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Animal commission seeks to illuminate the city’s no-kill policy

Wednesday, September 15, 2021 by Amy Smith

The Animal Advisory Commission voted unanimously Monday to form a committee to monitor Austin’s no-kill policy, while maintaining the move was not a reflection on city leadership.

But first, City Council’s Audit and Finance Committee will need to approve the commission’s request to change its bylaws to allow for the creation of a committee that can meet on a more regular basis with the goal of sustaining and advancing no-kill in Austin.

The vote came near the end of another grueling meeting during which several commissioners expressed frustration with their inability to obtain information they’ve been requesting about shelter operations, specifically data reports and the space crisis that Chief Animal Services Officer Don Bland had suggested could lead to the euthanasia of some animals.

At the same time, Bland and his team have been struggling with Covid challenges – more so in the last two months – in addition to all the emotional and political trappings that go with the animal-welfare territory. And shortly after Council approved the allocation of $300,000 in funding for synthetic grass for a play area, the shelter’s electricity went out for two hours and the backup generator failed to kick on. That’s an unexpected $298,000 expense the shelter will need to cover to repair the generator before the new budget begins Oct. 1.

All things considered, it has not been a good couple of months for the animal center, although commissioners did note their appreciation for the shelter’s 96 percent live release rate for the month and its success in adopting out some pigs who had been in the center’s care.

The idea of a permanent committee to monitor the no-kill policy grew out of conversations in a working group assembled to address space problems at the center, Commissioner Palmer Neuhaus explained. “My hope would be that (the committee) would work more on big picture instead of troubleshooting various items,” she said.

Chair Craig Nazor described no-kill as sort of a moving target that needs to adjust to accommodate changes ranging from global warming to global pandemics. “We have climate change, which is causing these big storms to come in, which creates issues with pets coming from other areas,” he said. Having a committee in place could help the city respond more quickly to rapid change that affects animals.”

“I think it’s a good idea to monitor our no-kill status,” Commissioner Lisa Mitchell echoed. “We worked way too hard to get here and I think it’s very important to monitor. Any group that puts together this kind of effort is frankly obligated to monitor its progress and to look at where it’s been and where’s it’s going.

“Since we just hit 10 years (as a no-kill city), what a good time to actually look back and see what we’ve done and see if we’re reaching our milestones. And if we’re not, let’s do something about it.”

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