Two of our lucky members got to go to Las Vegas last month to attend the No More Homeless Pets Conference hosted by Best Friends Animal Society. FixAustin and Central Texas Animal Alliance sponsored the trips and we are so grateful!
It was fantastic. After 3 days of intense learning, I can definitely say I am enlightened. I was particularly excited to learn about Calgary, Jacksonville, and Richmond.
Calgary’s animal control facility has a 90% return to owner rate for stray animals! That is amazing. In contrast, Austin has an 18% return to owner rate for strays. The work they are doing in Calgary has already inspired the launch of another APA program- the Return To Owner Program (RTOP). We will work closely with the internet community, TLAC, and the neighborhoods where strays come from to try to increase our return to owner rate. If you are interested in joining this much needed team of “sleuths” to help reunite pets with their owners before they die- please email us at infoATaustinpetsalive.org
In Jacksonville, FL, the animal control facility has a great relationship with the local spay/neuter clinic. Any cat that is trapped in a neighborhood is given to the s/n clinic, where it is fixed, vaccinated, and microchipped. Then it is released back into the neighborhood!!! Just like wild animals. They prevent neighborhood mutiny by having a team of people canvas the neighborhood warning people that a.) this cat was caught and brought in and b.) it is coming back. The people who hate the cats get free goodies like motion sensing sprinklers to keep the cats out of their yards. The people who are feeding and caring for the cats are given help to keep the cats safe. A great number of cats brought in in traps die at TLAC because less than 2% of cats are ever reclaimed. This would be a great program to implement in the future.
Richmond, VA, has a great program that APA! has already tried to emulate in some respects. They have highly trained counselors meeting every person who wants to drop off their animal at the shelter. They don’t always say yes to accepting the animals. Instead, they push back a little bit and discuss with the owner the real reason why they are surrendering the pet (hint: it is rarely the first reason they cite). Then they help them to solve the issue by offering training, boarding, medical care, etc… This program has decreased the Owner Surrender rate at their shelter by 40%!!!!
It was very inspiring to hear about these innovative and life saving programs and I hope we can implement a piece (at least!) of each here in Austin in the immediate future.