Wednesday, November 10, 2010

FixAustin Endorses Jefferson, Smith, & Hinze for New Shelter Director, Rates Two Others "Unacceptable"

AUSTIN, TX – November 10, 2010 – On Monday, four of five finalists vying to become the new director of Town Lake Animal Center interviewed with City officials, stakeholders, and the public. Today, Austin’s No Kill advocacy organization,, gave its seal of approval to three of those candidates: Dr. Ellen Jefferson of Austin Pets Alive, Abigail Smith of the Tompkins County SPCA, and Laura Hinze of PAWS Chicago.

“Jefferson, Smith, and Hinze were the clear leaders among the shelter finalists. Because we believe Austin’s animals would be in good hands with each of them, we publicly endorse all three of their candidacies,” said Austin appellate attorney and national No Kill advocate Ryan Clinton, founder of
Dr. Ellen Jefferson, the only local candidate with direct insight into the shelter’s operations, founded and led low-cost spay/neuter provider EmanciPet, which recently celebrated its 100,000th low-cost or free spay/neuter in Austin. Dr. Jefferson currently serves as the Executive Director of Austin Pets Alive, a non-profit adoptions group that has saved over 5,000 from Town Lake Animal Center’s “kill list” in just two years.

Abigail Smith is the Executive Director of the Tompkins County SPCA in Ithaca, New York. Her shelter boasts the highest save rate—96%—of any open-admission shelter in the United States, and she is a sought-after national speaker on No Kill programs and policies. Before joining the Tompkins County SPCA, she was the Director of Development and Marketing at the New Hampshire SPCA.

Laura Hinze is the Operations Director at PAWS Chicago, where she manages the shelter’s spay/neuter program, shelter-medicine program, and humane-education program. She manages a paid staff of 15 and an army of volunteers. Among her most innovative programs is one in which persons who might not otherwise be able to spay or neuter their pets can earn free surgeries by providing volunteer hours to PAWS Chicago.
While Jefferson, Smith, and Hinze were endorsed by, the organization deemed the two other candidates—Linda Haller and Julie Seal—“unacceptable” for the position.

“Linda Haller and Julie Seal seem like fine human beings whose hearts are absolutely in the right place, but we believe they are both very poor fits for the Austin animal-welfare community and its drive to achieve No Kill success,” said Clinton. “In fact, both candidates distanced themselves from No Kill as a community goal, and both said they do not even like the words ‘No Kill,’” Clinton added. “This obviously won’t work for a community aiming towards achieving No Kill.”

The group also pointed to what they say are Haller and Seal’s poor records of performance, and lack of qualifications for the position. Linda Haller, for example, has been a shelter director in three communities but has never achieved a save rate of more than 53%. Austin’s save rate was 72% during the last fiscal year, and the City Council mandated that the shelter achieve a 90% save rate within 18 months.

Julie Seal also has underwhelming credentials for the position, the group said. She has held and left multiple positions in a short period, including spending nine months or less at two shelter-fundraising positions in Arizona and California. She more recently was a fundraiser for an autism-related non-profit, but her position was eliminated. “There is no doubt that Seal is a smart and caring person, but neither her background or animal-welfare interests match Austin’s commitment to No Kill. She has never worked at a No Kill shelter, she expressed no interest in the No Kill movement in America, and she said she didn’t even like the words ‘No Kill.’ She’s far out of line with Austin’s goals or beliefs regarding companion animals.”

The group noted that Abigail Smith, one of their preferred candidates, was unable to participate in the interviews this week due to a serious family emergency. They have urged the City to offer Smith an opportunity to make up the missed interview sessions. “When the shelter director with the highest save rate in America is considering working for you, you’ve got to figure out how to give her a chance. We would be making a huge mistake not to give Smith a chance to interview for the position,” said Clinton.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

CRITICAL MEETING: Who Will Be Austin's Next Shelter Director?

Attention Austin animal advocates: Tomorrow, Monday, November 8th, the City of Austin will be releasing the names of the two or three finalists for the new animal-shelter director position, and will be making the finalists available to meet the public from 6pm to 8pm at Austin Energy, 721 Barton Springs Road.

This is perhaps the most important meeting in the history of Austin animal welfare because it will be the public's only opportunity to meet the candidates and give immediate feedback to the City regarding the hiring decision. And it goes without saying that the new shelter director will have an enormous impact on whether Austin reaches its dream of joining the nation's No Kill cities.

How much of an impact will the new hire have? Well, according to a study by the Oakland, California-based No Kill Advocacy Center, a shelter's leadership--- not its budget--- is the #1 factor in how that shelter will perform.

