Wednesday, April 29, 2009 is now on Twitter!

Just in time for the No Kill Conference this weekend in Washington, D.C., FixAustin has joined Twitter! Visit or text "Follow FixAustin" to 40404 from your cell phone to follow our updates.

Several members of the FixAustin team will be attending the conference and will be tweeting about our experiences. The conference will feature forward-thinking shelter directors saving over 90% of the animals in their communities and animal law experts using the legal system to protect animals. You can keep up with all the news from the conference by watching #nokill on Twitter or by visiting Animal Wise Radio will also webcast from the conference.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Candidate Ratings Coming!

As has done before past elections, we'll be posting City Council candidate animal-welfare ratings and also their responses to our animal-welfare questions.

As a teaser, you'll be shocked to hear what one leading candidate plans for the future adoption center on Town Lake... or should we say "lack thereof."

Stay tuned!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Two New, Limited Time Free and Low-Cost Spay/Neuter Options in Austin

Emancipet and Animal Trustees of Austin have announced two new, limited-time low-cost and free spay/neuter opportunities in Austin.  We've tracked down the details and highlighted them below.
As you may know from reading this blog, decreasing intake is a critical part (though only part) of bringing a community to no-kill success.  While the City of Austin does a deplorable job on keeping animals alive once they've reached the shelter, it does a great job in supporting low-cost spay-neuter programs to decrease shelter intake.  Here are two great new programs run by Austin-area non-profits.  The second program is funded by the generous donations of Austinites to the City pound's donations fund.
Three cheers for Emancipet and Animal Trustees of Austin for providing these services!
1.  Emancipet's "5 Saves Lives!" program:
  • For the month of May only, puppies and kittens up to 5 months old will receive spay/neuter surgery for just $5.  Schedule your appointment now at Emancipet.  Call 512.587.7729 or visit  Mention "5 Saves Lives."
  • The 5 Saves Lives special is at Emancipet (stationary clinic) only.  It is a new effort to highlight the importance of spay/neuter at an early age (preferably between 3 and 5 months old).  An appointment is required, so pet owners should call now to book one, and this is good for the entire month of May - all puppies or kittens 3- 5 months old get surgery for $5. 
 2.  Emancipet's and Animal Trustees of Austin's "Summer of Love" cat special:
  • Emancipet and Animal Trustees of Austin are providing free cat surgeries for all pet cats.  Free Microchip.  Free Rabies shot will be provided if there is no proof of current vaccination.   Schedule an appointment at Emancipet 587-7729 or Animal Trustees of Austin 450-0111.
  • The free cat surgeries are available the first full week of each month in May, June, and July (May 4 - 9, June 1 - 6, and July 6 - 11).  The special includes surgery, rabies, and microchip for all cats who come into either clinic those weeks.  At Emancipet, the cats will also get a free collar and custom ID tag.  Appointments are required and spots are limited, so book early.  This is for owned cats only - not for rescue groups or feral cats.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Oops The Chronicle Did It Again

In it's April 10th issue, the Chronicle admitted (in a correction titled "Oops") that it had mistakenly reported, based on information from the ASPCA and Austin's pound, that the percentage of animals killed at Austin's pound has declined each year since the current shelter director was hired in November 2000.  As pointed out at the time (and here), that claim is not remotely true. 

So the Chronicle editor issued this statement in its latest edition:

In "How Many Cats Did Austin Save Last Year?" News, April 3, in briefly summarizing long-term trends, we mischaracterized the euthanasia rate over the last nine years, and we regret the error. Although the total numbers of animals killed at the Town Lake Animal Center slowly declined over the previous decade, the marked improvement in the euthanasia rate (that is, the percentage of received animals killed) has occurred over the past year in connection with the new Mission: Orange partnership. The larger trend is that, for most of the Nineties, Austin was killing two-thirds of the animals received at the center but is now killing less than a third.

One would think the Chronicle would have bothered to fact-check its factual correction to its incorrect factual claim, but on the subject of Austin's pound, it has become clear that the Chronicle does not bother to verify that its factual claims are true. The editor's new claim--- that "the total numbers of animals killed at the Town Lake Animal Center slowly declined over the previous decade"---is also wrong.

Starting with fiscal-year 2000-01, the total number of animals killed each year at the shelter is (in date order):  11,567; 10,722; 12,466; 12,887; 14,304; 12,343; 14,055; 10916. While we feel safe speaking for most Austinites in celebrating the most recent decline in shelter killing, we wish the Chronicle would limit its reporting to "facts" that are actually true.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Shop at Book People, Keep Austin's Pets Alive!

