Wednesday, May 02, 2012

2012 Austin City Council Animal Welfare Voter Information Guide

Each year, volunteers for comb through City Council candidate questionnaires, ask candidates tough questions, and debate the candidates' responses and records in order to create an Animal Welfare Voter Information Guide for Austin citizens interested in animal-welfare issues.  This year, Council Member Mike Martinez stood out with our highest ever Five+ Paws rating for his continued excellence and leadership in making Austin, Texas, America's safest large city to be a homeless animal.  Newcomer Dominic Chavez also impressed us.  Here's our take on this year's slate of candidates.

Mike Martinez:   5+ Paws 
With compassionate stewardship of homeless pets becoming more entrenched in Austin’s culture, every candidate committed to retaining Austin’s status as America’s largest “No Kill” City.  Even so, Council Member Mike Martinez rose above the rest.  Martinez’s commitment to animal welfare is plainly evident in his steadfast leadership on City Council.  Martinez is unafraid to challenge City management and animal advocates alike to do more and better, has spearheaded efforts to utilize the former Town Lake Animal Center (TLAC) to save pets, and he—along with Council Member Laura Morrison—deserves the most credit for leading the City Council’s successful effort to turn Austin’s municipal shelter into a lifesaving, compassionate, and loving place for homeless pets.

Dominic Chavez:  5 Paws
Newcomer Dominic Chavez demonstrated an impressive understanding of animal-welfare issues, and a no-nonsense approach to solving continuing
challenges to success.  Chavez is committed to keeping the old TLAC site open in order to offset the City’s poor decision to relocate Austin’s main shelter, and wants the City to surpass its current 90% save-rate goal.  We were particularly impressed with Chavez’s insight into misunderstood dog breeds.

Lee Leffingwell: 4.5 Paws
Although we disagreed with then-Council-Member Lee Leffingwell’s vote to relocate Austin’s main shelter back in 2007, as Mayor, Leffingwell has held firm in his unwavering commitment to keeping open TLAC in its current capacity and footprint.  Leffingwell has grown in his understanding of animal-welfare issues, and we particularly appreciate his appointment of Dr. Ellen Jefferson of Austin Pets Alive to the Austin Animal Advisory Commission.

Brigid Shea:  4 Paws
Former Council Member Brigid Shea demonstrated insight and interest in key animal-welfare issues, but probably due to her time away from the Council, was not quite as up-to-date on current challenges as Mayor Leffingwell.  Shea brought smiles to animal lovers when she committed to keeping Dr. Jefferson on the Animal Advisory Commission should she prevail, and was very interested in finding a way to reduce unfair breed discrimination in local housing.

Sheryl Cole, Bill Spelman, Tina Cannon, & Laura Pressley: 3 Paws
Since all candidates committed to retaining Austin’s No Kill status, finding things to criticize wasn’t easy, and we think Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole and Council Member Bill Spelman, along with newcomers Tina Cannon and Laura Pressley, are more than capable. Still, each left us with some concerns.  Cole and Spelman have solid animal-welfare voting records to stand on, but Cole’s interest in the issue has sometimes waned, and we worry deeply about the influence of Spelman’s office staff, who have been hostile to No Kill programs and local animal-welfare leaders.  We loved finding out that Cannon founded a successful pet-related business, but her remarks about certain dog breeds worried us.  And while Pressley is clearly bright and talented, her undeveloped answers on our questionnaire left us scratching our heads.  All of these candidates would do well with regard to animal-welfare issues on council; they simply did not exhibit the full strength of some others.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Austin City Council Candidate Animal-Welfare Questionnaire Answers Reveal Critical Differences of Opinion on Important Issues

Hello pet lovers--

There are some very real and important differences of opinion among Austin City Council candidates on critical animal-welfare issues in our community.  We will have a more specific report later, but we wanted to get you the candidates' answers to our animal-welfare questionnaire as soon as possible.  Please forward these questions and answers to anyone in Austin who is interested in animal welfare.

Mayor Lee Leffingwell:
Brigid Shea:

Place 2:
Council Member Mike Martinez:
Laura Pressley:

Place 5:
Tina Cannon:
Dominic Chavez:
Council Member Bill Spelman:

Place 6:
Sheryl Cole:
Shaun Ireland:

And don't forget!  The Austin No Kill Coalition's City Council Candidate Forum is *this Sunday*, April 22, at 4pm at Abel's on the Lake (next to Hula Hut).  Please be there to show your support for our community's lost and homeless pets.  It's a fantastic location too!