Please be there tomorrow: 6pm, Austin Energy, 721 Barton Springs Road.

The animals of Austin will thank you!

The Team

Thursday, September 09, 2010

No Kill Works! August 2010: Highest August Save Rate in Austin's History!

Just wanted to send you all a note to share some fantastic news:

As a direct result of Austin, Texas's No Kill Implementation plan, a whopping 77% of all dogs and cats impounded at Town Lake Animal Center left the shelter alive in August 2010. This figure marks the highest August save rate (and lowest kill rate) in the history of Town Lake Animal Center-- by a significant margin.

Of course, there is still hard work to be done, and there is still considerable room to improve. We will be No Kill when we reach a 90% save rate, and there are core No Kill Implementation Plan programs that remain to be implemented.

Nonetheless, today should be a day of celebration and recognition of dramatic improvement. Thank you to Council, the Animal Advisory Commissioners, City Management and TLAC, and the non-profit groups that have helped make this a reality--- Austin Pets Alive, the Austin Humane Society, Animal Trustees of Austin, Emancipet, and the amazing rescue groups in this town.

No Kill works, and it's working in Austin.

Warmest regards,
The Team

Friday, August 20, 2010

Better Off Dead?

Who do you side with?

The No Kill Advocacy Center's Nathan Winograd, who says we should keep all shelter cages full to promote adoptions, isolate sick animals when necessary, foster baby kittens until they are old enough to be adopted, give every animal a chance at adoption, and keep up a strong cleaning protocol?

Or the ASPCA's assessment team member Dr. Sandra Newbury, who says we should "euthanize" animals to keep only half of available cage space open, "euthanize" animals that are sick or too young to be adopted at the moment (or too old to be adopted quickly), and keep a much smaller number of animals in foster homes?

This is a very real debate, with very serious consequences in Austin, Texas, because the ASPCA assessment team is about to release recommendations for Town Lake Animal Center. What do YOU think?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

With Friends Like These, Who Needs Enemies (or, on Mandatory Spay-Neuter Laws)

Why animal advocates should never, ever, advocate for mandatory spay-neuter laws: They do not work, they have never worked, they increase shelter killing, and they divert limited funding away from programs that actually do work to decrease shelter intake and increase lives saved.

This is not to say that additional spay/neuter isn't needed in most communities. It is. Rather, it is to say that passing mandatory spay/neuter ordinances isn't an effective way to achieve greater spay/neuter compliance rates. If you want to learn more about how to effectively decrease shelter intake and increase live outcomes, read the No Kill Equation here: If you want to learn why mandatory spay/neuter laws are absolutely not the answer, read on.

Mandatory spay-neuter ordinances do not work. The ASPCA did an extensive study on mandatory spay-neuter laws and concluded that they have failed to decrease shelter intake. According to the ASPCA, there is no "credible evidence demonstrating a statistically significant enhancement in the reduction of shelter intake or euthanasia as a result of the implementation of a mandatory spay-neuter law."

Mandatory spay-neuter ordinances target the wrong population. The largest category of animals entering the shelter are feral and community cats and their kittens. These are unowned or "loosely" owned animals who no person will claim ownership of. As a result, instead of targeting the population that needs spay-neuter (community cats), the ordinances target the population that largely is already spaying and neutering their animals to the tune of 80 or 85% (pet owners). Money is virtually thrown out the window by targeting pet owners rather than the unowned animals contributing most to shelter intake. The non-profit group Alley Cat Allies has a long article explaining this phenomenon. As Alley Cat Allies explains, "Mandatory spay/neuter laws do nothing to address the real issue[s].... Instead, these laws divert public resources away from beneficial programs and into administering an unenforceable law."

Mandatory spay-neuter is extremely expensive. Enforcing the ordinance would require additional Animal Control officers and additional trucks and equipment. Just one employee and one truck would cost more than $100,000 in year one and more than $50,000 each additional year. Two would cost at least $200,000 to start. That money would come out of programs that work to save lives, like low-cost and free spay-neuter programs, Trap-Neuter-and-Release programs, foster programs for baby kittens, as well as adoption programs. In Los Angeles, mandatory spay-neuter required millions of dollars worth of additional funding at the cost of proven and workable solutions to shelter killing.

Mandatory spay-neuter laws kill more animals than they save. In Los Angeles, intake and shelter killing increased 30% after the City began enforcing its new mandatory spay-neuter program. In Kansas City, mandatory spay-neuter has been enforced by sweeps of poor neighborhoods, where healthy and loved dogs are handed over to Animal Control due to lack of funds for spay-neuter. Some cities (like Fort Worth, Texas) have abandoned their mandatory spay-neuter ordinances because the ordinances did not work.

