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Austin Animal Center’s December report looks bright

Thursday, January 14, 2021 by Sean Saldaña

The Animal Advisory Commission convened on Jan. 11 to discuss, among other things, the accomplishments of the Austin Animal Center at the end of 2020.

One recent highlight was the implementation of a new chatbot designed to field questions residents may have about the services the shelter provides.

“Since its inception, 3,800 people have used the chat function,” Chief Animal Services Officer Don Bland said, adding that “93 percent of those inquiries were resolved without someone having to speak to them on the phone.”

He went on to emphasize the recent addition of a text feature that provides information about pet services.

“If you find an animal or you lost an animal, you can text. It’s on our website and it will give you pertinent information, give you links, and it’s a lot of information that you can get really quickly without actually talking to a human,” Bland said.

Since the city entered Stage 5 of the Covid-19 risk-based guidelines in December, the organization has moved to virtual adoptions, but that hasn’t stopped them from finding homes for pets. A group of volunteers called the Chameleon Club have helped ramp up virtual adoption efforts by uploading photos, videos and biographies of pets, providing prospective owners ample information before any in-person interaction takes place.

In December alone, the shelter facilitated more than 500 adoptions of cats and dogs, and more than 100 lost animals were reunited with their guardians.

The organization plans to continue exploring additional resources to help reunite pets with their families.

In describing the center’s efforts, Bland said, “There’s a lot of resources that have little or no costs that we’re adding to our website. Anything we can do to help an animal get home, we’re trying to do.”

Animals in the center also enjoyed a happy holiday season. The report details that “volunteers ensured a very merry Christmas for the shelter pets by handing out stockings to each and every animal, hanging it on their kennel and giving out Christmas treats on Christmas Eve.”

At 757 intakes, the center reached a three-year low for the month of December. In 2019, there were 1,142 pets total and in 2018, there were 1,091 total pets taken in.

Another accomplishment the shelter can boast is its high live release rate, a figure that represents the percentage of animals who leave the facility alive. Last month, the center had an over 98 percent live release rate for both dogs and cats, a continuation of a trend that started back in 2011.

The Austin Animal Center also continues to see strong community support. Last month, the shelter had 81 volunteers donate more than 1,400 collective hours toward “cat kennel cleaning, socialization, dog walking, recovery, ringworm treatment, bed and toy making and fostering.”

The center had a total of 280 families foster pets through the month of December, and in total, 238 animals were adopted directly through foster care.

In closing, Bland said that things at the organization “seem to be going really well right now.”

Photo by SteelMaster Buildings made available through a Creative Commons license.

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