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.