Austin Pets Alive

Austin animal advocates reflect on four years as a no-kill city

Austin animal advocates reflect on four years as a no-kill city

APA's! Spanky black and white dog
Thanks to Austin Pets Alive!, 30,000 dogs and cats have found forever homes since 2008. Photo by Austin Pets Alive!

For the past four years, Austin Pets Alive! has celebrated the February anniversary of the city keeping Austin pets alive. On Sunday, the grassroots nonprofit celebrated in grand style with a party featuring a performance from fellow local legend Dale Watson.

Led by Emancipet founder Dr. Ellen Jefferson, APA! began rescuing at-risk animals from being euthanized in 2008. "What we did was pretty innovative in Austin," says Communications and Marketing Manager Rebecca Reid. "We actually looked at the euthanasia list, found patterns and designed programs to save these animals that were destined to be euthanized."

 In March 2010, after an intense campaign spearheaded by the nonprofit, and a unanimous vote from the city council, Austin became the largest no-kill city in the country. 

But the mission was about more than just establishing a no-kill shelter — APA! wanted a no-kill city. In March 2010, after an intense campaign spearheaded by the nonprofit, and a unanimous vote from the city council, Austin became the largest no-kill city in the country.

In order to maintain a no-kill status, a city must keep the monthly survival rate of all rescued cats and dogs at 90 percent or more using euthanization only for health or behavior issues. In February 2011, Austin reached that level and has maintained it ever since. "It takes a village to keep that possible," says Reid. "On our side, there's still a constant sense of urgency to save lives everyday to remain no-kill. 

APA! is not only largely responsible for Austin's no-kill status; the nonprofit has helped find forever homes for thousands of animals. From the headquarters at the Town Lake Animal Shelter to the Tarrytown adoption center to the daily pop-up on South Congress Avenue, APA! fosters a community to connect animals with Austinites. Using these methods, APA! has saved more than 30,000 cats and dogs since 2008.

"It's empowering to know that a community that cares about something so much can make [change] happen so quickly," says Reid. "Not that long ago, we were at a 50 percent save rate. Not long before that, it was closer to 15 [percent]," says Reid "It's powerful to know that there's that much passion and compassion in the Austin community."

The APA! mission now continues beyond city limits. The Austin nonprofit is in charge of American Pets Alive!, a country-wide movement to help other cities transition to being no-kill. From online webinars to yearly conferences (one of which is happening this weekend), APA! brings together city officials and shelter representatives together from all over the U.S. to discuss how to implement innovative programs in their own hometown.

Here in Austin, APA! is looking to streamline the internal infrastructure without losing the grassroots edge. "We acknowledge that it takes an entire community," says Reid. "We're not just a no-kill shelter — we're a no-kill city."

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Can you picture one these pets from APA! in your home?