Mandatory spay-neuter laws have negative and dangerous side effects. Cities such as Fort Worth, Texas, have experienced a decline in rabies vaccinations following implementation of mandatory spay/neuter ordinances. As a result, the public has become more at risk of rabies due to implementation of the ordinances. In addition, nearly every city to pass a mandatory spay-neuter ordinance has experienced a significant decrease in pet registrations, meaning that fewer pets who arrive at shelters are able to be reunited with their owners.

Mandatory spay-neuter laws unfairly target the poor. 90% or more of pet owners with the financial means to do so already spay or neuter their pets. The largest category of pet owners who haven't done so simply cannot afford to do so. For this group, cost--- not unwillingness--- is the primary obstacle to spay/neuter. As a result, Animal Control in Kansas City, for example, has done "sweeps" through poor neighborhoods picking up animals and killing them at Animal Control.

Mandatory spay-neuter laws promote backyard breeding and possibly even puppy mills. When Animal Control sweeps through a neighborhood and either seizes or, by "owner surrender" takes animals that families cannot afford to have spayed or neutered, families who lost their animals to the Animal Control authorities will replace it with another, feeding the backyard breeding industry and possibly even puppy mills.

Every major animal-welfare group who has studied the effects of mandatory spay-neuter laws is against them. The ASPCA is against them. So is Alley Cat Allies, the No Kill Advocacy Center, the American Veterinary Medical Association, and Best Friends Animal Society. We're not generally a group that defers to authority (and we're proud of it!), but the consensus against mandatory spay-neuter laws--- even among groups that rarely agree--- is highly compelling.

  • Thursday, August 12, 2010

    The Last Throes of the Status Quo Continue

    The last throes of resistance to a No Kill Austin continue: In this article, KUT complains of shelter employees having to work harder to save animals, and reports on allegations of "impropriety" in the No Kill movement brought by a notorious opponent of No Kill. After reading this, would it surprise you to find out that TLAC's Program Development Manager is married to KUT's Associate General Manager? The more important question is: Why isn't KUT disclosing their direct conflict of interest when they report on the shelter and specifically its employees?

    And that notorious No Kill opponent who takes issue with No Kill advocates being on the Austin Animal Advisory Commission: why didn't he ever object when No Kill opponents were on the Commission? Double standard, anyone?

    Tuesday, August 10, 2010

    Blaming No Kill for Killing: the Desperate Last Stand of Austin's Status Quo


    It looks like the old-guard animal-welfare status quo in Austin is finally rearing its head to unleash one final and very desperate fight against the grassroots movement of hope, change, love, and life for the animals at Austin's Town Lake Animal Center. We hoped this wouldn't happen, but honestly predicted that it would because this is exactly what happened in other communities that have achieved No Kill success: the status quo lashes out against the effort intended to change it.

    First, the ASPCA "Mission Orange" program has hired a pro-killing, anti-No-Kill activist to "assess" Town Lake Animal Center right as the City embarks on its historic plan to end the unnecessary killing of lost and homeless pets in Austin. The activist in question is a notorious opponent of uncontroversial No Kill reforms (like increased adoptions and foster programs) who has gone on record arguing that (1) shelters should only use half of their cage spaces; and (2) shelters shouldn't have robust foster programs to save puppies, kittens, and medically treatable animals. Her advice has been followed--- then abandoned--- by at least one shelter in another state after following it led to a significant increase in shelter killing--- no surprise when you only use half of your adoption spaces and you indiscriminately kill to make those spaces available. We hope we're wrong, but we have every reason to believe that the Mission Orange "assessment" team will reach the same conclusions in Austin as they have reached in other cities: that we should kill more animals--- and use less of the shelter--- in order to somehow "save" animals. It doesn't make sense now, and it won't when they release their assessment either.

    And now, incendiary and false anti-No Kill propaganda from the Austin Humane Society fills our inboxes. Et tu, Brute? As hard is this is to say, the Austin Humane Society will not receive another dime of support from me. Anyone pay attention to Fox News on occasion? One of the things Fox News likes to do is ask emotionally charged, incendiary questions to imply veracity to an argument that facts do not actually support. Now we see the Austin Humane Society doing the same thing, asking in their July 2010 newsletter: "Is No-Kill Killing Kittens?"

