Austin Pets Alive!'s current home was always meant to be temporary. The nonprofit took over the city-owned Town Lake Animal Center in 2011 with the understanding that the organization would leave by May 2015. But a resolution by Council Member (and mayoral candidate) Mike Martinez could make APA!'s temporary center a permanent downtown fixture.
The resolution, the language of which is undergoing revisions following a June 10 City Council work session, would hand over construction and operation of animal adoption services to APA! to operate in conjunction with Austin Animal Services. The City Council has already established that some adoption facility will be on the property, Lamar Beach Metro Park, whether it's run by the City or another organization.
"This is about the culture of Austin, and what Austinites love," says Austin Pets Alive!
"We currently don't have the funds for our existing animal shelter, nor do we have staff necessary for our existing animal shelter," Martinez said during the work session. "We're not even close to funding that — we're not even close to staffing that ... What we're saying in this resolution is if Austin Pets Alive! is willing to construct and operate it, why wouldn't we consider that? It would be a tremendous savings."
Using the Long Center as an example, APA! says constructing a facility on city-owned land is something that could be funded using adoption fees, a capital campaign and big donations. "APA! received a generous donation of $1.26 million from Maddie's Fund, which we will dedicate to the building," explains Dr. Ellen Jefferson, executive director.
In order to rally support to find its "forever home," the 6-year-old organization launched a campaign this week urging folks to lobby City Council before a June 12 vote on the resolution. "We just want to make sure we have a place at the table," Jefferson tells CultureMap. Currently, the Town Lake Animal Center serves as APA!'s largest facility, acting as both a housing and behavioral training for dozens of animals, as well as providing adoption and medical services.
In addition to animal services, the area is home to recreational facilities like ball fields, a footbridge and more than mile's worth of hike and bike trails.
The area is coming under scrutiny now that construction of the Pressler Street extension — a transportation initiative that will cut through part of the property in order to connect downtown with Mopac's new toll lanes — is imminent. In addition to APA! and the Austin Animal Center, Lamar Beach, a swath of downtown that runs west of Lamar Boulevard and south of Third Street, is also home to nonprofits like YMCA of Austin and West Austin Youth Association.
These organizations provide recreational facilities like ball fields, a footbridge and more than a mile's worth of hike and bike trails. Access to facilities like these has some people wondering if a permanent animal shelter should take the place of more parkland. APA! has taken this into consideration and is considering adding such things as community rooms, showers and dedicated stretching areas for runners.
"The neighborhood that is closest to the current facility has embraced us. It's not perfect, but it seems to be the best option," says Jefferson. APA! has looked at numerous properties around the city, but the search has led the nonprofit right back to where it started.
On Thursday, the City Council will vote on the lengthy resolution, which also includes provisions for all area nonprofits and Stephen F. Austin High School. If it passes, APA! hopes it's more than just a win for Austin's no-kill status. "This is about the culture of Austin, and what Austinites love."