Austin commits to 95 percent no-kill sheltering amid shelter volunteer objections over animal quality of life

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The Austin Animal Center achieved a 98 percent no-kill rate at its shelter in 2018, the highest of any large-city animal shelter in the country.

With that achievement in mind, Austin City Council on March 28 unanimously resolved to increase its no-kill commitment from 90 percent—set in 2011—to 95 percent. While the move received praise from some animal lovers in the community, volunteers with ties to the Austin Animal Center strongly objected.

“It’s not the number that matters, it’s the way we achieve the number that matters,” said David Loignon, a volunteer who has worked with the Austin Animal Center, the city’s open-intake shelter that accepts homeless pets from across Travis County. “No one wants to see a 95 percent [no-kill rate] more than I do. Even though I feel it comes with the best intentions, it comes without a plan.”

Loignon was joined by other current and former Austin Animal Center volunteers who said the shelter is at a breaking point, and issues with capacity overflow, staff turnover and a lack of resources has significantly impacted the quality of life for the animals.

Liz Carrasco, who spoke on behalf of a volunteer who could not be in attendance, said because the no-kill policy has not come with additional resources, animals are living in the shelters for months, sometimes years, with minimum interaction and engagement. Loignon called the psychological problems faced by the animals “heartbreaking.”

Will McKinney, who started a dog walking program at the Austin Animal Center in 2018, said the animals needed to be shown more compassion.

“I’m against the [new no-kill resolution]because we need to add quality of life into the equation,” McKinney said. “It’s unfair to our dogs and cats not to do that.”

District 7 Council Member Leslie Pool, the resolution’s lead sponsor, said the new 95 percent standard is an “acknowledgement of our progress.” District 1 Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison said moving forward, the city’s commitment to no-kill will require significant resources and “good leadership.”

“If we’re going to be truly committed to animal welfare, then we have to make sure staff and volunteers have the resources to meet [these standards],” Harper-Madison said.

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Christopher Neely
Christopher Neely is Community Impact's Austin City Hall reporter. A New Jersey native, Christopher moved to Austin in 2016 following two years of community reporting along the Jersey Shore. His bylines have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun and USA Today. He is a graduate of the University of Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism.
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