Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been sharing the many changes we’ve made to our operations as a result of the virus and how the outpouring of community support for animals during quarantine has given us the opportunity to reimagine how a community supports its pets.
We are thrilled to announce that a coalition of leaders from animal welfare organizations all across the country, including Austin Pets Alive!, has just launched the Human Animal Support Services (HASS) project in 30 pilot cities. The project is led by our national division, American Pets Alive!, and is powered by partners including but not limited to Maddie’s Fund®, South Fork Foundation, Michelson Found Animals Foundation, Pedigree Foundation, and Petfinder®.
Organizations across the country, like ours, were embraced by their communities who fostered pets, adopted, helped lost or found animals get back to their homes and identified new, albeit temporarily rudimentary, resources to keep people and their pets together. This moment gave animal welfare the literal and figural space to create community-based solutions to animals' needs and to transform the traditional sheltering system to serve the entire community better in supporting the human-animal bond.
HASS pilot animal shelters will work with organizations and individuals in their own communities to provide a range of services and solutions to support people and animals. These include remote services like veterinary telehealth and text support, lost animal return-to-owner initiatives, foster care programs, behavioral and training services, and much more.
There has been some early misinformation about a perceived plan to turn away healthy strays in Austin to be left on the streets, which is untrue (see myths versus facts below). Rather, this model aims to provide a much more robust list of options for pets in need and offer more equitable services to their human families. There will not be a decrease in service, simply a change.
In this model, the kennels are just one tool available to serve pets and people in need. The infrastructure that HASS aims to build out is neighborhood-based and will augment what the brick and mortar shelter can do. Animal services should turn from historically inward-facing (where the majority of efforts are facility-based) to outward-facing staffing to help directly with lost and found pets in the community. Throughout COVID-19, with partners at AAC, we have been gathering feedback from those who are having trouble navigating the shelter system. This feedback has opened up these areas of opportunity as we have been seeing that pets are much more likely to find their owners who love them if they stay in their neighborhoods. As we build this out, we believe that people who find a lost pet should be given support to find the owner if they’re willing and able. If not, and especially while the infrastructure is being built, the city shelter has assured us that they will continue to take in lost pets and triage them based on their needs; meaning healthy strays will not be turned away.
Austin is currently not one of the official HASS cities but Austin Pets Alive! is continuing to have conversations with city officials in hopes it will be and we are committed to connecting community resources for Austinites to benefit from HASS ideas. We will be sharing much more about the initiatives on APA! channels. Click here to learn more about HASS and click here if you’re interested in getting involved!