    Well why don't we just answer the question for them: No, it isn't. Here are the facts:

    1. AHS's newsletter states that since the Austin City Council unanimously approved the No Kill plan and banned the shelter from killing healthy, adoptable animals when there are available cages to house them, "adoption numbers are not increasing." That is false. Since the No Kill plan passed, adoptions of all animals at the shelter have increased 30% this year over last year. Adoptions of cats and kittens have increased 48% this year over last year. And transfers to rescue groups have increased 59%. Far more animals are leaving the shelter alive since the Austin City Council acted.
    2. AHS's newsletter says that the city has allocated "no additional resources to accomplish [the No Kill] goal." That too is false. The City's new budget allocates an additional $800,000 to the shelter.
    3. AHS's newsletter claims that "the misconception that TLAC is now a no-kill shelter" is causing "more kittens than ever [to be] surrendered to the shelter." False again. First, while it is true that cat intake is up after the No Kill vote this year over last year, it is also true that cat intake was up before the No Kill vote. It is impossible for something that was happening before and is happening after an event (in this case, the No Kill vote) to be caused by that event. Second, dog intake is actually down this year over last year. If the No Kill vote was actually causing pet owners to surrender their animals, then why on earth would dog intake actually be down this year over last year? Is AHS suggesting that cat people watch the news but dog people don't? And third, as a requirement of the No Kill plan, Town Lake Animal Center is now informing all persons wishing to surrender an animal that the shelter is not a No Kill facility. If the "misconception that TLAC is now a no-kill shelter" actually caused someone to take a kitten to TLAC, then they would turn around and leave--- with the kitten--- once the "misconception" was cured by the shelter staff.
    4. AHS's newsletter claims that "[d]espite the hard work of TLAC staff, foster volunteers . . . are not increasing." While we have seen no published report on the number of TLAC fosters this year as compared to last year, we do know of at least one documented instance of a foster volunteering to foster a TLAC dog--- but being turned away by TLAC employees--- because the dog wasn't "young enough" to be fostered. That's right, TLAC has decided that if an animal isn't young, it's better off dead than in a foster home.

    I am, personally, incredibly disappointed in the Austin Humane Society. They have harmed the Austin No Kill movement before. They have claimed that No Kill advocates were actually barriers to success in Austin. They have supported a (now-replaced) shelter director responsible for the deaths of over 100,000 lost and homeless pets. They heavily supported closing Austin's downtown shelter and moving it to an industrial area on the outskirts of town. But falsely blaming the Austin City Council's unanimous No Kill plan, which is demonstrably saving animals, for "killing kittens" is the last straw for me.

    As a humane movement, we simply cannot support groups--- regardless of their name and history in Austin--- who wage incendiary and false attacks against No Kill reforms and policies in an attempt to take power away from a movement dedicated to saving lives. Let us not forget--- the Austin Humane Society carried the "No Kill" mantle in Austin in 1994 and, even with a multi-million-dollar grant from Maddie's Fund--- utterly failed to reach its promised goal. AHS was incapable of leading Austin to No Kill in 1994, and they evidently have not changed. Not a penny more from me. Not a penny. [Note: I'm sure AHS is shaking in its shoes not to receive my paltry annual donation...]

    What can you do? E-mail the Austin Humane Society and tell them to stop blocking No Kill reforms in Austin. Either get on the No Kill bus, or go away. Here is their e-mail address:

    Ryan Clinton

    [Added note: It is absolutely true that AHS does great work both in its adoptions and in its wonderful TNR program. This blog is in no way intended to communicate anything but the greatest respect for those programs (and probably others we don't know about). But when the powerful falsely attack the No Kill movement, as AHS did in its newsletter, their attacks deserve to be met with equivalent force. Of course we are stronger if we are all together, but that does not mean that we cannot or should not disagree. Only by questioning the status quo could we ever hope to change it.]

    Monday, July 26, 2010

    Austin No Kill Workshop Tickets on Sale Now!

    Tickets to the Austin No Kill Workshop are now available! Prices start at just $25 for the "early bird" registrants, but will move up to $35. For that price, you'll get speeches from the nation's top No Kill sheltering experts, a gourmet vegetarian (or vegan) lunch, and a copy of the award-winning Irreconcilable Differences by Nathan Winograd.

    To learn more about the conference, visit the Austin No Kill Workshop Facebook page at:

    Hope to see you there!
    The Team

    Sunday, July 25, 2010

    Tix On Sale Soon for the Austin No Kill Workshop!

    We're very pleased to present an unbelievable line-up of No Kill experts at the September 28, 2010, Austin No Kill Workshop! The event will take place at the Westin at the Domain in Austin, Texas, from 8:30am to 5:30pm. Tickets will be available very shortly.

