Saving Lives Through Innovation; New Training Center Grand Opening TONIGHT!

by Hilary Bentley • Posted in: Awareness/ PR, Behavior, Events, Fundraising, Volunteering

Tonight, Monday 1/16, from 4-7pm, we would like to invite you to join us for the grand opening of the APA! Dog Behavior Team’s new training center! Housed in our new location at Town Lake Animal Center, the training center has been a massive makeover project that will result in four life rooms (a kitchen, 2 living rooms, and a bedroom) that simulate rooms in a home, special condo style housing for long stay behavioral rehabilitation dogs, a large indoor group training space, and a dog-friendly office.

The life rooms will serve as invaluable training opportunities, allowing us to work on housetraining, crate training, socialization to every day objects many of the dogs are unfamiliar with, and more.  They will serve a second purpose as a special place within the shelter where dogs can come to de-stress and spend quality one-on-one time with their handlers.  Each room will have a set of rules, as well as training and enrichment activities to work on in each setting.

You have likely heard the wonderful news that Austin has officially become a No-Kill city, saving 91% of the animals entering our city shelter in 2011.  In FY ’11, 2,774 of those animals were pulled from the euthanasia list by Austin Pets Alive!, translating to a 58% reduction in the city’s kill rate. We are doing an amazing job saving lives and we are so proud, but we also recognize that 1,969 animals still died at our city shelter this year, many of whom are not just savable through options like hospice care or sanctuary, but through adoption.

This training center is for them.

They are medium to large breed dogs with behavior challenges and they are the last group of adoptable dogs still dying in large numbers at our city shelter. Behavior challenges can mean anything from a dog who has suffered the affects of abuse or neglect to a big, goofy, untrained adolescent who simply doesn’t know any better.

To be clear, APA! and our Dog Behavior Team are already saving a lot of these dogs.  But there are more who, without additional resources, we are forced to leave behind.

To change this, we are buidling our already established Dog Behavior Program by thinking outside the box.   To our multi-level trained handler programs and weekly trainings for our dogs including TTouch, Group Training Class, and Doga, we are adding indoor opportunites with our new life rooms, special housing options, and a large, indoor group training room.

To the off-site tutor days and training opportunities our dogs attend, we are adding two part-time trainers who come to the shelter and work with dogs directly in that environment and help our team develop individual training plans for our most challenging behavior cases – an addition we are in need of additional funding via Louie’s Fund to make sustainable.

We are also ramping up the way we track dogs’ progress and match them with potential adopters.  This weekend, we had our second group evaluation day where dogs are taken through a variety of assessment tests that include seeing how they do with large and small dogs, cats, children, through a barrier, and more.

The tests are carried out by trained handlers (with every safety precaution taken), and helped us match 5 dogs with appropriate adopters in a single day.  They not only give us information on how to work with a dog, they enable us to answer questions posed by potential adopters about whether or not a dog may be a good fit for their household.

We’ve been working hard.  We have the success stories – like Buddy Boy, Chip, and Mason & Georgie shown above – to prove it.  And we are not going to give up until we prove that changing the definition of No-Kill, raising the bar even further, is something that’s both possible and within reach right here in Austin.

But we cannot do it without your help.

Please come out and join us for our Grand Opening, see what we’re doing to save lives through innovation, and meet the dogs it is already helping.  Then, get involved.  We need adopters, fosters, volunteers, and donations to grow our program and extend its reach to more dogs.  You can donate and view opportunities at and follow our behavior rehab pups on facebook at Giving Dogs a Fresh Start.

Thank you, Austin.  We and the dogs hope to see you tonight!

2 Responses to "Saving Lives Through Innovation; New Training Center Grand Opening TONIGHT!"

  1. Mikisays: January 16, 2012 at 12:42 pm

    That is fantastic!

  2. Gayla Goertzsays: January 16, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    What an AMAZING job you guys are doing! This “make shift” home environment was a GREAT idea. APA…….the animals of central Texas are very fortunate to have you! I volunteer and foster and see first hand what an amazing job you guys are doing!