Austin, TX Shelter: Babeh Kittehs R Skeery

Town Lake Animal Center (TLAC) in Austin, TX is a kill shelter:

Because the shelter accepts accept all animals, regardless of health or behavior, and because there is a significant problem of pet overpopulation in our community, the shelter does euthanize animals that have no other humane option for lifetime care.


There is no pet overpopulation problem in this country. There are a number of homeless pet related problems, mainly the killing of healthy/treatable pets by shelters, but pet overpopulation is a myth, debunked to my satisfaction by Nathan Winograd.

But I want to examine this bit: “…the shelter does euthanize animals that have no other humane option for lifetime care”. “Euthanasia” is a means to end suffering of a medically hopeless animal, otherwise it’s “killing”. While there is much controversy surrounding the debate on whether pets deemed “aggressive” should be killed, my view is this: every adult pet deserves at least a chance at life. (If we can’t all agree on that, what the hell are you doing advocating for pets?) And every puppy or kitten deserves a guaranteed spot on the adoption floor because there is no way anyone will ever convince me that an 8 week old pet is a danger to society.

If a pet possibly has aggression issues, get him evaluated by a qualified behaviorist and locate a trainer willing to work with the shelter/rescue/foster owner. IOW, give that pet a chance, at the very least. Maybe he’s not really aggressive after all. Maybe he would develop nicely in a structured home environment. Maybe he could thrive in a home without other male dogs. There are lotsa maybes. But not if we kill every animal deemed “aggressive” by someone in a shelter.

Back to TLAC. The shelter director has a sad history of refusing to work with Winograd towards no kill, making my friend Christie’s head explode, and killing pets while plenty of cages sit empty in the shelter. Winograd sums it up:

In Austin, by contrast, one person—the director of animal control—is saying “No” to foster care programs, “No” to offsite adoptions, “No” to TNR for feral cats, “No” to programs that would save animals, choosing instead to kill them. And in fact, since the director of animal control was hired, she has done that with ruthless efficiency: 97,000 animals have been put to death under her watch. That’s over 12,000 each year, 1,000 each month, 34 each day, 1 every 12 minutes the shelter has been open to the public.

A Day in the Death: I came across this page detailing TLAC’s disposition of pets for May 30, 2009: 11 pets adopted, 48 killed. Breakdown on the 48:

  • 6 kittens weighing less than 1 pound each were killed because they were “0-4 weeks” old
  • 3 pets were “sick/inj” (presumably “injured”)
  • 6 pets were “suffering” (including a 1.5 pound kitten)
  • 16 pets were “no pick” (including 4 kittens ranging in weight from .5 pounds to 3.75 pounds)
  • 2 dogs were “agg policy” (presumably “aggression” issues)
  • 15 cats were also “agg policy” (2 have no weights given and the remaining 13 kittens weighed 1-2 pounds)

A few thoughts: If you are running a shelter with an official “reason to kill” that says “0-4 weeks” of age, you need a foster care program and community outreach. Being born a homeless pet should not be an automatic death sentence at anyplace calling itself a shelter. Regarding the “aggression policy” – who is doing the evaluating? Because whoever that is needs to be immediately fired and prevented from ever working in animal sheltering again. 13 kittens weighing a pound or two apiece were all determined to be hopelessly aggressive in one day?! Ever hear of this thing called feeding? How about petting? I bet if you implement these new fangled methods into your kitten care program, you’ll find most kittens respond positively to them. At least enough so they don’t have to be, you know, KILLED. Forgive me if I’m skeptical on the other 2 cats (with no weights given) and 2 dogs who were killed for the same reason on this day.

Today, Hope: Winograd posts on his blog today:

A unanimous decision of a citizens’ advisory committee in Austin, TX has demanded that the shelter stop killing animals despite empty cages, model itself after successful programs in places like Reno, NV, implement the programs and services of the No Kill Equation, and even consider privatizing the shelter.

Town Lake Animal Control’s director tried to derail the vote, but was outnumbered by animal lovers on the Committee.

I hope, I hope, I hope.

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