    The speakers list for the No Kill Workshop include the nation's preeminent No Kill sheltering experts: Bonney Brown, Executive Director of the Nevada Humane Society; Mike Fry, Executive Director of Animal Ark of Minnesota; Nathan Winograd, Executive Director of the No Kill Advocacy Center; Mitch Schneider, Director of Washoe County (Reno) Animal Services; Michael Mountain, co-founder and former President of Best Friends Animal Society; Dr. Ellen Jefferson, Executive Director of Austin Pets Alive and founder of EmanciPet, and Dr. Linda Wolf, renown veterinarian and dog-behavior expert. (There's a rumor that another speaker may join the list too!)

    The animal-welfare community has come together to support this amazing line-up of No Kill experts. Event sponsors include the James J. Wolf Family Foundation for Animals, the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, Animal Ark of Minnesota, Animal Wise Radio, the No Kill Advocacy Center, the Austin No Kill Coalition, the Central Texas Animal Alliance, and In addition, the event is supported by Town Lake Animal Center, the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter, No Kill Houston, Love-a-Bull, Animal Defense League, and the Alamo Area Partners for Animal Welfare.

    For the latest information, please join the Austin No Kill Workshop Facebook page:

    See you there!
    The Team

    Sunday, May 09, 2010

    Statesman Embraces "Whacking" Baby Kittens... On Mother's Day

    Austin American-Statesman's Outdoors Editor Mike Leggett likes to kill animals. He gets a "thrill" out of killing deer. He enjoys killing fish. And Mikey likes to kill birds too; boy, does he: Mikey likes to kill quail. He thinks talk of killing doves is funny. And he just loves killing turkeys. In fact, he's mad as heck that the lefties who craft the State of Texas hunting guidelines are reducing the "joy" he gets from killing turkeys.

    Mike Leggett likes killing animals so much that you're just going to have to forgive us for rolling our collective eyes when he waxes philosophical about how "necessary" it is to kill the kittens a momma cat brought into his buddy's garage because they may one day grow up and turn into the kind of efficient bird hunter he is. And you'll also have to forgive us for being unable to let go unnoticed the blatant hypocrisy in Leggett opining that (1) it's okay to "whack" kittens because they might one day hunt birds (like he does), and (2) his friend feeding birds in his backyard even though it attracts feral cats (and squirrels, presumably) is perfectly natural, normal, and defensible, but the lady he saw feeding a colony of feral cats is messing with God's will.

    Putting aside Leggett's alarming lack of perspective, however, let's focus on the "science" he uses to justify "whacking" kitties in order to save birds (presumably, so that he can whack them later). To support his argument, Leggett relies on two allegations: (1) that a "study" proved that cats kill 39 million birds in Wisconsin alone; and (2) that a "published . . . article" demonstrated that the humane alternative to "whacking" cats--- trapping them, spaying or neutering them, and releasing them ("TNR")--- doesn't work. Both are illogical, unpersuasive, and wrong.

    The first "study" that Leggett relies on is, in fact, not a study. It is an essay in a non-peer-reviewed magazine published in 1996 by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (or maybe it was a similar essay published by the Wisconsin Parks & Wildlife Department). In the essay, the authors assume out of thin air that there are 1.7 million free-roaming cats in Wisconsin. They assume (based on un-cited and unnamed "other studies") that cats in rural areas kill 91 animals each year. And they assume (again, based on un-cited and unnamed "other studies") that 25% of the animals killed by cats are birds. Multiply all of those together--- 1.7 million x 91 x 25%--- and you get roughly 39 million bird deaths in Wisconsin. This is not a "study," Mr. Leggett. It is not peer-reviewed. It is not replicable. There is no way to double-check unnamed findings, and one of the key factors is based on a guess.

    Had Leggett analyzed the essay, he would have easily figured out that the number was nothing more than a guess--- it was not a study and is was not intended to be one. In fact, had Leggett spent even a few moments on Google to determine whether the numbers were accurate, he would have discovered this quote from the essay's author himself:

    "The media has had a field day with this since we started. Those figures were from our proposal [for a study]. They aren't actual data; that was just our projection to show how bad it might be."
    Plus, had Leggett bothered to look, there are, in fact, a large number of published studies concluding that the feral cat population does not significantly affect the population of American birds. This is a list provided by the nation's preeminent animal-sheltering expert, Nathan Winograd, from the same source as the last quote:

    Roger Tabor found that cats have low success as bird hunters and that the bulk of their diet is garbage, plants, insects, and other scavenger material. In short, cats are not impacting bird populations on continents. Fitzgerald & Karl found that "cats suppress populations of more dangerous predators such as rats and thus allow denser populations of birds than would exist without them." Robert Berg found that cats were not impacting quail population in San Francisco even though quail nest on the ground. Mead found no evidence that cats are impacting overall bird populations. Colemand & Brunner concluded that "The common belief that feral cats are serious predators of birds is apparently without basis." A Worldwatch Institute 1994 Study found that birds are in decline due to drought, habitat loss, overtrapping, and water pollution. Cats are noticeably absent as factors. A 1988 study by the University of Georgia blamed forest fragmentation across Southern U.S. for decimating songbirds. A Colorado Wildlife Dept. study in 1994 blamed drought. National Geographic lined declines to poisons in environment, particularly lawn care products."

