Austin City Council Loves Its 'No-Kill' Animal Shelter. Volunteers Say It's Unsustainable.

Mar 28, 2019

As the City Council celebrated Austin's no-kill animal-sheltering policy today, volunteers running the city's shelter called the goal "unsustainable." 

A resolution from Council Member Leslie Pool recognized those working and volunteering in shelters across the city to achieve the no-kill status, which requires 90 percent of animals that enter the shelter to not be euthanized. The resolution also raised that benchmark to 95 percent. 

A handful of longtime Austin Animal Center volunteers testified against the resolution at the meeting. While many agreed with the sentiment, they said the shelter is consistently at capacity. 

David Loignon, a volunteer at Austin Animal Center, told members that, while the idea behind the resolution was appreciated, the city needs to give shelter staff and volunteers "the tools and the dollars they need."

"We have reached a point of unsustainability at the Austin Animal Center. If Austin wants to be the no-kill leader, then it's time everyone in Austin participated," Loignon said. "We can't earn this number with a resolution."

Loignon said he's seen some dogs spend 24 hours a day in a small crate with two breaks a day for weeks or months at a time, and that the shelter is consistently at "red alert" status – meaning the shelter has no capacity.

Will McKinney, a dog-walking volunteer at Austin Animal Center and a former volunteer at Austin Pets Alive, said that leadership at Austin Animal Services has been a hindrance to progress as the city has leaned more and more into its status as a no-kill city.

"That's why we're so outspoken. That's why we're coming up to y'all. That's why we're coming to the press," McKinney said. "These dogs deserve more than they can get – more than they are getting right now."

Since adopting the no-kill policy in 2011, Austin shelters have met their goal of 90 percent or higher annually, and Austin was named a city of distinction by the animal-welfare advocacy group Maddie's Fund. Still, volunteers suggested the city could do more for sheltered animals, including banning breed restrictions at apartments and increasing quality of life at the Austin Animal Shelter.

Shortly before Council approval, Pool acknowledged that there was work to be done to maintain the city's status. 

"Animals matter to all of us in the city, and this resolution is an acknowledgement of the excellent work that everybody – whether you, again, were for this or not for this – what we are all doing as a community," Pool said.