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In ‘survival mode,’ Austin Pets Alive! flooded with community support

Monday, April 20, 2020 by Nina Hernandez

Visitors to the Austin Pets Alive! website are greeted by a pop-up message that says, “We are in survival mode and need your help.”

The message redirects to a donation page called “Save Pets in Sweats,” which encourages community members to donate, purchase APA apparel or attend a virtual event.

The past month has brought a whirlwind of changes for the organization, which used to be a bustling hub of volunteers and prospective pet parents. When its doors closed to the public on March 21, staff reached out to ask the community for help in placing the animals.

“We’ve greatly reduced our staff and volunteer presence,” said APA’s Katera Berent. “We have volunteers working in four-hour shifts – and those are just our essential volunteers.”

APA has around 2,000 volunteers in its network. The few who can come to work are assigned specific shifts, as are staff members. That way, Berent said, “We’re not exposing anyone to anyone else that they normally would be interacting with.”

APA has also made changes to building access, allowing only medical, triage and wellness clinic staff to enter the clinic. Only adoption counselors and matchmakers can access the adoption building.

“But I think our biggest change is we have such an incredible number of pets in foster homes,” Berent said. “Starting this week, we had 1,313 pets in foster homes. And on this day last year, we had 830.”

That has eased the burden on remaining staff and volunteers on duty.

“It’s been an absolutely incredible, incredible showing by the Austin community,” said Berent. “Stepping up and helping us give pets homes so that our staff and our volunteers who are at our shelters, we don’t have to worry about just a few staff members caring for all of our dogs and our cats. We’re able to focus on those pets that we have at the shelter with a reduced staff and volunteer presence.”

The organization received 2,000 applications to foster dogs in the past couple of weeks. “It’s a very small team of foster people who are able to process these applications,” she said. “And so the community has been incredible in not only stepping up and wanting to foster, but also understanding that we have a small team and we can’t process all the applications as quickly as we would like to.”

There are still ways the community can help. While APA has seen a small uptick in adoptions, they are always looking for more forever homes for the pets under their care. In the last 30 days, 705 dogs were adopted from foster homes. In the same time last year, the number was 284.

“If anyone’s looking to add a permanent member to their home, I would love for them to consider adopting from us,” she said. “Adoption is just such a major way to help out and help us save lives.”

Photo made available through a Creative Commons license.

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