    Leggett could have figured this out. It's not that complicated. But we think he was too busy trying to justify his friend "whacking" the kittens in his garage. Or, perhaps, he didn't care.

    The next "article" upon which Leggett relies to justify his friend's cat "whacking" is even less persuasive. To support his argument that "trap-neuter-release" does not work, Leggett cites an article about a small TNR operation on an ecologically sensitive area on Catalina Island that demonstrated that spayed and neutered cats roamed just as far as non-spayed and non-neutered cats. That's right-- the study concluded that unaltered cats roam just as far as altered cats. But what Mr. Leggett did not point out (probably intentionally) is that the study concluded that the program would work to eliminate the feral-cat species on the island in about 10 years. It did not conclude that TNR was ineffective at reducing the feral cat population; it concluded the opposite. Mr. Leggett citing this study to disprove the efficacy of TNR is like the birthers pointing to President Obama's Hawaiian birth certificate as evidence that Obama was born elsewhere. It makes no sense at all.

    In the end, none of the science mattered to Leggett or the Statesman. His article wasn't about that. Instead, it was about his need to figure out how to justify his buddy killing the kittens that a momma cat mistakenly brought into his garage. But you know what, Mr. Leggett? Not every act of killing can be justified--- even if performed by your buddy.

    Monday, April 26, 2010

    No Kill Foot-dragging by TLAC Management

    It has been a month and a half since the Austin City Council passed the historic No Kill Implementation Plan, which required the City's Animal Services Staff to issue a formal Request for Proposal ("RFP") from non-profit entities to run the Adoptions program at TLAC next year. Yet alarmingly, Animal Services has not released any information regarding the RFP, what it might contain, when it will be issued, or even a basic time frame for the process.

    The public has a right to know: Why has the RFP not been issued? Has a deadline been set by which the RFP must be issued? If not, why not?

    If the RFP does not go out soon, the City Council's will may be entirely thwarted by a shelter management that continues to embrace killing over obvious lifesaving solutions. Sadly, once again, it seems we are faced with a reluctant and stonewalling attitude by management to implementing the policies and procedures approved by Council on March 11th--- stonewalling that shows just exactly how right the Austin American-Statesman’s Editorial Board was when it wrote on March 18th:

    …”the city needs to get moving on hiring a nonprofit to manage the city's animal adoption programs and make good on its promise to keep the current shelter open for at least six months (preferable longer) after the new one opens next year…For their part, Austin residents must continue their vigilance to make sure that Ott does not permit those directly overseeing the Town Lake Animal Center to again drop the ball on this priority…Austin has a good plan. But even the best plan can languish without a champion. And that is what Austin needs now.”

    The citizens of Austin must demand that the City's Animal Services be accountable, and that the will of the people--- and the City Council--- not continue to be thwarted. Please take a moment to e-mail the Austin City Council and ask that the City issue the No Kill RFP immediately. You can e-mail all of them at once at this link:

    Thank you,
    The Team

    Monday, April 12, 2010

    Not Yet No Kill Austin

    Just a quick note on the status of No Kill in Austin, Texas.

    Last month, the Austin City Council enacted a historic list of No Kill programs and policies. Many of the policies were enacted immediately--- such as the ban on killing healthy, adoptable animals while cages sit empty at the shelter. But other, larger programs have not yet been implemented and will not be for many months.

    So if you are thinking about surrendering your animal to Town Lake Animal Center because you think it's a No Kill facility now, please think again. It is not. In the month of March alone (two-thirds of which occurred after the No Kill vote), the shelter killed 441 animals. Please do not take your beloved pet to TLAC unless you absolutely have no other option.

    So what are your other options? First, ask for help. There are great resources available to you to find solutions to common pet challenges. Here's one from the ASPCA on common pet behavior issues. Or you could contact Austin Pets Alive's Positive Alternative to Shelter Surrender program. Second, before surrendering your pet to a pound, please also contact local rescue groups in your area to see if they might help you solve your issues or find another home for your pet. You should also contact your local limited-admission no-kill shelters (like Austin's Austin Humane Society). Third, you should attempt to use other resources (like Craigslist) to re-home your pet, or your family friends, or church members, etc. Here's another site with helpful information on re-homing a pet from Best Friends.

