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Shelter cat live outcome rate dips below 90 percent

Friday, May 18, 2018 by Jessi Devenyns

As a no-kill shelter, Austin Animal Center has a goal of sending out as many animals into happy homes as possible. Unfortunately, this month, the shelter was able to do that less often for its cats than it has in the past.

Jason Garza, the deputy chief animal services officer with Austin Animal Center, informed the Animal Advisory Commission at its May 14 meeting that cat live release statistics have been declining. According to him, the overall live outcome rate for felines “was a bit of a dip from what we saw last month and in the previous couple months.”

He reported that in April, 89.9 percent of cats were released alive; this number includes kittens, which make up a fifth of the current shelter population and whose survival rate rests at 96.9 percent, as well as adult cats. For adult cats, only 82.4 percent left the shelter into a home.

This announcement caused concern among the commissioners.

“Having the cat live release rate drop below 90 percent is pretty much heartbreaking,” said Chair David Lundstedt.

While he agreed with the sentiment, Garza explained that the shelter handles a fragile population that is often in poor health. “We only really take in cats that have an emergency or medical need. We generally don’t accept healthy stray cats,” he said, and since the population is on a whole unhealthy, the chances of a survival are significantly decreased.

“We do get a lot of strays that come in with some pretty big medical emergencies,” he told the Austin Monitor. According to him, in many of these cases when cats are unresponsive or unable to be medically treated, the most humane decision is euthanasia. Cats also sometimes die due to natural causes.

Garza told the Monitor that the influx of cats taken in with medical emergencies coupled with the fact that 100 fewer cats were taken in this month “skewed” the statistics for the month.

Despite this assessment of the root cause, Lundstedt said, “I think we all need to do a better job. We’re losing the battle.”

In an effort to increase the rate of live outcomes Garza noted that the shelter is already looking into methods to more effectively treat emergency medical cases as well as reevaluating their euthanasia policies to see if there are options to work with partners including Austin Pets Alive! to save animals that are in acute situations.

Photo by Mendocino County Animal Care Services made available through a Creative Commons license.

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