Austin Pets Alive! (APA!) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to help and rescue animals. Its mission is to promote and provide the resources, education and programs needed to eliminate the killing of companion animals.
Sky is a sweet three-year old who wants nothing more than to run and play pain-free! Unfortunately, this young lady is suffering from a bilateral cruciate rupture, which means that she will need surgery in both of her knees. The APA! Clinic team is working closely with Dr. Allman, who will be able to help get Sky back to feeling footloose and fancy-free once the funds for her surgeries can be raised.
Sephora is a sweet young thing, who loves nothing more than to shower her humans with affection! Unfortunately, this friendly, fun loving girl arrived at APA! after healing very poorly from a pelvis, spine and femur fraction. The APA! Clinic team doesn’t know what happened to Sephora before she came to Austin Pets Alive!, but they do know that now she will need surgery to recover. Luckily, Dr. Allman and his team are ready to help Sephora get to feeling better and enjoying her life, just as soon as the funds can be raised for her surgery!
During my time shadowing and training with the experts at Austin Animal Center (AAC), it has become clearer than ever that Austin’s unique collaborative community model is a huge part of its No Kill success. Both Austin Pets Alive! and Austin Animal Center operate with the mindset that people are the solution. And, in turn, the perception of the shelter by the public is that the shelter is more of a community resource rather than a holding place for homeless animals. Instead of acting as a last resort for animals, AAC works with the community to find creative solutions to keep families together. It is our responsibility as a community resource to provide people with what they need to succeed. It has been enlightening working with Austin Animal Center’s Pet Resource Center where this cultural shift has taken place successfully and proven that people truly are the solution for helping homeless animals.
Too often, people say they want to work or volunteer in animal welfare or animal sheltering positions because they “like animals more than people,” but this is not the mindset that we need in order to do the most impactful work. Animal sheltering is a people-oriented business. We must operate from the mindset that people are inherently good and beneficial to the movement, and it is crucial to make sure that a shelter has the right team members to help the community.
As part of my fellowship, I am enrolled in The Humane Network’s University of the Pacific Animal Shelter Management Certificate program. One of our readings was Good to Great by Jim Collins. He emphasizes the need to get the right people on the bus, especially since the journey is more important than the destination. This can be applied perfectly to a shelter’s journey to No Kill. It is important to ensure that an organization’s staff understands the expectations we have in regards to this shift in thinking around animal sheltering. If they are not on board, I am going to need them to “get off the bus” because they are only going to hinder the journey.
Each animal’s life is important, and each individual that brings an animal to the shelter must be offered resources that can potentially deter an animal from entering our shelter in the first place. Austin Animal Center’s Pet Resource Center does exactly that, offering a wide array of resources for the community so that they can keep animals out of the shelter. Does someone need help with a broken fence? AAC can help with that. Does someone want to foster an animal to keep it from taking a spot in the shelter? AAC can provide any supplies and support the foster might need.
The Pet Resource Center staff are patient, kind, and solution-oriented and they treat each individual that comes to the shelter with kindness and respect. In turn, the people who visit are willing to have conversations to see how they can help keep our population down and, in turn, enhance the lifesaving efforts of Austin Animal Center.
Missed the first post in this series? I’m Sheila, and I am a Maddie’s Executive Leadership Fellow here in Austin training with Austin Pets Alive! and Austin Animal Center. This fellowship has provided me with the unique opportunity to shadow leaders at the forefront of the No Kill movement. #ThankstoMaddie
You may remember Nevada from our previous post, where she was lucky enough to receive the funding needed for her double wrist surgery. Now this sweet little girl needs our help again, in addition to her wrist injuries Nevada is suffering from a heart murmur. The APA! Clinic team needs to perform an echocardiogram to continue to help Nevada on her road to recovery.
The progress at PVAC continues and, while there is still more work to be done, it is becoming clearer with every passing day that the South Texas community wants to move towards life saving together!
Over 3,000 dogs and cats have been transferred out to multiple rescues since the beginning of the year (as we mentioned in our last installment of this series, just over 600 of those originally came to APA!). To put this into perspective, that is more than half of what was done in the whole of last year! The save rate is holding steady at 51% (up from 35% a few months ago) – a number that should continue to encourage the community and supporters of PVAC’s decision to make such massive improvements. As the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and that applies to the work being done in Palm Valley.
The team has worked to establish a relationship with California based organization, Helen Woodward Animal Center – a rescue that regularly transfers animals from other shelters into their care. The organization plans to come on May 14th to pick up their first group of puppies. The staff at PVAC is hopeful that this will become a continuous relationship!
With the arrival of warmer months, kitten season is in full swing. Kittens are pouring in, and sadly, many are orphaned. The PVAC team has worked to find help for these tiny lives – like identifying surrogate moms, bringing on fosters, and reaching out to rescues.
