In a video making
the rounds on social media, a woman is standing near the entrance to
the Austin Animal Center with a medium-sized dog on a leash. She’s
telling a staff member she cannot keep the dog, who is a stray, and that
she has already completed the online form to schedule an appointment to
bring in a found pet.
The staff member tells the woman that the dog seems well-fed and
socialized, and therefore should not be taken to the shelter where she
will not “receive proper care.”
“If you can’t keep her, and if no one on your NextDoor or Austin Lost
and Found Pets can hold on to her, you probably should just let her go
where you found her,” the staff member says in the video. “If it’s
relatively safe, then she’s going to go back home.”
More than two dozen speakers signed up for the citizen comment period
at yesterday’s Animal Advisory Commission meeting to share their
concerns about changes to the Austin Animal Center’s intake policy
The speakers, many of them former or current AAC volunteers, offered
further anecdotal evidence that center staff and 311 operators are
encouraging people to leave homeless pets where they find them, instead
of bringing them to the shelter, which is now accepting stray animals on
an appointment-only basis (unless the animal is sick or injured).
Multiple speakers said that the city’s shelter services are
essential, and therefore the department shouldn’t restrict intake at
all. The restricted intake has left dogs vulnerable to being hit by cars
or winding up “starving” in the streets.
Chief Animal Services Officer Don Bland, in a follow-up to his June 22 memo to City Council,
told the commission that the shelter is not closing its intake, and
that its post-Covid-19 standard operating procedures will be the same as
they were pre-Covid.
“We are trying to do the best we can to keep our employees safe and to take care of the animals that need our help,” he said.
Bland told the commission that the 311 operators telling residents to
return strays to where they were found on the street was the result of a
“miscommunication” that should now be remedied. Currently, AAC is
taking strays through a limited number of appointments, which could mean
that a good Samaritan could have to house the dog – possibly for
multiple weeks – until the shelter is able to process it.
AAC Program Manager Mark Sloat told the commission that finding ways
to limit intake are imperative, because the shelter “cannot continue to
take in an exorbitant amount” of animals and maintain its services.
The shelter is continuing its reopening plan despite Mayor Steve
Adler’s new executive order putting back into place social distancing
requirements. Volunteers, who have been banned from AAC’s premises since
the quarantine began, were allowed to return in a limited capacity
yesterday in order to walk dogs.
“We know with our staff shortage, and with less animals leaving than
are coming in, we need assistance, so we continue to move forward with
allowing the volunteers to come in,” Bland said. “We’ll see how it
Several commissioners asked clarifying questions, but didn’t take any
formal action. Chair David Lundstedt said that while the commission
meeting slots are limited, he will work to schedule another meeting in
Photo made available through a Creative Commons license.
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