    The point is: TLAC is not yet a No Kill shelter. It will get there, but it isn't there yet. Please don't let your pet be another statistic by surrendering it to TLAC at this time.

    The Team

    Thursday, April 08, 2010

    Keeping Them Honest: TLAC Grossly Overstating Owner-Surrender Increase

    Hi folks,

    Some of you may have seen news stories reporting an argument made by Town Lake Animal Center's management team that there has been a huge increase in animals surrendered to the shelter by their owners since the Austin City Council passed the historic No Kill resolution on March 12, 2010. It is appropriate for the shelter to let people know that the shelter is not yet No Kill and won't be until after all of the Council's No Kill reforms have been enacted. But it is not appropriate for the shelter to grossly overstate their case for a dramatic increase in owner surrenders, as the shelter is doing.

    Here's the case being made by TLAC in the news: because owner surrenders over the 26 days following the No Kill resolution are up 46 over the same period last year, the resolution is causing an increase in owner surrenders. First of all, let's just say that any mathematician would giggle at the idea that because one thing happened after the other that the second was caused by the first. Mathematicians would also giggle at the idea that one could prove causation by statistics; to the contrary, one can only prove correlation by statistics.

    But regardless, a plain look at the historical data demonstrates that TLAC is grossly overstating its case for the assertion that the No Kill resolution is causing an increase in owner surrenders. Why? Because the number of animals surrendered to the shelter by their owners was already increasing this year over last year before the No Kill resolution was passed. As a result, one cannot conclude that the resolution caused the increase because there was an increase both before and after the resolution was passed.

    Please note that this is not to say that Austin going No Kill will not increase owner surrenders. That may happen when people think the shelter is a safe place. And given that intake is considerably higher in Summer months, we should anticipate a greater increase in owner surrenders this year over last year if the trend is already demonstrating an increase in owner surrenders. In any event, we make this point only to demonstrate that TLAC is grossly overstating its case now. The data simply does not prove what they claim.

    Here's the data:
    Change in Per-Month Owner-Surrenders from Last Year to this Year:

    26-day Period After 3/12 Referendum (reported by KXAN): +46
    March 2010: Not Yet Reported by TLAC
    February 2010: Not Yet Reported by TLAC
    January 2010: +37
    December 2009: +29
    November 2009: +36
    October 2009: +31

    The Team

    Saturday, March 06, 2010

    Austin City Council to Decide Whether to Make Austin a No Kill City This Thursday, March 11, at 10am

    This is perhaps the biggest news in the No Kill world since Reno, NV, went No Kill in 2007. This Thursday, March 11, the Austin City Council will decide whether Austin, Texas, will join the ranks of America's No Kill cities. The Council is considering a plan of proven methods to produce No Kill success: (1) low-cost and free spay-neuter programs; (2) a comprehensive adoption program including off-site adoptions; (3) keeping open the downtown shelter once the city's new shelter opens outside of the city center; and (4) a large-scale foster program.

    The No Kill plan has now been posted on the City Council's website in Agenda Item #21.

    If you want to help make Austin a No Kill City, we ask that you please send an e-mail to the Austin City Council members asking them to pass the plan. Their e-mails are:,,,,,, and

    THANK YOU for your help!

    The Team

    Monday, March 01, 2010

    Great News! The City Council Health & Human Services Subcommittee Embraces a No Kill Plan

    Today, the City of Austin moved one step closer to becoming America's next No Kill City. At a meeting of the City Council Subcommittee for Health and Human Services, Subcommittee members voted 3-0 to direct city staff to move forward with a No Kill plan that includes elements written by the Animal Advisory Commission including a comprehensive adoption program, off-site adoptions, and a moratorium on killing healthy, adoptable animals while cages sit empty and unused.

    It is our understanding that the Subcommittee will formally review staff's revised plan this Thursday at 3pm at 505 Barton Springs Road in Austin. If the plan is approved by the subcommittee at that time, it will be soon presented to the full Austin City Council for an up-or-down vote.

    Some people have asked us about the proposal that a non-profit animal-welfare group operate the Adoptions Program of the Town Lake Animal Center. Yes, we believe that is in the plan, and that proposals for operating the shelter's Adoptions Program will be open to a full and public procurement process--- not designated for any particular non-profit in advance.

