Facility encourages adoption of pets
In the 2011–12 fiscal year, more than 4,000 cats and dogs were adopted from the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter, Williamson County Animal services Director Cheryl Scneider said.
That's compared to a total intake of 7,733 animals, including cats, dogs and rabbits; livestock such as chickens and goats; wildlife such as bats, deer and birds; domestic pets such as hamsters and guinea pigs; and even a kangaroo.
The shelter was founded in March 2007 as a central facility for animal intake and adoption in the county. Schneider, who joined WCRAS in October 2007, said the shelter has been "bursting at the seams" with homeless animals since its opening.
"We were over capacity on day one. We did not have the space in this shelter for the number of animals that come in," Schneider said. "To this day, [we have] several hundred more animals coming in than the year previous."
To cope with space shortages and save as many pets as possible, WCRAS works with other rescue groups such as Honorina's Cat Rescue, Austin Pets Alive and the Austin and Williamson County Humane Societies, which take dogs and cats and allow people to adopt them from those programs. Volunteers also foster animals until new homes are found. Animals are rarely euthanized at WCRAS, and when it is impossible to avoid, shelter staff take the decision very seriously.
"It's a very hard decision to make—extremely hard. I think every decision [to euthanize] should be that hard, whether it's your animal, or my animal or whatever," Schneider said. "I have staff that are very caring, and we all think about it, and we talk about ... what animals will be euthanized."
Despite the shelter being beyond capacity, a majority of the shelter's incoming animals are adopted by new families. WCRAS has achieved an average 90 percent save rate for cats and a 94 percent rate for dogs this year.
In addition to increasing that rate, Schneider said her future goals for the shelter are to expand the WCRAS facility, add veterinary staff and expand current vaccination and feral cat spay/neuter programs.
"[I] definitely would like to have ... a veterinary clinic where people who adopt animals from us can bring them back, and possibly offer some limited veterinary services to those who can't afford it otherwise," Schneider said.
She also encourages anyone looking for a pet to adopt or foster and save a life instead of going to breeders.
"Animals are animals. It's the way you treat them and the way you raise them, or the way they've been raised, that makes their personality," she said.
All pets adopted at WCRAS are spayed or neutered, microchipped, tested for feline leukemia or heartworms and vaccinated.
For those who cannot take an animal home, volunteers are always needed to feed, clean and socialize with the animals. Interested individuals should fill out volunteer applications at the shelter's website and plan to attend a volunteer orientation. Volunteers must be at least 12 years old; ages 12–15 must volunteer with a parent and volunteers ages 16–17 must have parental permission. Any adult may volunteer.
Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter, 1855 S.E. Inner Loop, 943-3322, pets.wilco.org
Hours: Mon.–Fri. noon–6 p.m. and Sat. 11 a.m.–5 p.m.