With the steady flow of kittens, cats, puppies and dogs coming in the door, the shelter staff continues to improve upon the intake routine. All animals are now receiving Nexguard on intake, which preps the animals for further treatment of skin conditions on an as-needed basis.
The shelter has seen an increase in medical cases coming in and are in need of more aid from groups who take on medical cases. To highlight some positive changes the shelter is experiencing because of the protocols and communications the APA! Team was able to put in place, the shelter is seeing some exciting and valuable support from community members. Four owned dogs were able to stay with their owners due to a very generous donor that paid for medical fees (versus the alternative of owner surrender!).
Among these other life-saving actions, adoptions play a critical role. Last week, the team saw a good number of both cat and dog adoptions. Due to the large amount of puppies they are currently intaking, an adoption special has been kicked off featuring $10 adoption fees for puppies! Of course, appropriate screening and adoption processes will still apply. And to increase adoptions of animals overall, the public can take part in “Free the Shelter Adoption Event” – this weekend (May 4-6), all adoption fees of all animals will be just $10.00, thanks to a grant awarded to the shelter!
Thanks again to Best Friends Animal Society for providing the grant that allows our APA! staffer to help coordinate these lifesaving efforts – and stay tuned for more news from the ground in Edinburg, Texas!
Nevada is a sweet 6-month old kitten who arrived at Austin Pets Alive! with scabies and a deformity in both of his “wrists” that requires orthopedic surgery. He’s as sweet as can be, and now that the APA! Clinic has helped him become scabies free he is ready for surgery. This surgery will help fix up his little paws, so that he can live out the rest of his life as the playful, loving kitten that he is ready to be!
Little Jaha needs surgery on his knee. He has what is known as a luxating patella, which means that his knee cap pops out of place and gets stuck. This is fairly common for little guys like Jaha, and luckily there’s a fairly easy fix! He needs a surgical procedure to help his knee stay where it’s supposed to be and allow him to live his life to the fullest.
Hi! I’m Sheila, and I am a Maddie’s Executive Leadership Fellow here in Austin training with Austin Pets Alive! and Austin Animal Center! This fellowship has provided me with the unique opportunity to shadow leaders at the forefront of the No Kill movement. In 2017, Austin Animal Center had a save rate of 97.9 percent, and much of this is thanks to the partnership with Austin Pets Alive!.
I moved to Austin from Los Angeles to learn how this community became the largest No-Kill city in the nation through exciting, fresh solutions, collaboration, and education. I’d like to share a few of the key lessons I’ve learned thus far.
“Mind the gap!” Something Austin Pets Alive!’s Executive Director, Dr. Ellen Jefferson, has done incredibly well is identify the gaps in lifesaving and strategize how to fill them creatively. I observed this first-hand when we responded to Hurricane Harvey. Dr. Jefferson knew we had to help the animals displaced by Hurricane Harvey, so we went to Houston and found that the animals that had been stranded or had to be left behind were being rescued by good samaritans and amazing organizations like Cajun Navy. But, they did not know what to do once they got these animals out of the flood waters. Austin Pets Alive! stepped up and filled that gap, setting up a transport hub in the middle of the parking lot of the Katy Mills Mall and arranged for transports of thousands of animals to safety in Austin.
“You’re doing it wrong. But at least you’re doing it. Once you’re doing it, you have a chance to do it better. Waiting for perfect means not starting.” Dr. Jefferson sent me this quote from this blog as we set up a pop-up shelter in Houston. Hurricane Harvey was a blessing in disguise for Houston’s animals because it gave us the opportunity to set up a pop-up shelter for strays that normally would not have a good chance of making it out of Houston’s shelters alive.
This was an incredibly difficult task as we were short-handed in a chaotic environment. A previously flooded grocery store wasn’t the ideal place for an animal shelter, but we had to make lemonade out of these lemons and we made sure to prioritize the things that mattered, like overall animal care. I think a lot of people are hesitant to start the path towards No Kill because they might not have the funding, spacing, staffing, etc. But, it is important to just get started and the pieces of the puzzle will come together gradually.
Volunteers are everything! When we set up our pop-up rescue and transport hub in the middle of a parking lot at the Katy Mills Mall, we did not have a plan or the ability to send staff to help because our Austin Pets Alive! team was needed to tend to the overflow of animals in Austin. But, we set up shop and word spread rapidly. Soon, we had hundreds of volunteers and we were operating like a well-oiled machine. We had people cleaning crates day and night, sorting donations, walking dogs, and staying up at all hours to make sure our animals were safe overnight.
