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City to Examine Austin's No-Kill Shelter Policy

Courtesy of the Town Lake Animal Center
A city committee will receive an update on the city's "no-kill" policy and city shelters after an audit found delays in animal control response time.

Austin’s animal shelters have suffered serious overcrowding and city’s response time to pick up aggressive stray animals, according to a city audit out earlier this year.

The report attributes those problems to Austin’s “no-kill” animal shelter policy that says at least 90 percent of animals brought to shelters cannot be euthanized. Today, the head of Austin’s Animal Services Department will talk to a city council committee about those concerns.

Tawny Hammond was not in charge of the department when the audit was done, but,  she defends the shelter’s policy.

“You know the auditor never said that no-kill’s not working or that we’re failing,” she says. “I think things were lifted out of context and the information was spun.”

She points to the thousands of animal lives saved as evidence of the policy’s success, but she agrees there’s work to be done.

The city audit of operations in 2014 found that shelters were overcrowded, staff was overworked and that the animals in shelters didn’t receive consistent care. The report also an average time of 16 hours between a call for service and the arrival of an animal control officer for priority calls – average response time for non-priority calls was 54 hours.

Hammond says, when it comes to animal control officers’ slow response times for picking up injured or aggressive animals, the department’s “20 or 22 officers for 900 square miles is simply not adequate.”

To fight overcrowding, the department is adding 100 new kennels to its shelter, which opened in 2011. But, in a response ahead of today's meeting, Hammond told city Auditor Corrie Stokes that the additional kennels wouldn't address potential long-term issues by increasing education and outreach to pet owners, to promote spay and neutering services and to keep fewer animals from being abandoned in the first place. 

She’ll be talking about the no-kill policy at the city’s Audit and Finance Committee hearing this morning at City Hall.

Mose Buchele focuses on energy and environmental reporting at KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @mosebuchele.
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