On April 25th, Book People will donate 10% of purchases made at the store that day to off-site adoption group Austin Pets Alive, which is saving nearly 100 dogs and cats each month off of the kill list at Town Lake Animal Center.  

The only catch is that you must use Austin Pets Alive's coupon.  To get your coupon, hit this link:  It's a great way to help Austin's lost and homeless pets find loving homes.

Sticking to the Facts

In case anyone is wondering where FixAustin gets its statistics on Austin's pound, we get them directly from the source:  Austin's pound.  In Texas, there is a Public Information Act that makes most government documents available for public review.  In Austin, TLAC makes its sheltering statistics available to the public as a result of this law.

More recent months are actually even available on-line on the City of Austin health department's website:  The reports available on-line cover the months from September 2007 to the present.  Older reports are available upon request from the City's public information department.

For more information on requesting public information, visit the Texas Attorney General's website:

Best regards,
The Team

Monday, April 06, 2009

Math Is Not Their Strong Point

From the Austin Chronicle's latest pro-shelter propaganda:
"During Pulliam's tenure, according to animal shelter records and those of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the euthanasia rates have dropped each year since 2000, her first year."
Here are the actual figures:

Year         Live Intake       Killed         Kill Rate
00-01        22907                 11567         50.5%
01-02        21163                 10722       50.7%
02-03        23283                 12466         53.5%
03-04        24121                 12887         53.4%
04-05        24815                 14304         57.6%
05-06        23480                 12343         52.6%
06-07        25897                 14055         54.3%
07-08        23446                 10916         46.6%

Kinda makes you wonder whether you can trust anything written by Patty Ruland on this subject.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Mr. Goss, Your Response

A local citizen, Delwin Goss, recently attacked founder Ryan Clinton's upbringing and personal life in a letter to the Austin Chronicle that appears on the newspaper's website.  Mr. Goss did so because he disagrees with FixAustin's emphasis on enacting proven, life-saving policies to reduce shelter killing in Austin, and evidently has trouble separating policy disagreements from personal lives.  In any event, after giving Mr. Goss time to remove the post, Ryan e-mailed him this response this morning.  Please also feel free to share this with anyone who may have read his post.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Ryan Clinton 
Date: Sun, Apr 5, 2009 at 12:17 PM
Subject: Mr. Goss, Your Response

Mr. Goss,

I applaud your passion for animal welfare and your efforts to spay and neuter feral cats. On the other hand, I had held out hope that, by now, you would have come to understand the imprudence of criticizing someone's family, upbringing, and childhood in a public forum.  Since you have not, I feel compelled to answer your letter to the Chronicle.

You insulted my childhood (as you have done before) and suggested that my family failed to meet your standards.  Although I find your infatuation with my childhood creepy (and I am not alone in this regard), I will answer your inquiry:  My family had far more love to share than money.  My mother stayed home to raise us, and my father worked in government and non-profits.  My grandfathers, a mill worker and a teacher, died before I was born.  One of my grandmothers never knew that the checks she wrote to reimburse friends and family for groceries were worthless.  

One of my brothers has struggled with many of the demons you have, Mr. Goss.  Through him, I understand how difficult the drug addiction you have publicly described on the Chronicle's website is.  And although my brother has never been a drug dealer as you have publicly claimed to have been on the Chronicle's website, my understanding of my brother has helped me understand you.

You've also questioned my commitment to doing work.  Let me first answer this way, Mr. Goss:  my parents instilled in me the value that when you do something good for the right reasons, you find no need to tell anyone you did it.  Nonetheless, I hope there are times when exceptions to that rule are appropriate, because I'm making an exception on this occasion in an attempt to satisfy your fixation:  This month alone, I've worked well over 250 hours at my job as an attorney in a boutique appellate law firm based in Dallas.  I've done my best to help support an immediate family member who has been hospitalized for a month.  I've done my best to support another immediate family member who was diagnosed with an incurable disease this month.  And I've done my best to help support my mother, who two weeks ago had a long-suffering friend die in her home.  I've also met with a City Council member to discuss ways to continue to improve the outlook for Austin's homeless pets, I've lobbied an old friend, who is a state representative, against House Bill 1982, which irrationally risks criminalizing the ownership of dogs weighing over 40 pounds (among other things), and I've been to animal-welfare meetings that you did not attend.  I've spent a weekend helping research for and prepare a response to a Chronicle reporter's questions on animal welfare---answers that were not included in the article, probably because they were fair and rational in a way that conflicted with the reporter's vision for the story.  This week alone, I also rescued, fostered, and homed two dogs and found a foster home for another.  I also this past month donated $100 to the Austin Humane Society, $100 to Austin Pets Alive, $100 to the No Kill Advocacy Center, and $50 to Emancipet.  And I'm currently working on a speech that I've been asked to deliver at a No Kill Conference in Washington, D.C., at the end of the month.  On top of all that, I've done my best to spend time with my own rescued animals, my friends, and my significant other, who continues to forgive me for all the time I spend working in and outside of my day job.