We had dozens of volunteer veterinarians and vet techs offering their services to our animals. Not once did I hear a complaint about volunteers because the task they were assigned was boring or messy. They knew how crucial they were to our lifesaving operation, and it is completely thanks to them that we were able to accomplish what we did for Harvey’s displaced animals. Thanks to the amazing staff and volunteers, Austin Pets Alive! was able to help save over 5,000 animals affected by Hurricane Harvey.
Stay tuned for more tidbits from my time with the amazing Austin teams!
Welcome to our new mini blog post series on our work with (and the progress of) Palm Valley Animal Center (PVAC) in Edinburg, far south Texas. As many of you are likely already aware, we’ve been involved in helping PVAC transform their systems and implement No Kill programming since the beginning of this year. Our programmatic leaders have visited their shelter, working tirelessly with the PVAC team to institute fast yet sustainable change to save lives immediately – and to lay the groundwork for the lives that are harder to save so that they, too, can realize live outcomes in south Texas. PVAC staff attended our American Pets Alive! Conference in February of this year, where they were able to walk away with clear action items and a sense of the possibilities for their shelter, despite seemingly crippling intake numbers and budget size.
And now, thanks to a grant from Best Friends Animal Society, a seasoned APA! staff member has been embedded with the PVAC staff to provide the ongoing support they need and deserve, specifically focusing on lifesaving, increasing their save rate, and continuing the initial progress made with building the shelter flow and programs they need from scratch.
This blog miniseries will provide notes from the field. We’ll document the progress being made for the two months that our staffer will be on the ground to show the world that the PVAC staff is dedicated to change – that killing truly is not the goal, and that this incredible transformation is possible. If this shelter in south Texas, starting from one of the most disadvantaged places we’ve seen, can make this change on behalf of the pets who so desperately need it, we strongly believe anywhere in the country can follow suit. And for the record, we are confident that PVAC, through their own determination coupled with the help of various organizations and individuals, can make this happen.
Here are some hard facts to kick us off:
PVAC’s annual intake is around 32,000 annually. That is equivalent to Dallas, but with a sliver of the budget to operate.
When APA! first started working with PVAC, their live release rate – meaning the percentage of animals that come into their shelter and leave with a live outcome in an adoptive home, for example – was 30% overall. For cats, it was just 10%. In the short amount of time that we’ve been working together, this number has climbed to 71% for the month of March. The overall live release rate for 2018 is standing at 51% now.
On the surface, that change may not seem like much. But its percentage point represents a hard fight to find ways to save the huge number of animals that PVAC receives each week. And these first jumps in save rates are often the hardest.
Some of the fast changes that have gone into effect include:
Pulling animals and arranging transports to No Kill shelters across Texas. Since our very first visit to PVAC right before the AmPA! Conference, APA! has pulled 607 animals into our care. Shelters from states as far away as California and Nebraska have now expressed interest in helping the cause by accepting transports. Rescue Dogs Rock out of New York and Desidaerart Cat Rescue, out of Washington, have pulled many medical cases and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has even transported nearly 200 animals last week to their shelter in Tulsa, Oklahoma in a partnership with Tulsa Humane Society. They’re currently coming monthly to pull pets, which will soon turn to weekly!
Our staff member currently stationed at PVAC is participating in meetings ranging from the tactical and programmatic with staff all the way up to the Board meetings to provide support as these transitions happen.
An urgent pet page has gone up to help transparently plea for pets. PVAC started with only a small portion of pets posted online due to the lack of staffing. It took a lot of logistical reorganization to get more hands-on data entry and online posting. This may sound small but is a surprisingly heavy lift for shelters not accustomed to this practice and we’re thrilled to see this progress!
Every single pet that comes to PVAC is now listed or considered available for rescue, adoption, foster or transport.
Both a nursery for cat mamas and babies as well as a barn cat program have been established. PVAC celebrated their first barn cat adoption this month.
Every adoptable animal is now publicly displayed on the website and every animal available for rescue or foster is shown on the urgent pets page.
Another important note: this work takes a village. APA! hasn’t been alone in this fight, as PVAC staff members, volunteers and fosters around Edinburg are stepping up to institute change. The PVAC Director, Board of Directors and staff have jumped into the work that these changes require and are making significant improvements at their shelter to focus on lifesaving. Best Friends Animal Society has also stepped up in a big way. They sent a couple of their staff members down to initially help mentor through communications strategies and streamlining adoption processes; they are working collaboratively with APA! and have graciously given APA! a grant to allow our own Faith Wright to do the on-the-ground, in-the-weeds work with PVAC until the end of May. We know that more help is on the way, too.
We look forward to sharing more news from this significant collaboration with PVAC and the folks in Edinburg and hope you’ll stay tuned!
If you’re in the Rio Grande Valley area and would like to get involved, here are some ways PVAC could use your help: