keeping pets safe and snuggly
Austin Pets Alive! Speaking for those who can't speak for themselves
When it comes to building community, Austin excels. Just take a look at Austin Pets Alive!, a committed group of tireless animal lovers whose volunteer work, guided by the unwavering direction of Dr. Ellen Jefferson, has changed the face of Austin’s animal rescue.
APA! is a partner non-profit organization to the Austin Animal Center, taking in animals who are scheduled to be euthanized for a variety of reasons. APA! provides health services, medical and behavioral rehabilitation and foster homes for these dogs and cats until they find forever families. APA! was instrumental during the recent Central Texas fires, adopting out all animals set to be killed at shelters in Bastrop and Leander to make room for lost and injured pets, and helping them reunite with their grief-stricken owners. Thanks to the support from the Austin community, these efforts have not gone unnoticed.
To no-kill shelter earned the People’s Choice Award for Best Non-Profit in the Austin Chronicle’s Best of Austin 2011 and the grand prize from the nationwide ASPCA $100,000 Challenge. As of now, they are on target to save 5,000 lives in 2011 alone, and have saved over 11,000 lives since the rescue program began in 2008.
“In just three years, we've helped bring Austin to a no-kill status with live outcome rates of over 90 percent at the city shelter for the past six months. Austin has been so successful in increasing the live outcome rate that we're now helping other communities by sharing a 'road map' that can be duplicated in other cities through our partner American Pets Alive,” says Melissa Miller, APA!’s Public Relations Manager.
I have been a volunteer with APA! since April of 2009, when I brought home an impossibly cute little terrier whose only fault was being constantly terrified. Unable to let him go through the trauma of relocation, I adopted Benji after a couple of months of fostering. He is now my baby boy and I love him dearly. Last January I adopted my second “foster failure,” a tiny Chihuahua named Eddie who was found dying in the street and set to be euthanized—I am so thankful APA pulled him. He was in the parvo ward for 10 days and recovered; he was skin and bones when I met him, and now he is a happy-go-lucky and healthy 12 lb boy.
Volunteering at Austin Pets Alive! has changed my life, but most importantly, the lives of the many dogs that have come through my home as fosters, and the two now irreplaceable members of my family. I found a kindred spirit in CultureMap contributor Karen Brooks, who told me how APA! came through when she decided to adopt a small dog after her boyfriend grew tired of being ignored by the cats:
We wanted a lap dog who would be a true companion. As a passionate animal advocate, I still could never bring myself to go into the Town Lake Animal Center because I didn’t want to personally reject any animal that might be put down because of my decision, so we alerted a friend who volunteers at Austin Pets Alive! Then, one Friday, my friend informed me of a little brown Chihuahua mix, just rescued from the shelter the day before. His background was unknown, but the healthy, sweet 2-year old was, according to records, 'out of time' at the shelter and due to be put down that day. Yanked from the jaws of death by APA!, his adorable snapshot appeared on my Facebook page with the following message from my friend: 'I found your dog.'
I put in an adoption application right away as we were going out of town; he spent the weekend at an adoption event at which five families put their names on a waiting list for him. Five. The day before, he would have been killed at the shelter because nobody wanted him. It seems I’m not the only one who is afraid of the shelter, a phobia that no doubt has contributed to the deaths of countless pets that would easily be snapped up by loving homes if they were just brought out of the shelter and into community adoption events like those hosted by APA!
When we met Charlie Brown, it was clear that the 10-pound dog was perfect—affectionate, quiet, house trained, with ears that tip at the corners and a joyful, ebullient personality. We renamed him Salacious Crumb, after the monkey-lizard who sits on Jabba the Hutt’s shoulder. He’s everything we ever wanted in a pet. Crumb is a huge cuddler, diving nose first under the covers in bed every night and squeezing himself between our bodies and the couch when we’re watching TV. He doesn’t walk; he prances. His ears bounce with every step, his little head tilts when we address him directly, and he howls along with the harmonica, the guitar, and the piano. He makes us laugh every day. He’s affectionate and responsive, and he even loves the cats, who grumpily put up with him in a relationship resembling that of Odie and Garfield. He collects compliments on his sheer cuteness every time we take him in public.
Nearly two years after we adopted him, his happy little spirit still brightens every morning, and brings us joy every night. It’s heartbreaking to think that his light was almost snuffed out, because our lives would not be nearly as joyful without him.
APA! was recently awarded a city contract allowing them to run adoptions at the Town Lake Animal Center space for 12 months, with a possible extension of six months to help with the overflow of animals at the Austin Animal Center.
“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to save more lives in Austin,” says Miller. We are always in need of volunteers, adopters, fosters and donors; without them, we couldn't exist.” My advice to everyone is to get involved, in whatever capacity you can. Your life may just change for the better, just like it did Karen’s and mine.