So there are your answers, Mr. Goss.  I hope your infatuation with my life has been temporarily satisfied.  While you do wonderful work for animals in Austin, I fear that your antics do more harm than good.  By electing to attack the childhood and personal lives of those with whom you disagree rather than addressing policy issues in a rational and reasoned way, you risk becoming marginalized and harming the movement that we both care about.  For your own sake and for Austin's homeless pets, I pray that you'll stick to issues, and avoid personal lives, in the future.  But if you don't (and I don't expect you will), I will continue forgiving you.

Best of luck,

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Where Oh Where Has Our Watchdog Gone?

You may have seen the Austin Chronicle's most recent coverage of Austin's animal-services department.  As we have said here and elsewhere, the Chronicle has officially abandoned any pretense of being a government watchdog in favor of the pound-cheerleader mantle.  

The reporter on the "animal" beat, Patty Ruland, has repeatedly attacked those who ask for more for Austin's lost and homeless pets.  In this latest series of articles, she has displayed her disdain for balanced reporting.  She obviously spent a great deal of time with those who defend the shelter at all costs (TLAC Director Dorinda Pulliam, TLAC Promoter Karen Medicus, and Pulliam's Supervisor David Lurie).  Know how much time she spent with those who advocate for less killing at TLAC?  None.  

Ms. Ruland did, however, send us one e-mail, which we answered.  She did not follow-up, nor did she call us.  Nor did she even bother to mention that we expressed great appreciation for the lower level of killing in Austin this year. 

But you can decide for yourself.  Below is the e-mail we sent Ms. Ruland.  See for yourself how much she decided to consider for her story:

Hi Patty,

Ryan forwarded your questions to me and asked that I respond on behalf of  

We are delighted that fewer animals have been killed at Town Lake Animal Center this year as compared to last year.  It appears that the improvements in this year's data are attributable primarily to two things:  first, Austin Pets Alive's new off-site adoption program that is saving many of the dogs and cats that TLAC has set to kill; and second, a significant reduction in intake that we believe has resulted from the low-cost and free spay/neuter programs offered by Emancipet, the Austin Humane Society, and Animal Trustees of Austin.  We still have a long way to go and the reported fiscal year-to-date numbers (Oct –Feb) contain the lowest intake months.  So, the improvement may not hold through-out the year, but we sure hope they do.

This being said, we continue to advocate for the implementation of proven, low-cost programs and policies that have dramatically reduced shelter killing in communities across America, such as a comprehensive adoption program that would include off-site adoption locations throughout the city seven days a week, and a full-scale foster program.  These are programs that TLAC claims to implement but does so in name only and/or not at a level necessary for true success.  In communities that have rigorously implemented proven no-kill methods, kill rates are at or near ten percent-- far better than Austin this year.  Communities with kill rates far lower than Austin include San Francisco, CA; Ithaca, NY; Reno, NV; and Charlottesville, VA.  More recent examples of communities that have seen dramatic improvements by adopting proven no-kill programs include Montgomery County (Conroe), Texas, which saw its kill rate decline from 80% to 18%, and Shreveport, Louisiana, which saw a 245% improvement in positive outcomes at its pound.  The fastest way to no-kill success in Austin has been and continues to be the adoption of programs and policies that have produced results in other cities.

We also believe that the City of Austin should immediately impose a moratorium on the killing of healthy, non-aggressive animals when there open kennels at the shelter to give them the opportunity to find loving homes.  Most Austinites probably assume that dogs and cats are only killed at TLAC when they are suffering or aggressive, or when there is no room.  But the sad truth is that healthy nonaggressive animals are frequently killed at TLAC when there are more than 100 cages sitting empty.  We find this practice to be completely unacceptable and out of line with our community's values.

Last year, TLAC killed 47% of the animals it impounded.  This fiscal year's year-to-date figures (low-intake months October 2008 through February 2009) show significant improvement, but it is important to take a close look at them to understand what is causing the improvement so we can improve even further.

