As this year comes to a close, I’m in awe of the lifesaving love that you have for dogs and cats who have no other chances to survive. You made sure that pets survived a winter storm. You made sure that Austin remained the safest city in the US for pets for the 10th year in a row. You got APA! one step closer to keeping shelter pets in the heart of Austin. Most importantly, this year, you made sure that more than 12,000 pets were saved from unnecessary death in shelters.
This year also marked a big shift, as a result of COVID, in the way that government shelters operate all over the country. For the first time in history, governments are banding together to address the root causes of crowded shelters and unnecessary euthanasia. Although we are not a government shelter, APA! is helping to lead the movement towards a more humane, for humans and pets, way of operating. The gift all animal lovers have wished for year after year finally feels possible- to eliminate the killing of shelter pets in America, forever.
Early in 2022, APA! leadership will be sharing our full 2021 impact numbers and highlights, but as you celebrate the holidays (if you celebrate them, and however you safely can this year) we want to wish you and your loved ones well and thank you for your continued role in saving animal lives.
Let’s take a look back on just a few of the milestones from 2021.
When Winter Storm Uri hit Texas in mid-February this year, it leftover four million people out of power and water for days. Temperatures got down to historically low single digits, and there was widespread loss of internet and cell phone reception.
In our work, lives are on the line every day. When disasters like Uri hit, it takes a village to ensure no companions’ lives are lost — no matter the circumstances. Our dedicated staff and volunteers went above and beyond to keep the animals on-site safe and warm, with some staff even sleeping at the shelter.
With the help of the community, we were able to triage burst pipes and regain power via donated generators. We relied on our community more than ever during this time, and our community relied on us. Our P.A.S.S. (Positive Alternatives to Shelter Surrender) program was in full force, saving community pets from the cold, providing food and water to pet owners in need and so much more.
As we gained control over our own crisis, the focus turned to animals who were losing their lives in shelters that did not have power as we madly transported more than 1,000 of them to other cities that could help. While Austin is the safest place for pets in the US, only a tiny fraction of the 150,000 animals losing their lives each year in Texas can get into Austin. The cold crisis got us to think of Austin as a pit stop in the journey from one very dangerous place in TX to a much less dangerous place in the north, even if that final destination is not at Austin’s level of No Kill success. In doing so, we started to open the door to making Texas No Kill. As of today, 2,228 lives have been saved in 2021 thanks to your support of the transport efforts in Texas.
The first-of-its-kind honorary mascot partnership featured APA! dogs available for adoption as Austin FC honorary mascots at each Austin FC regular-season home match throughout the 2021 season. The best thing about this partnership is that the focus was on dogs who often are looked over in the shelter because they are too big or too old. Since the launch of the community-centered partnership, 15 Austin FC mascots have been adopted!
2021 marked Austin’s 10th year as a No Kill city. When APA! was founded in 1997 as an all-volunteer advocacy organization, Austin Animal Center’s save rate was 15 percent. In June 2008, APA! was reborn as a rescue organization and by 2011, the city reached a 90 percent live release rate, making Austin the largest No Kill city in the U.S.
Ten years later, our city now has a 97 percent live release rate. Together with you, the highest values of the people of Austin are represented in the way we care for our community’s pets.
By late October, after over a year of adopting APA pets exclusively online, we decided it was time to re-open our doors — safely. With masking and other safety measures in place, our shelter is now open Saturday and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. Seeing our community members in person after all this time has been one of the highlights of the year.
We pulled off another season of successful lifesaving despite the challenges with our Town Lake facility and restrictions within our agreement with the city. This November though, we achieved a major milestone in working towards a years-long overdue solution. Our agreement, since it had not been updated in over 10 years, did not allow us to fulfill our organization’s mission. We were restricted by the locations in which we could help surrounding shelters while keeping Austin No Kill. And we were restricted to an arbitrary number of animals that we must pull from Austin Animal Center, which has the largest municipal budget in the country, even if it meant we were duplicating their work.
Without a new agreement, our home in the heart of the city and our bold vision for the future of animal welfare was in jeopardy. On November 4th, City Council voted to allow us to take in animals from anywhere and remain at home in our current location. We still have to finalize an official lease agreement, which should reflect the value of the land use in terms of donated dollars we spend to adopt out animals in their charge. But we are thrilled that one of the two major roadblocks to a successful legal partnership is now out of the way. It would NOT have happened without you raising your voice and telling the council that saving our four-legged, and sometimes three-legged, family members’ lives, responsibly, matters to you.
We are proud of the progress we’ve made on our new strategic plan we announced last year. We’ve completed and are implementing a variety of programs to be a sustainable organization and to invest in our people. We’ve also opened our Human Animal Support Services (HASS) project so any organization can be a partner and, in doing so, exponentially grown the work underway to change the way government shelters operate- by shifting the focus from just animals to families- both human and nonhuman. Today we have 104 HASS partner organizations. Here at home in Austin, we’re continuing to find better ways to save the lives that we encounter in need, no matter what challenge or trauma they have to overcome.
As we say goodbye to 2021 and hello to 2022, we’re nearing 100,000 intakes of animals since 2008. That’s nearly 100,000 that would’ve been killed for behavior quirks, medical issues or even just a lack of space at partnering shelters. Together with you, APA! continues to be the safety net for pets who have nowhere else to turn.
In 2021, we never could have expected the support that you gave to animals and we are so grateful for YOU. However, we are still short of our December goal for donations to support the work we need to kick off on January 1, 2022. If you are still in a position to help financially this year, please click here to make a gift because, thanks to generous anonymous donors, it will be doubled up to $100,000 through December 31st. Every bit helps exponentially if given before the year ends.
Thank you for everything you do for the pets that need you most. Happy holidays and happy new year!
-Ellen Jefferson, DVM