Austin City Council signs resolution supporting negotiations with Austin Pets Alive

City Council approved a resolution resolving one of the main issues Austin Pets Alive and the city have been negotiating over. (Courtesy Austin Pets Alive)
City Council approved a resolution resolving one of the main issues Austin Pets Alive and the city have been negotiating over. (Courtesy Austin Pets Alive)

City Council approved a resolution resolving one of the main issues Austin Pets Alive and the city have been negotiating over. (Courtesy Austin Pets Alive)

On Nov. 4, the Austin City Council signed a resolution directed at keeping Austin Pets Alive in the city.

Last month, APA leadership said they were considering leaving Austin as negotiations with the city over a long-term agreement continued to stretch on.

The resolution, approved unanimously, will allow APA to take in animals from beyond the Austin-area. It also directs staff to negotiate other terms of the agreement, such as how many animals the nonprofit organization is required to take in.

More than 2,000 people signed up to weigh in on the issue, though most chose not to speak during the comment section.

“I think no matter where you sit on the spectrum of animal advocacy, we all want the same thing,” Council Member Leslie Pool said. “We want happy and healthy outcomes for Austin’s animals, and I appreciate the perspective that everyone’s bringing to the conversation.”


Background

Over the last four years, the city and APA representatives have been working on a 75-year agreement. In the meantime, they were functioning under a temporary agreement that was extended several times.

APA operates in the Town Lake Animal Center building in the Lamar Beach area. APA is allowed to use this city property in exchange for taking 3,000 animals from Austin shelters each year. The city said the deal saves APA about $2 million and that the agreement saves tax payers money by reducing the number of animals the city has to care for.

It also supports the city’s goal of remaining a no-kill city. No-kill is typically defined as 90% of all animals leaving the shelter alive; however, the city upped that goal to 95% in recent years.

APA officials—driven by a city plan that would eventually require their current facility to be torn down, along with the deteriorating condition of that building—have been looking to rebuild or move.

Because the property will be difficult to rebuild on, due to power lines and other infrastructure that cannot be moved, APA will also have to open a satellite station.

In October, APA President Ellen Jefferson said the nonprofit was concerned about spending money to rebuild a less effective building, all while she felt the terms of the agreement with the city were restrictive.

Jefferson and others have been unsuccessful finding another location within the city that would allow kennels, meaning APA had a choice of rebuilding on its current property or leaving the city entirely.

On Oct. 20, Don Bland, Austin’s chief of animal services, released a memo indicating that the holdup is over APA’s requests to house animals from outside the Austin area on city property

and to lower the number of animals it is required to take in from city shelters. In his memo, Bland wrote that APA has been increasingly pulling fewer animals from the shelter and that, because it costs about $45 per day per animal to take care of them, APA is costing taxpayers money.

Jefferson said the city has enough support to lessen the requirement on APA, allowing the nonprofit room to take in animals from other areas. This is important to their mission of spreading the no-kill movement.

“APA’s mission is no-kill. It has not been and never has been to provide overflow space for the city,” Pool said.

What has changed

The resolution passed Nov. 4 allows APA to accept animals from outside the current service area of Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays, Travis, or Williamson Counties. It supersedes past council rules that prohibited that action.

"We're absolutely thrilled and overcome with gratitude for the council members," Jefferson told Community Impact Newspaper.

She added that she was overwhelmed by the amount of community support.

"It shows that Austinites care about keeping APA in the heart of the city," Jefferson said.

She said the nonprofit will have to open a satellite facility outside of Austin due to the space limitations at the current area, but said she plans for APA to keep its flagship location.


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