Here in Austin, there are universal subjects towards which the conversation always turns: how much we hate traffic, how cool we think the new Central Library is, and how much we love our pets.
Whether they're joining us for a run on the trail (or just keeping us company during a post-run beer), Austinites have weaved our companion animals into the very fabric of our culture. Now, thanks to a multi-million dollar grant from Maddie's Fund, we now have the opportunity to inspire other cities to do the same.
In 2011, the city council unanimously voted to make Austin the country's largest no-kill city. Since that designation, Austin Pets Alive!, has been instrumental in turning the city into a model for animal rights while simultaneously developing innovations in care. In response to this work, Maddie's Fund is providing APA! with a $4 million grant to create Maddie’s Lifesaving Academy at Austin Pets Alive!
Over the next three years, the academy will provide onsite training for more than 2,000 animal welfare advocates. Students will have the opportunity to travel to Austin to learn from APA! leaders, participate in apprenticeships, and enroll in master classes. Funding will cover everything from staff position salaries and student stipends to infrastructure for the new academy.
“Austin is a model city for lifesaving and is important to both our movement and the country,” said Lisa Ward, co-director of education at Maddie’s Fund, in a release. “The ripple effect of lifesaving education spreading to communities across the U.S. will be exponential."
It's a sentiment echoed by Dr. Ellen Jefferson, APA!'s executive director. “While we save around 7,500 pets in our own shelter annually, training others to do true lifesaving work in their own communities has a much larger and lasting impact," said Jefferson, in a release. That training will include an array of topics covering everything from medical and behavioral training to foster care and fundraising.
APA!'s grant is the latest in a long line of endowments by Maddie's Fund, which was started in 1994 by Dave and Cheryl Duffield. Named after the couple's beloved pet schnauzer, the foundation has provided more than $200 million in funding for companion animal rights across the country.
“We are so grateful for this opportunity to help eliminate the needless killing of pets across America, thanks to Maddie,” said Lee Ann Shenefiel, interim chief animal services officer at the City of Austin Animal Services Office. “We know that the impact of Maddie’s Lifesaving Academy will be far-reaching, and our expert staff is excited to help other communities in their journey to no-kill.”