The Team

Monday, September 19, 2011

Texas Shelter Budget/Performance Comparison

Last night, we spent some time gathering information on area shelters. The results were pretty shocking, and we'll continue to release more information as we can.

Shelter Intake Expenses Live Release
Town Lake (Austin) 24,542 ('09-'10) $5.5 million ('09-'10) 71% ('09-'10)*
SPCA of Texas (Dallas) 8,280 (2010) $8.45 million (2010) 65% (2010)
Houston SPCA 21,767 (2009) $6.83 million (2009) 49% (2009)**
Dallas Animal Services ~34,000 annually $7.7 million (2010) 26% (2010)
Houston Humane Society 17,552 (2004) $3.36 million (2007) 12% (2004)****

*Town Lake Animal Center is on pace for a 90% or higher live-release rate for calendar year 2011.
**Intake and outcomes reported to
***Figures reported in Dallas Observer.
****Intake and outcomes reported by Mayor's Task Force.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Austin City Council Candidates Answer No Kill Questionnaire

The top-five major candidates for the 2011 City Council elections answered a series of questions from the Austin No Kill Coalition regarding No Kill issues in Austin, Texas. The Coalition also held its first-annual City Council Candidate Forum on May 1, 2011, before a standing-room-only audience. will be rating the candidates' answers in a full-page Chronicle advertisement this week. Forum co-sponsors included Love-a-Bull, Austin Pets Alive, the Austin No Kill Coalition, and Here are the candidates' answers to our No Kill Questionnaire.

Update! has released its annual City Council Voter Information Guide on animal-welfare issues. We rated the candidates based on their answers to the No Kill Coalition questionnaire as well as on their voting records. To read our short voter information guide, click here:

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

House Bill 3450 Will Save Lives, Ban Painful Gas Chambers

It is a great time to be an advocate for lost and homeless pets in Austin, Texas. Last year, thanks to you--- the animal-loving community of Austin--- our City Council mandated that our municipal shelter implement proven and cost-effective programs and policies to dramatically reduce unnecessary shelter killing in Austin. And it worked. Since the Austin No Kill plan was passed in March of last year, our community's "kill rate" has plummeted, and more lives are being saved than ever before.

Through the combined efforts of Town Lake Animal Center and its placement partners (especially Austin Pets Alive), Austin's shelter is having great success. In December 2010 and January 2011, the shelter saved 88% of all dogs and cats surrendered to or found by the shelter. And in February 2011, that number jumped to 92%, the best "live outcome" rate ever in history of Austin's shelter. Thanks to you, Austin is quickly becoming the most humane city in the United States. And we also warmly welcome the shelter's new director, Abigail Smith, a proven leader in the national No Kill movement.

But now we have an even greater opportunity--- to help spread Austin's success to the rest of the State of Texas. Just days ago, State Representative Jessica Farrar of Houston filed a bill to comprehensively reform Texas's animal shelters. That bill, called the Texas Companion Animal Protection Act, goes a long way to protect companion animals at Texas's shelters.

The bill:

  • Bans the use of painful, unnecessary, and expensive gas chambers at Texas's shelters.
  • Bans the practice of killing healthy adoptable animals "for space" when cages sit empty.
  • Requires all animals adopted from Texas shelters to be spayed or neutered prior to adoption.
  • Bans breed discriminatory adoption policies at Texas shelters.
  • Requires shelters to collaborate with 501(c)(3) rescue groups to save animals.
  • Bans shelters from selling live shelter animals to research laboratories.
  • Requires shelters to honestly and publicly release their intake and outcomes data.

Simply put, this bill makes Texas's animal shelters treat animals humanely, respect their lives, and work smartly and efficiently to find loving homes for animals. But, like Austin's No Kill plan, it is being opposed by groups who would rather the public not know what goes on behind many shelters' closed doors.

Here's how you can help pass this historic bill. Please:

  • Call, write, and/or e-mail your Texas Representatives and ask them to support HB 3450 (the Texas Companion Animal Protection Act). You can find out who your representatives are here: (Here is a sample letter if you would find it helpful:
  • Call, write, and/or e-mail the members of the Texas House of Representative's Public Health Committee (who will be considering the bill), and ask them to support HB 3450. You can find the members' contact information here:
  • Sign's petition supporting HB 3450 here:
  • Forward this message to all of your animal-loving friends, family members, and colleagues and ask them to do the same.

Thank you, in advance, for your important help!

Warmest regards,

The Team

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