The Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter has been a no-kill shelter since December 2010, but to maintain that status, Animal Services Director Cheryl Schneider said shelter staff has to find creative ways to keep animals alive, including turning hallways and closets into living spaces.
“We’ve used up every area in the shelter—expanded in every area we could—to house the animals we house,” Schneider said. “We don’t put a time limit on animals when they come in. … We give animals as long as they need to find a home.”
The shelter, which takes in lost and abandoned animals from all over Williamson County except Georgetown and Taylor, which have their own city-run shelters, will complete a $10.5 million renovation and expansion in March.
The project includes a new adoption center in a separate two-story building and a renovated surgical area, laundry room, and updated air conditioning and plumbing.
The adoption center will add 64 canine kennels and 93 feline kennels and include room for administrative staff. The center will also have a dedicated entrance and parking lot off Wilco Way.
Schneider said the shelter’s original facility was too small to begin with when it opened on March 14, 2007, holding 85 canine and 93 feline kennels. In order to accommodate animals, Schneider said staff has often had to keep two animals together in single kennels. The shelter has also relied heavily on foster families to help free up space.
“The reason [the shelter]stays no-kill is because of community support,” Schneider said. “We foster out a lot of animals every year, [and]those are animals that did not take up space in our shelter. If we had to house those animals for the amount of time they were in foster we would not be no-kill.”
Matt and Becca Sadler of North Austin were at the shelter in early January to sign up to foster a dog. The couple said fostering helps dogs adapt to the routine of family life so when the dogs are adopted their new families will know how the dog interacts in a home.
Matt Sadler added that the couple has fostered 10 dogs since 2012, and all had been adopted.
“[Fostering] also frees up kennel space for the shelter, and the dog gets to interact with humans and develop some personality, develop some training,” Becca Sadler said.
Iris Vega of Georgetown was also at the shelter in early January with her two granddaughters picking up their new family member: a dog named Lucky.
“Dogs here [at the shelter], they deserve a good home,” Vega said. “So rather than buying [a dog]we decided to adopt one.”
The regular adoption fee for an animal is $75, which includes vaccines, spay and neuter surgery, heartworm and feline leukemia screening, and microchipping, according to the shelter’s website.
“We’ve used up every area in the shelter—expanded in every area we could—to house the animals we house.”
— Animal Services Director Cheryl Schneider
In 2018, the shelter had 2,358 animals fostered and 4,510 animals adopted. These efforts, Schneider said, helped the shelter achieve a 97 percent save rate. To be identified as no-kill, a shelter needs to have a save rate of at least 90 percent.
To help speed along its expansion, the shelter’s staff temporarily offered adoptions of dogs and cats out of the show barn in San Gabriel Park in Georgetown, a move that reduced the expansion’s construction timeline by about six months, Schneider said.
The shelter also sent 10 dogs in January to a shelter in Washington state through a program that transports animals from full-capacity shelters to ones that have extra space within the U.S.
“In the past, the community has been really good about coming in and adopting, making sure we had enough room, responding to our calls of distress when we get overcrowded, but in the last six months or so we’ve found that we are not able to get dogs out of here so we needed to start looking at other options,” Schneider said.
Schneider added that she hopes to expand the shelter’s services for pet owners to include low-cost vaccines and spaying and neutering clinics.
The Williamson County Commissioners Court approved funding in the county’s fiscal year 2018-19 budget for the first full-time veterinarian at the clinic. Schneider said the new position would help run the clinics and hopefully reduce the number of animals in the shelter.
“The mission [of the shelter]is to help stray and lost animals,” Schneider said. “We take in all animals from our jurisdictions regardless of behavior, temperament, age [or]health. It doesn’t matter.”