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The cats are alive and well at the Austin Animal Center

Friday, July 13, 2018 by Jessi Devenyns

After a significant dip in live outcomes for cats in April, the Animal Advisory Commission began to seriously consider how it could reverse that trend to allow more animals to survive their stay as a guest at the Austin Animal Center.

As a result of the concentrated efforts, this month the live release rate for cats was 98.7 percent.

“That truly is a team effort both within the organization and across the community,” said Lee Ann Shenefiel, the interim chief animal services officer at Austin Animal Center, at the commission’s July 9 meeting. Nevertheless, due to the dip earlier this year, statistically the shelter has seen fewer live outcomes in 2018 than it has in the past two years. Shelter populations during this time have remained relatively stable.

Although post-Memorial Day is when the shelter sees its populations peak, Shenefiel said that “we’ve had an overall decline in cat intake.” However, even with the reduction, kittens make up 40 percent of the shelter population, and Shenefiel explained they are the most time- and care-intensive creatures within the shelter.

In order to help shift the burden from the Austin Animal Center, staff is relying on the center’s private partners, Austin Pets Alive! and the Austin Humane Society, which have more resources to care for underage and medically declining kittens.

Importantly, Shenefiel noted that not only is animal care management critical when pets are in the shelter, but it also plays a role in adoption efforts and future quality of life for the animals.

Shenefiel explains that educating potential pet parents on care – like heartworm prevention and treatment – is essential to creating a climate of care out in the community that will ensure healthy lives for animals once they leave.

However, in order to explain animal care to adopters, you have to get them there first. To do so, Austin Animal Center partnered with Austin Pets Alive! and Austin Humane Society, June 23, for KittyPalooza, a waived-fee adoption event for cats and kittens. AAC adopted out 106 cats during the event, Austin Pets Alive! adopted out 51, and Austin Humane Society 50.

These on-site adoption efforts plus “creative media partnerships” have resulted in a spike in adoption rates this summer, which Shenefiel says is the whole goal.

“(We) work to find lifesaving placements,” she said.

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