Austin Animal Center contemplates ‘notifications for possible euthanasia’
Friday, July 16, 2021 by Sean Saldaña
In a memo last month, Chief Animal Services Officer Don Bland updated City Council and Mayor Steve Adler about the ongoing capacity issues at the Austin Animal Center.
The memo included a few lines that made animal lovers around the city sit up and pay close attention: “This current challenge may create the need for staff to issue notifications for possible euthanasia. Notifications would apply to animals that have been in our care for a long period due to behavioral concerns.”
While no animals have been marked for euthanasia yet, the move would be significant for the AAC, which currently operates the largest no-kill shelter in the United States.
The memo, as well as ongoing discussion around the lack of kennel space, evoked a strong reaction from Austin Pets Alive!
In a blog post published July 2, APA! wrote, “Austin Animal Center is headed in the wrong direction and the city of Austin needs to take corrective action. We are fully committed to maintaining Austin’s status as the safest place in the country for homeless pets. Now we need our colleagues at AAC to do their part.”
The post highlighted the sometimes fraught relationship between the Austin Animal Center – an organization operated by the city – and Austin Pets Alive!, a 501(c)3 nonprofit. AAC works together with organizations like APA! to facilitate adoptions and foster homes for pets throughout the city.
In an email to Council Member Ann Kitchen, Bland said that AAC houses “behaviorally risky animals that have been declined by APA! due to the nature of the animal’s bite history and past behaviors” and that some of these animals have been at AAC for more than 600 days.
Bland goes on to say that APA!, which has a behavior modification program, has declined to help AAC in some of these cases. He also notes that because AAC is a municipal shelter, it doesn’t have the option of closing animal intake when it has reached full capacity.
Austin Pets Alive! has stepped up to give assistance to AAC since the month started. APA! spokesperson Suzie Chase told the Austin Monitor that over the past two weeks, the nonprofit has taken in 41 cats and 32 dogs from AAC. Additionally, APA! took 207 animals from AAC in June.
In its blog post, APA! says it is “still having to rescue pets from AAC who should be adopted from AAC, simply because the leadership at the shelter refuses to follow best practices.”
The post makes recommendations about how AAC can ease its capacity issues, ranging from things like raising more public awareness to making operational reforms, and goes so far as to say that the center “has the ability to permanently solve the problems that lead to preventable, seasonal overcrowding.”
Animal Advisory Commissioner Ryan Clinton echoed some sentiments around inefficiencies when he said at this week’s meeting, “We have to seriously look at what we’re doing as a shelter that might be contributing in causing the space crisis that we’re then using to justify perhaps euthanasia.”
A number of reforms have been made to streamline and improve the adoption process at AAC, including implementing a chatbot on the city’s website, expanding the foster program and waiving adoption fees since March of last year. Perhaps most impressive of all, AAC has a 59 percent adoption rate year-to-date – the highest it’s ever been.
It’s worth noting that the capacity issues adoption facilities are experiencing in Austin are not related to the pandemic winding down. People are not returning the animals they’ve adopted over the past year.
On Monday, the Animal Advisory Commission voted to create a working group to brainstorm ways to tighten operations at AAC.
Photo made available through a Creative Commons license.
The Austin Monitor’s work is made possible by donations from the community. Though our reporting covers donors from time to time, we are careful to keep business and editorial efforts separate while maintaining transparency. A complete list of donors is available here, and our code of ethics is explained here.
Do you like this story?
There are so many important stories we don't get to write. As a nonprofit journalism source, every contributed dollar helps us provide you more coverage. Do your part by donating to the nonprofit that funds the Monitor.