Thursday, June 25, 2009

Austin, TX Shelter: Babeh Kittehs R Skeery

Town Lake Animal Center (TLAC) in Austin, TX is a kill shelter:
Because the shelter accepts accept all animals, regardless of health or behavior, and because there is a significant problem of pet overpopulation in our community, the shelter does euthanize animals that have no other humane option for lifetime care.


There is no pet overpopulation problem in this country. There are a number of homeless pet related problems, mainly the killing of healthy/treatable pets by shelters, but pet overpopulation is a myth, debunked to my satisfaction by Nathan Winograd.

But I want to examine this bit: "...the shelter does euthanize animals that have no other humane option for lifetime care". "Euthanasia" is a means to end suffering of a medically hopeless animal, otherwise it's "killing". While there is much controversy surrounding the debate on whether pets deemed "aggressive" should be killed, my view is this: every adult pet deserves at least a chance at life. (If we can't all agree on that, what the hell are you doing advocating for pets?) And every puppy or kitten deserves a guaranteed spot on the adoption floor because there is no way anyone will ever convince me that an 8 week old pet is a danger to society.

If a pet possibly has aggression issues, get him evaluated by a qualified behaviorist and locate a trainer willing to work with the shelter/rescue/foster owner. IOW, give that pet a chance, at the very least. Maybe he's not really aggressive after all. Maybe he would develop nicely in a structured home environment. Maybe he could thrive in a home without other male dogs. There are lotsa maybes. But not if we kill every animal deemed "aggressive" by someone in a shelter.

Back to TLAC. The shelter director has a sad history of refusing to work with Winograd towards no kill, making my friend Christie's head explode, and killing pets while plenty of cages sit empty in the shelter. Winograd sums it up:
In Austin, by contrast, one person—the director of animal control—is saying “No” to foster care programs, “No” to offsite adoptions, “No” to TNR for feral cats, “No” to programs that would save animals, choosing instead to kill them. And in fact, since the director of animal control was hired, she has done that with ruthless efficiency: 97,000 animals have been put to death under her watch. That’s over 12,000 each year, 1,000 each month, 34 each day, 1 every 12 minutes the shelter has been open to the public.

A Day in the Death: I came across this page detailing TLAC's disposition of pets for May 30, 2009: 11 pets adopted, 48 killed. Breakdown on the 48:

  • 6 kittens weighing less than 1 pound each were killed because they were "0-4 weeks" old
  • 3 pets were "sick/inj" (presumably "injured")
  • 6 pets were "suffering" (including a 1.5 pound kitten)
  • 16 pets were "no pick" (including 4 kittens ranging in weight from .5 pounds to 3.75 pounds)
  • 2 dogs were "agg policy" (presumably "aggression" issues)
  • 15 cats were also "agg policy" (2 have no weights given and the remaining 13 kittens weighed 1-2 pounds)

A few thoughts: If you are running a shelter with an official "reason to kill" that says "0-4 weeks" of age, you need a foster care program and community outreach. Being born a homeless pet should not be an automatic death sentence at anyplace calling itself a shelter. Regarding the "aggression policy" - who is doing the evaluating? Because whoever that is needs to be immediately fired and prevented from ever working in animal sheltering again. 13 kittens weighing a pound or two apiece were all determined to be hopelessly aggressive in one day?! Ever hear of this thing called feeding? How about petting? I bet if you implement these new fangled methods into your kitten care program, you'll find most kittens respond positively to them. At least enough so they don't have to be, you know, KILLED. Forgive me if I'm skeptical on the other 2 cats (with no weights given) and 2 dogs who were killed for the same reason on this day.

Today, Hope: Winograd posts on his blog today:

A unanimous decision of a citizens’ advisory committee in Austin, TX has demanded that the shelter stop killing animals despite empty cages, model itself after successful programs in places like Reno, NV, implement the programs and services of the No Kill Equation, and even consider privatizing the shelter.

Town Lake Animal Control’s director tried to derail the vote, but was outnumbered by animal lovers on the Committee.

I hope, I hope, I hope.


Kelley said...

Thank you so much for posting this. I wish I could write this well. I'm going to take a copy when I go to see a city council member tomorrow (w/your permission)

YesBiscuit! said...

What's mine is yours, as they say. : )
Please let us know how the meeting goes.

Pai said...

What does 'no pick' mean?

YesBiscuit! said...

Having a guess - It might mean the pet was put on the adoption floor but not adopted by anyone.

Anonymous said...

Once TLAC takes an animal into its adoption program, it's there to stay, so my guess is they weren't taken by rescues and there was not room in the adoption program. But perhaps these are points that should be cleared up with TLAC, rather than making assumptions.

Also, there is a foster program at TLAC, but it's new and being expanded.

And, Austin Humane Society has a feral cat program, and they work together with TLAC in this endeavor. AHS has better facilities for such a program.

Just few points. Always good to have all the info before jumping to conclusions

YesBiscuit! said...

"Anonymous" - This blog is an open forum. If anyone has info to refute the kill stats posted by TLAC, they are welcome to post. The main conclusion I draw from those stats is that kittens are being deemed aggressive and killed or being deemed newborn and killed. I don't consider those conclusions to be a "jump".
That said, I use this blog to draw my own conclusions and give my opinions. That's what I set it up for.

Kelley said...

Anonymous -
I don't see where there were any conclusions jumped to. The death toll for TLAC is public information and is published at
For years TLAC did not have a foster program; the assistant shelter director spoke to the Houston Chronicle and stated that the public did not know how to take care of puppies and kittens and was too irresponsible to do so. If she has changed her mind, wonder how she's going to spin that? I'm sure she'll come up with some way, she's a great politician - just shouldn't be near any animals in any way, shape or form.
And once TLAC takes an animal into its adoption program its there to stay, unless they decide it has become "aggressive", gets sick, or they decide to kill it for whatever other reason they feel like it.

Cait said...

IIRC, 'agg policy' on kittens mean the kitten appeared to be a feral. Don't know- that's third-hand info.

Kelley said...

Now, that would be funny if it weren't so sad. I was personally told by the Assistant Shelter Director at a no-kill subcommittee meeting that they did not have a designation distinguishing feral vs non-feral cats, and therefore no way to determine how many feral cats were killed in the shelter yearly (and therefore no way to implement my suggestion that the shelter not, you know, kill feral cats).
And I think you'll find "feeding" and "petting" work very well on "feral" .5 to 2 pound kittens, if you care to try it. On the .5 pound ones it takes about 3 days, if that.

Katie said...

While I agree that some little kittens can be a bit scary, it does NOT take that much time or any specialized knowledge to tame them into personable little creatures. I have a coworker who has adopted out litter after litter of feral kittens (and TNRs the moms) and most of those kittens come in hissing and spitting and leave as great pets.

The difference, of course, is that she actually cares.

Cait said...

Kelley - no clue, I'm a dog person, not a cat person, and I don't live in Austin- that was what I heard from a friend who pulls from TLAC. My only 'feral' kitty was a NYC 'feral' Munchkin who, upon disposition to her new home at a upstate NY sanctuary when I was living in that area promptly got BACK IN THE CAR upon seeing the lack of civilization :P and came to me after that.

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