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Austin inching toward no-kill status

Wednesday, January 20, 2010 by Josh Rosenblatt

At Tuesday’s meeting of the Council Health and Human Services Committee, Austin moved one step closer to becoming a “no-kill city,” but for many in attendance, and at least one subcommittee member, the transition isn’t coming fast enough.

 

Last November, following a meeting sponsored by the Health and Human Services Department to establish consensus priorities among the city’s various animal welfare groups, City Council directed City Manager Marc Ott to develop a plan to “reduce animal intake and increase live outcomes” at Town Lake Animal Center. The ultimate goal – where euthanasia would only be used in cases involving extremely ill or aggressive abandoned, homeless, or lost animals – was reflected at Tuesday’s meeting on the stickers worn by dozens of those in attendance: the word “kill” in a circle and a line drawn through it.

 

Under the terms of the Nov. 5 resolution, city staff was required to report on the progress of the implementation plan at Tuesday’s meeting. Health and Human Services Director David Lurie, Animal Advisory Commission Chair Larry Tucker, and TLAC Director Dorinda Pulliam gave that report.

 

Lurie told the subcommittee that staff has held 10 meetings since early November with a variety of stakeholders, with two meetings still scheduled. Working with the Animal Advisory Commission, staff has received and considered dozens of recommendations and proposals. But, he said, they don’t have a draft report yet. “Recommendations are still being vetted and developed,” he told the committee.

 

Tucker went into more detail, describing some of the proposals from stakeholders that they are considering. He listed off recommendations from several groups, including Austin Pets Alive!, whose representatives hope for a comprehensive adoption plan, both on-site and off-; Spay Austin Coalition, which has advocated for more trapping and rehabilitation of feral cats (now called “community cats”); and the Austin Humane Society, which is pushing to reduce intake through aggressive spaying and neutering programs.

 

“One thing that stands out,” Tucker said, “is that we have done a very good job at reducing animal intake – through aggressive spay and neuter. But what we have failed to do is dedicate money and resources and create policies and procedures that increase live animal outcomes. That’s something that has jumped out in this process.”

 

All the positive talk of proposals and recommendations and meetings with advocacy groups wasn’t impressing Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez, however. Near the end of the presentation he expressed frustration over the amount of time it has taken staff to come up with a detailed implementation plan. He called Council Member Randi Shade’s request for a more detailed “practice run” through staff’s implementation plan in February “a good start but it’s not nearly a good finish.”

 

“I’m all for analyzing, taking input,” he told the three presenters. “I’m all for stakeholder meetings. But I want to make it real clear today: My expectations of this March 2010 implementation plan are uber-high because we have been talking about this for all four years that I’ve been on the Council. And it’s very frustrating.

 

“Here we are, 60 days into this recommendation, and the best thing we can get is, ‘We’re analyzing, we’re looking at, we’re talking to.’ We only have 60 days left from the directive that Council gave you. At some point there needs to be some substance to this. And I would hope that in your process, whatever it is that you’re going to recommend or not recommend, that you bring that forward to the community before it comes to Council, so that we can have a full community debate about what was recommended in the plan and what was left out of the plan and why and why not.”

 

Many in the crowd applauded Martinez’s sentiment. Staff’s final report will be presented to City Council in March.

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