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City's New Animal Services Officer on How to Increase Adoptions and Keep Austin No-Kill

Miguel Gutierrez Jr./KUT News
Tawny Hammond is Austin's new Chief Animal Services Officer.

The Austin Animal Center is finally fully staffed: Tawny Hammond, who just moved to Austin from Fairfax, Virginia, has taken over as the city's new Chief Animal Services Officer. 

Hammond's new job involves getting to know her bosses on the Austin City Council, like East Austin representative Ora Houston. Recently, after meeting some of the staff, Hammond sat with Houston to learn about the specific animal needs of the council member's East Austin district. Hammond says she's learned some districts in Austin have a large number of homeless animals. 

Hammond says there are three things she wants to do in her new role.

1. Increase adoptions

When speaking strictly about her vision for the Austin Animal Center shelter, Hammond says the first thing she'll do is increase animal adoptions through social media.

"Social media done right is powerful. And, getting it right, there's a strategy to it,” she says.

She says once her team in Virginia fine-tuned its social media strategy, adoptions there doubled in 3 months.

2. Add volunteers

Credit Courtesy of Tawny Hammond

The second thing Hammond wants to do is grow her pool of volunteers.

"Our battle cry right now is 'come in, walk dogs,'" she says.

An average of 18,000 animals come to the Austin Animal Center every year. Kennels often overflow. Now, Hammond and every staff member walk at least one animal a day. She pulls out her phone and shows me a selfie with the dog she walked that day.

“Look at him, he was so happy. He's a good looking dog, [I] hope he gets adopted."

Prior to Hammond taking over the job, the shelter had been leaderless for six months. The staff and volunteers were overworked trying to maintain the shelter's "no kill" status. In the first half of this year, about 94 percent of animals left the shelter alive – most of the others were euthanized. The pressure is high to maintain those levels.

3. Stay flexible

Hammond says her third goal is to constantly assess what works, what doesn’t, and to adjust her strategy accordingly.

Texas Standard reporter Joy Diaz has amassed a lengthy and highly recognized body of work in public media reporting. Prior to joining Texas Standard, Joy was a reporter with Austin NPR station KUT on and off since 2005. There, she covered city news and politics, education, healthcare and immigration.
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