Sunday, October 07, 2007


This is it, folks. On Thursday, October 11th at 6pm, the City Council will hear testimony on--- and make a decision on--- the location of our new animal shelter. The fate of hundreds of thousands of sheltered pets is in their hands: will they favor compassion and rebuild the shelter downtown? Or will they favor bureaucracy and skyrises in order to ship our sheltered pets out-of-mind and out-of-sight?

Council Members Martinez and Kim have shown great leadership in proposing an immediate halt to the East Austin move in favor of thoughtful deliberation and consideration of all other possibilities--- including rebuilding on Town Lake. And on the other side, Council Member Dunkerley (surprise, surprise) and Mayor Wynn have now come out in favor of getting rid of the downtown shelter to make room for (and the area prettier for) more condos. That leaves Council Members Cole, Leffingwell, and McCracken to decide the issue on Thursday. We hope you'll contact them early and often this week, by phone and e-mail, to let them know where you stand.

Council Member Cole's e-mail address is: And her phone number is: 974-2266.

Council Member McCracken's e-mail address is: And his phone number is: 974-2256.

Council Member Leffingwell's e-mail address is: And his phone number is 974-2260.

If you care about the future of our homeless pets, the time to act is now. Waiting just a few days may leave your voice silenced. Please e-mail and call them today.

Thank you so very much!
The Team

Monday, September 24, 2007

And Now for the Rest of the (Statesman) Story...

We wanted to share with you a few more comments on the recent Statesman article on shelter relocation.

First, the headline "Should new animal shelter be closer to adopters or strays?" is disingenuous. The proposed Levander Loop location isn't closer to strays because --- as the article says --- the City's own numbers show that 60% of strays come from West of I-35.

Emancipet, which is already located at Levander Loop, also supports the move. But they recently issued a press release conceding they were struggling so much to fill their spay/neuter surgery slots at the stationary clinic at Levander Loop, that they might have to reduce staff. The entire release can be found here. And, their website includes a map to Levander Loop with this warning: "IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO PRINT OUT THESE DIRECTIONS AND TAKE THEM WITH YOU! IT IS VERY EASY TO GET LOST AND THE RECEPTIONISTS AREN'T ALWAYS ABLE TO ANSWERTHE PHONES TO HELP YOU IF YOU GET LOST!!!" What does the Emancipet situation say for the suitability of the Levander Loop location for the new animal shelter?

Many people will go anywhere to save a life and adopt a pet. But what percentage of Town Lake's current visitors and adopters fall into that category? Nobody knows. Has any type of study been done to find out? If 22,000 animals come in the door each year, then a mere 5% decrease in adoptions could result in another 1,100 animals dying. Casual visitors may not adopt, but maybe they donate money or tell their friends.

And what about the volunteers who supply 22,000 hours of free labor each year? What about the potty patrol program which tries to get housebroken dogs out each day and which requires volunteers to be at the shelter very early in the morning? What about the brand new trail walking program that both promotes the dogs and gives them much needed exercise and mental stimulation by walking them on the hike and bike trail? What about the after-hours volunteer program? How will a move impact these programs?

Finally, the City has never done a fair analysis to show what could be built at the current site for $12 million dollars. $12M certainly sounds like enough to build a good animal shelter, but we need a professional analysis where the person hasn't been told in advance what the outcome is supposed to be. Without that information, it's hard for me to see how the City can gamble with our pets' lives and our taxpayer money and simply decide to ignore public opposition and build at Levander Loop. Williamson County ignored a lot of advice from animal advocates in building their new regional shelter. And we all know how well that turned out.

(One thing Levander Loop might be suitable for is a temporary location while construction proceeds at TLAC. It is city-owned, there appears to be a large empty gymnasium that might house animals, empty land for exercise areas, and underutilized surgical space on-site.)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

If You Care About Austin's Homeless Pets, the Time to Act Is Now

According to today's Austin American-Statesman, the Austin City Council will vote on whether to hire an architect to move Austin's animal shelter from downtown to the eastern outskirts on October 11, 2007. If you, like us, believe that moving our shelter away from the heart of our community---and away from the animals' primary adopters---is both immoral and inconsistent with the compassionate character of our City, the time to voice your opposition to the move is now.

Please take the time to e-mail the Austin City Council right now to tell them not to move our animal shelter to a mostly industrial area on the outskirts of town. You can e-mail the entire council at one time by clicking on this link: Please also urge your friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors to contact the City Council as well. You can do so by writing them an e-mail, asking them in person, calling them up, or dropping by printed-out advocacy cards from this link:

Please act today. Generations of Austin's lost and homeless pets will thank you.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Truth About No-Kill: Austin Should Be Saving 90% of Our Lost and Homeless Pets

At the August 23, 2007, Austin City Council Meeting, Council Member Lee Leffingwell asked a very important question to Austin Animal Services Director David Lurie: if all adoptable pets at Austin's shelter were saved, what would the shelter's kill rate be?

Mr. Lurie elected not to answer that question. Instead, he answered a completely different question--- one that was not asked: What is the national ASPCA's goal for Austin? (The answer to that question, according to Mr. Lurie, is achieving a 75% save rate--- a rate that the national ASPCA's efforts have notably never achieved in any city.)

Because Mr. Lurie did not do so, we're writing to answer Council Member Leffingwell's question based on Mr. Lurie's staffs' criteria for "adoptable" pets, and based on empirical evidence from the nation's leading--- and considerably more progressive--- animal shelters.

Town Lake Animal Center's manager, Ms. Dorinda Pulliam, has made clear that under her criteria, just 33% of the animals sheltered at TLAC are "adoptable." She said so as recently as last week in this Austin Chronicle story titled "Gimme (Animal) Shelter," which was published within hours of Mr. Lurie's presentation:

Thus, the answer to Council Member Leffingwell's question is that if all adoptable animals (as defined by Mr. Lurie's staff's criteria) were saved at Austin's animal shelter, the pound would kill 67% of the dogs and cats it shelters. Applying staff's definition of "adoptable", then, as Ms. Pulliam points out in the Chronicle story, leads to only one conclusion: her performance--- killing just over 50% of sheltered pets each of the last six years--- is a resounding success.

Now for the real answer: Based on the empirical evidence provided by animal shelters that don't define away their poor performance by deeming animals they kill "unadoptable," the actual percentage of adoptable pets that enter municipal pounds is around 90%. Thus, the real answer to Council Member Leffingwell's question is this: if Austin saved all adoptable animals that entered TLAC, it would still kill around 10% of our community's homeless pets.

According to the nation's preeminent no-kill sheltering expert (the only national expert who has both achieved no-kill success in a city and replicated that success in other cities), the nation's leading shelters--- currently Ithaca, NY, Charlottesville, VA, and Reno, NV--- each save around 90% of their sheltered pets. Here is an article confirming those cities' performance and explaining the national expert's belief that 90% should be our guide:

Based on empirical evidence, then, we have two routes from which to choose. We can either follow the path of those who define away poor performance by calling 67% of dogs and cats "unadoptable"--- as Mr. Lurie's current staff does--- or we can follow the path of the nation's preeminent animal shelters and do considerably better.

Achieving a 90% save rate in Austin can be done; indeed, there is a roadmap to do so: But we must change course and elect to follow it.