Animal center struggles to allay public concerns over out-of-state transfers
Tuesday, March 22, 2022 by Kali Bramble
Animal Advisory Commissioners continue to question the transfer of animals from the shelter to partner shelters, but so far they are still awaiting answers.
The conversation started last month, when commissioners issued a resolution to more closely monitor the transport of animals out of the county and out of state in a 7-2 vote, with commissioners Jo Anne Norton and Lotta Smagula vs. The data request follows community concerns about the weakening of the city’s no-kill policy through Austin Animal Center, which transports animals to cities with darker track records.
Recognizing that word-of-mouth can breed hype, commissioners agreed that everyone would benefit from increased transparency in the form of monthly reports on the movement of animals to partner shelters and their respective live release rates. . Commissioners were therefore disappointed to hear few updates on the initiative since last month.
“This report is in a queue for the IT people to work for us,” said Don Bland, director of animal services. When asked how long it would take for the treatment, Bland replied, “I have no idea.”
Since October of last year, the Austin Animal Center has transferred a total of 953 animals to partner facilities, including 270 out of state. While staff ensured that all shelters had no-kill status, commissioners were concerned about variations in designation standards, as well as the impact of citywide policies.
Although the February resolution is ambitious in its demands, the commission found that general improvements in communication could quickly address public concerns in the interim.
The rumor that dogs had been transported to Canada, a distance that many found extremely disturbing, was particularly alarming.
“It is true that we are partnering with an organization in Alberta, Canada, but we are extremely fortunate to have found this resource,” said Animal Services staff member Jason Garza. “Unlike other facilities, which select desirable dogs, they actually allow us to choose which animals to transport. This includes those with health issues and long stays, and those animals will immediately go to families of homepage.
As the shelter grapples with the twin pressures of overcrowding and understaffing, the ability to transport animals to partner shelters will continue to play an active role in maintaining Austin’s no-slaughter status. Those interested can expect further discussions at the next committee meeting on April 11.
Photo by Ken Billington, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
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