A Letter From Dr. Ellen Jefferson, Executive Director of Austin Pets Alive!
Since 2008, Austin Pets Alive! has worked to provide a safety net for Austin’s most vulnerable animals. In the past 10 years, with the support of our community, APA! has saved over 50,000 lives and Austin has become the largest No Kill city in the nation. The American Pets Alive! (AmPA!) conference and the Maddie’s® Lifesaving Academy were specifically created in conjunction with Austin Animal Center (AAC), to reach a broader audience to share these tactics that increased lifesaving very quickly here in Austin. Our efforts began in Austin, grew to supporting all of Central Texas, and has now spread throughout the state of Texas, and beyond.
Just a few weeks ago, the day after the AmPA! conference, APA! and AAC hosted an all day Maddie’s Shelter Leadership Intensive where shelters and municipalities from most of the state of Texas were represented. Palm Valley Animal Center (PVAC) was the second largest intake shelter present, taking in roughly 32,000 dogs and cats per year. As a result of the Intensive, we have been able to work closely with PVAC as they work to rise above a 30% save rate. The fact that they were present and invested is a huge sign that they are striving to make change. We believe they can do it and we, along with Best Friends Animal Society, are working very hard to help them. And #ThanksToMaddie and their investment in the Maddie’s® Lifesaving Academy at Austin Pets Alive! and Austin Animal Center, we are now able to offer hands-on support to them.
Our Maddie’s® Lifesaving Academy Clinic Director, Cat Program Director, Neonatal Director, and both Leadership Directors (myself and Interim Chief Animal Services Officer Lee Ann Shenefiel) as well as some long term APA! staffers and volunteers, will be heading there next week, on March 12, to work on these first three strategies to increase live release immediately:
- Animal flow through the shelter: due to the volume of animals entering the shelter, there is very little time or space to protect pets from catching diseases from each other. We will work to ask the community to hold animals for 3 days to let vaccines kick in before drop off, a strategy that has proven successful in other communities, and we will work with rescues to pull fragile animals immediately from the shelter to prevent exposure. Additionally, we will work side by side with PVAC to rearrange the ways the kennels are filled to allow each day’s intake the time they need to let their vaccines kick in before co-mingling in other areas of the shelter. Lee Ann Shenefiel will work with PVAC leadership to discuss how the 14 cities and 1 county that bring animals to PVAC can be part of the solution in their own communities, thereby decreasing the intake volume through proactive outreach. This one strategy, to maximize efficiency in animal movements, will have drastic and far reaching effects. PVAC has highly adoptable animals entering their shelter all day. Helping these animals remain healthy, makes them prime candidates for transport to the more northern states that have fewer puppies, kittens and small breed dogs. This will not be easy, as the volume of intake is incredibly difficult to manage. PVAC will need to secure more funds to triage the sick animals at the door, to move fragile animals to foster and rescue immediately, and to keep large numbers of animals leaving to adoption, rescue and returned to owners as fast as they come in, keeping euthanasia to a minimum.
- Getting the right positions in place to do the job: PVAC is severely underfunded and understaffed to effectively care for this many lives. To put them in perspective, the City of Austin cares for half the animals and has a budget four times the size of PVAC. At Austin Pets Alive! we know a thing or two about operating with very little funding so we are helping them to re-evaluate the organizational chart to fill in the most needed gaps across the board from fundraising to foster care. We will help guide their hiring process and assist in training for those roles with key performance metrics so that everyone knows how their work affects the whole picture. Additionally, volunteers and fosters will have a huge role to play on this road to success.
- Fundraising: The funding need is incredibly high, even just for basic lifesaving care. In the past ten years, we have learned a lot, through hard knocks, about how to develop a plan for fundraising that can balance immediate need and longer term sustainability. We will work with them to build their own plan and start reaching those goals. Fundraising is one of the hardest parts of animal sheltering, but also one of the most important. It costs a lot more to save lives than it does to kill them. Every nonprofit, like PVAC, that strives to help those most in need goes through the underfunding realization and we will work with them to develop an effective fundraising strategy.
We know that there has been a lot of press around PVAC and we understand and applaud the need for change makers. Instead of putting their heads in the sand, PVAC is working hard to make that change, and we are excited to be a part of it.
The support APA! has received over the past ten years has made it possible to save over 50,000 lives and allows us to now empower communities beyond the Austin area. 2018 is going to be a better year for Texas pets!
Executive Director, Austin Pets Alive!
Maddie’s® Co-Director of Lifesaving Leadership