunteer Peggy Fikac at APA! trail site.