Saturday, June 27, 2009

Update on City's Proposed Cuts to Spay/Neuter Services

A lot of people are appropriately fighting to keep Emancipet from getting its funding cut as TLAC staff has imprudently proposed to the City Manager.

But it's also important to point out that several of TLAC's alternative budget cuts (in addition to the Emancipet cut) propose to replace cut items using funds from TLAC's "donations fund," which is currently used essentially as a "slush fund" by TLAC's director. The donations fund has nearly half a million dollars in it. TLAC has argued, then, that the proposed cuts to Emancipet and other items (like microchipping, and medical services for feral cats) are not really cuts at all---because their funding will be replaced by the donations fund.

Here's the problem: the donations fund currently pays for lots of items, including emergency medical services and (most importantly) free and low-cost spay/neuter services. So if an item on the proposed list of cuts (say, microchipping) gets its funding cut but then replaced by the donations fund (as TLAC currently proposes), that too will effectively cut spay/neuter services because the money from the donations fund won't be able to be used for spay/neuter services.

So what's the alternative? We truly believe the only way to have a serious, open, and honest discussion about budget cuts is to have a real, line-by-line TLAC budget that is open to the public for all to see--- and for all to suggest cuts. While the Animal Advisory Commission has been given a more detailed budget this year than in prior years (after Council staff intervened), the more detailed budget still does not provide the level of detail necessary to propose real, honest cuts. For example, TLAC spent $13,300 on "cat tents" to use as give-aways at the same time they proposed to cut spay/neuter services. But there is no "cat tents" line in any budget anyone has seen.

This is not to say that real cuts haven't been proposed despite the (probably intentional) difficulty in comprehending TLAC's budget. Pat Valls-Trelles has proposed several real cuts, and a subcommittee of the Animal Advisory Commission is attempting to do the same. And, several FixAustin members are also attempting to come up with proposed cuts--- and those "cat tents" are a good place to start.

We will continue to attempt to find unnecessary spending in the TLAC budget that is of lesser priority than TLAC's proposed cuts to spay/neuter services. Just thought it was important to communicate where we are in this process, the main reason this is more difficult than it should be, and the importance of contesting not only TLAC's proposed cut to Emancipet, but also the proposed cuts to anything that will have its funding replaced by the donations fund.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Animal Lovers Needed in Williamson County!

While we tend to focus on Austin's homeless pets, let's not forget about our neighbors to the north! The Williamson County Regional Animal Shetler is completely full of cats and kittens and needs people to come up and adopt or foster a cat or kitten. Williamson County's shelter director, Cheryl Schneider, believes that we should do everything we can to humanely save lives before resorting to euthanasia, so let's give her some help!

Please adopt or foster a cat or kitten from the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter. They are located at 1855 S.W. Inner Loop in Georgetown, Texas. Check out their website at, or call the shelter at 943-3597 for more details.

Thanks for helping Central Texas's homeless pets!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Historic Vote at Austin Animal Advisory Commission

Hello all,

Tonight was an historic evening at the Austin Animal Advisory Commission. For the first time ever, the Commission unanimously voted to recommend that Town Lake Animal Center adopt programs and policies that have ended unnecessary shelter killing in other communities. Among the recommendations were that TLAC implement a comprehensive adoption program including off-site adoptions, a large-scale foster program, improved customer service, and candor and honesty with the public.

I cannot underscore how important this was. And I would specifically thank Larry Tucker, Vice Chair of the Commission, for drafting the plan and getting it unanimously passed by the citizen commission.

The next step is that we need the Austin City Council to adopt these recommendations and implement them as a mandate to staff. Please begin e-mailing the City Council at to tell them to implement the Animal Advisory Commission's No Kill recommendations.

Please forward and cross-post.

Warmest regards,
The Team

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

A Few Notes on Mandatory Spay-Neuter Laws

Every so often, someone in Austin will adamantly swear that passing a mandatory spay-neuter law is the key to ending shelter killing in Austin and beyond. The biggest problem with that statement is, of course, that mandatory spay neuters have never worked to end shelter killing in any jurisdiction. It's important to govern with your head, not your gut, and based on all available evidence, your head should tell you that mandatory spay-neuter laws do not work.

But Christie Keith has published an article on the Daily Kos that adds a new argument against such laws: mandatory spay-neuter laws are regressive. The number one reasons people don't spay or neuter their animal is cost. So if you make all spay/neuter mandatory and you don't provide a free or low-cost option, persons of lower means will be disproportionately forced to hand their beloved pets over to animal control-- likely to be killed in most jurisdictions.