The first and most important improvement demonstrated by the data is a substantial increase in the number of animals saved by rescue groups.  But a closer look reveals that 100% of the increase is attributable to Austin Pets Alive.  Last fiscal year to-date, TLAC transferred 1361 animals to rescue groups other than APA, and none to APA.  This fiscal year to-date, TLAC has transferred 1275 animals to rescue groups other than APA (a disturbing 6% decline), but 470 to APA, resulting in a net gain.  Other rescue groups (like two awesome groups, Austin Dog Rescue and Austin Siamese Rescue) are necessary partners to success in Austin, but the data clearly demonstrate a decline in TLAC's work with rescue groups other than APA.  If it weren't for APA, 6% fewer animals would have been saved to rescue groups this year as compared to last year.  In the same vein, this year's data shows a 3% decline in animals returned to their owners by TLAC year-to-date.  Statistically speaking, APA is nearly 100% responsible for the additional lives saved this year over last year to-date, and they have saved only those animals that TLAC would have otherwise killed.  And even with APA's new program, the total number of lives saved this year to-date as compared to last year to-date is essentially stagnant, meaning that APA has made up for a significant decline in the lives otherwise saved by TLAC. 

We don't think this point can be sufficiently underscored:  Any story written about success in Austin animal welfare this year should be written about Austin Pets Alive, whose remarkable accomplishments are attributable to their visionary leadership and tireless volunteers.  By implementing the off-site adoption strategies that have worked in other cities (strategies that TLAC has reluctantly acquiesced in allowing and even then, not nearly to the extent as other more successful cities), Austin Pets Alive has achieved inspiring and promising results in a very short period and with few resources.  

As previously mentioned, the data also demonstrate that intake levels have fallen sharply so far this year as compared to last year.  That's great and should be celebrated, but it should also be noted that comparison figures are misleading because last year's figures were abnormally high (among the highest this decade).  Moreover, given the relatively few months behind us this year, it is near impossible to make accurate predictions regarding end-of-year figures.  For example, year-to-date TLAC data from 2002 are very similar to this year's year-to-date data (excluding APA's rescues).  The early fiscal-year 2002 data did not accurately predict year-end figures.  Despite reporting a historically-low kill rate in February 2002, TLAC ended up killing 51% of impounded animals that year.  As a result, the only year statistically similar to this year demonstrates a need for caution when attempting to make full-year projections based on early-year data.  This is especially true because early-year figures represent low-intake months when small changes can make a big statistical difference.  Because of the difficulty in making full-year projections based on partial and early-year data, making projections that we hope to but may not achieve as a community should be avoided.  Indeed, every time we promise the community that we'll be no-kill soon, but fail to produce no-kill success (as we have now done twice in Austin), we further solidify the dispelled myth that no-kill is somehow not achievable.

You also asked for our views on TLAC's categorizations/definitions.  We prefer not to use TLAC's categorical terms but to instead focus on the overall lifesaving rate and the programs proven to improve that rate.  This is because terms like "adoptable" are highly subjective and can be manipulated to give the appearance that a shelter is doing more lifesaving than it really is.  Saving 90% of pets that come in the door, as some shelters following the No Kill Equation are doing, is much more meaningful than saving 100% of pets labeled as "adoptable" by TLAC, especially when TLAC only labels around 30% of impounded animals as "adoptable."  The fact that multiple communities have been able to save 90% or more over several years indicates the 90% figure is a more accurate indication of the number of lives that can be saved at an open-admission facility.  In addition, APA's success shows that TLAC's "adoptable" labels are near-meaningless.   APA only saves animals that TLAC has scheduled to kill. Thus, a significant percentage of animals taken and placed into loving homes by APA have been labeled "upadoptable" by TLAC.  In addition, very young puppies and kittens may be labeled "unadoptable" due to nothing but their age--- even though they can be saved and are otherwise highly adoptable.  Again, we stress that healthy, non-aggressive animals should not be killed when there are frequently more than 100 cages going unused each day.

If you want to report the actual data and not projections or spin, the truth is that Austin Pets Alive is the real hero in Austin.  But we still have a long way to go.  We don't know what will happen with intake the remainder of this year or in future years, and historical data demonstrates that we should be cautious when making full-year projections from partial-year statistics.  Moreover, APA is currently able to save only a fraction of the animals TLAC would otherwise kill.  Thus, we believe APA’s role should increase dramatically in the near future.

Again, we are very happy to see fewer animals killed this year at TLAC, but we could be doing far better with a more progressive shelter management.

Thanks for giving us the opportunity to respond,
The Team

Lorri Michel