    We have a great deal to be proud of as residents of Austin, Texas, and today's vote was no exception. We hope this new No Kill plan will be approved and implemented by the full Austin City Council.

    Best regards,
    The Team

    Thursday, February 18, 2010

    Call Off the Dogs! The Austin Humane Society's "Action Alert" Is False

    Hello Animal Advocates,

    For reasons we do not understand, the Austin Humane Society has embarked on a campaign to save the new animal shelter. Here's the problem: IT DOESN'T NEED TO BE SAVED. It is not on the chopping block. It is not being delayed. What they are communicating is pure fantasy.

    Here are the facts: the shelter management asked the City Council to officially sign off on the construction contract for the new shelter in February 2010. But because the shelter management had neglected its duty to prepare a design for the future use of the current shelter as part of that process, the vote was postponed to the very next meeting (March 2010) to give the shelter management time to do their job and put together a complete plan as they have been repeatedly instructed to do by the City Council. That is all that happened.

    Here is a second key fact: delaying the vote on the construction contract by one month will not delay the construction of the shelter. Construction will not begin any later as a result of the delay caused by the shelter staff in failing to meet their obligations.

    Here is a third key fact: the shelter management is at fault for this delay. That's the same shelter management that the Austin Humane Society has publicly embraced time and time again. Why on earth would they bombard Council with incorrect e-mails given that their own ally caused the delay?

    Don't believe us? Then listen to Austin's Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez, a proven and dedicated advocate for Austin's animals, who released this statement:

    "Dear Sirs and Madams,

    Thank you for your emails. We truly appreciate your concern for our new animal shelter and the welfare of our animals in Austin.

    Unfortunately, and irresponsibly, you have been given incomplete, inaccurate or out of context information.

    This council took no action, what-so-ever, to delay the construction of the new shelter. Any info to the contrary is simply false. Staff postponed an agenda item, to be brought back in March, regarding the construction of the new shelter. That item will come back and it will occur in March 2010. Construction will begin on time and the project will go as plan.

    The reason for postponing the item is due to the fact that council gave explicit direction that our new shelter "will not" open without a full adoption facility in operation at the current TLAC site. The integrated plan to improve live outcomes will come before the Health and Human Service Council Sub Committee in early March and then to council at the very next available meeting. Once this occurs and all commitments have been adhered to, the item to proceed with the new shelter construction will occur on time.

    This council remains committed to our animal welfare issues and we will continue to do all that we can to improve live outcomes and proceed with our, citizen granted, state of the art animal shelter. But we will do it with a comprehensive approach to achieve all of our goals in this regard.

    Please feel free to forward this to the entire animal welfare community so all can be fully informed.

    Any other info that is different from what has been provided only exist to serve a specific political agenda and should be corrected immediately.



    So what should you do? First, ignore the Austin Humane Society's alert; they are just wrong on this issue as a matter of fact. Second, stop sending the Austin City Council e-mails complaining about the shelter being delayed when that is not remotely true. If anything, commend the Mayor Pro Tem and the rest of the Austin City Council for enforcing their mandate that an Adoption Center remain open at the current shelter location when the new shelter opens in East Austin.

    With kindest regards,

    The Team

    Monday, February 01, 2010

    Animal Animal Advisory Commission Passes No Kill Implementation Plan

    GREAT NEWS! After a five-hour marathon meeting yesterday, the Austin Animal Advisory Commission passed an implementation plan to make Austin a No Kill City. The pillars of the plan are: (1) Rewriting the mission of Animal Services to embrace lifesaving as a core goal; (2) Partnering with Austin Pets Alive to operate the City's Adoption Program (including the operation of 4 off-site adoption locations 7 days a week); (3) Saving ALL existing buildings at the current TLAC site for adoptions purposes once the new shelter in East Austin is built; and (4) Enhancing community spay/neuter efforts by partnering with Emancipet.

    This is a great plan and is endorsed by Austin's animal-welfare community and its leaders. The next step is to convince the Austin City Council to pass it. We'll post a link to the plan as soon as we receive a final copy.

    Wednesday, January 06, 2010

    Help Lead the Way: Attend the No Kill Conference

    We're excited to be a part of the national No Kill Conference, America's preeminent national conference on ending the unnecessary killing of lost and homeless cats and dogs at animal shelters. This year's conference features the nation's most outstanding shelter directors, leading animal lawyers, and advocates who can help you reduce shelter killing in your community.'s own Ryan Clinton will be speaking on Reforming Animal Control through political advocacy and lobbying. Learn more about the conference at this link: Reserve your spot quickly: this conference, like last year's, WILL SELL OUT.