More than a decade ago, Austin Pets Alive! stepped forward to provide support to the City of Austin in order to improve, and eventually fix, the Austin Animal Center, which at the time was killing more than 14,000 pets annually. Our goal was to teach AAC to implement best practices in No Kill sheltering and transfer animals to APA! that were at imminent risk of dying. We have since partnered with the city to advocate for policy changes and budget growth while offering free consultative and educational services. Then and now, this has a direct cost to APA! of millions of dollars annually. APA! has provided all of this to the city at no cost to them, but at great cost to us. Through our 501c3, we spend millions each year on the animals we pull directly from AAC. In addition, a 2017 study conservatively measures the annual economic impact of the No Kill movement in Austin at more than $157 million.
While we’ve made tremendous progress as a community, becoming the largest No Kill city in America, today we find ourselves at a crossroads.This summer, AAC intakes, adoptions, the number of pets returned to owners, and volunteer hours are at historic lows. Austin Animal Center is headed in the wrong direction and the City of Austin needs to take corrective action. We are fully committed to maintaining Austin’s status as the safest place in the country for homeless pets. Now we need our colleagues at AAC to do their part.
The above graph shows June data for the past five years, indicating that the burden of animals is at a historic, pre-COVID, low. We collected data in several key areas, including volunteer hours and adoptions, to share with you here. While these charts show performance metrics at the Austin Animal Center are on the decline, AAC’s director is threatening to euthanize animals who have been safe in Austin for more than six years. Foster placements are down and APA! is still having to rescue pets from AAC who should be adopted from AAC, simply because the leadership at the shelter refuses to follow best practices or to adhere to either the No Kill Implementation plan or the 95% resolution passed by City Council in 2019.
While we have long been the City’s largest transfer partner, we also do so much more than simply transfer animals to APA!. We provide food and supplies to homeless pet owners and respond in crisis situations like the recent winter storm. We also have an online community of more than 15,000 individuals known as the PASS program. Through this innovative mutual aid platform, APA! helps thousands of pet owners annually who are faced with having to give up their animals due to housing loss, medical issues, or temporary crises. We also provide hundreds of jobs, offer endless volunteer opportunities to Austinites - both groups and individuals, and offer free consulting and operations support to Austin Animal Center through our Maddie’s Fund Learning Academy.
In addition to all of this, we have helped pass the No Kill Resolution/Implementation Plan, Animal Code Amendment Ordinance, 95% Live Release Ordinance, advocated for AAC to receive 10 million dollars in increased funding, shared protocols and training with AAC management to help them implement best practices, and donated countless hours of peer-to-peer training.
The Austin Animal Center, now one of the most highly resourced government shelters in Texas, has the ability to permanently solve the problems that lead to preventable, seasonal overcrowding.
Here is what we are asking AAC to do now, in order to build a sustainable, public-private partnership with Austin Pets Alive!: