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Photo courtesy of Melissa Herold

The Austin Humane Society’s beloved Puppy Bowl, presented by Heritage Ranch by H-E-B, will feature tailgate bites, puppy races, Super Bowl puppy predictions, pet adoptions, and Puppy Bowl live. The fun starts at the Austin Humane Society with adoptables, vendors, a Kid Zone and family fun, eats, and the 5th Annual Tailgate Competition. All proceeds will benefit animals in need.

Photo courtesy Ryan Rice

New legislation would let Texas say no to puppy mill sales statewide

Animal News

A Texas legislator has introduced a bill to help animals: On December 2, Representative Jared Patterson (R-Frisco) filed HB 870, which would help put an end to puppy mill practices by requiring that pet stores can sell only healthy animals from shelters or rescues.

Pet stores across Texas would no longer be allowed to sell puppies or kittens from unscrupulous, out-of-state puppy mills, protecting pets and consumers -- similar to laws that have already been enacted in a number of cities across Texas.

Patterson previously filed a similar bill, HB 1818, in 2021. And as he notes in a statement, the law would affect only one major retailer: Petland.

"Out-of-state puppy mills store puppies in poor conditions, take them away from their moms too soon, and truck them hundreds or thousands of miles across the country to be sold in retail pet stores,” Patterson says. “There’s a reason why only one of the top 25 retailers still sells dogs from these conditions. I’m proud to once again file HB 870 to provide the necessary restrictions to protect pets and their owners."

If passed, HB 870 would not preempt local ordinances. Instead, the law brings consistency across Texas’ largest counties – those with a population of 200,000 or more – primarily suburban and urban areas.

In 2022, Dallas, Houston, and New Braunfels all passed ordinances like HB 870, demonstrating the need and support for a statewide law, says Stacy Sutton Kerby, Director of Government Relations at Texas Humane Legislation Network, a nonprofit group that advocates for animals and has been involved in prior efforts.

“While 14 cities across Texas have passed retail pet store ordinances, millions of Texans are still vulnerable to the deceptive business practices used to sell puppies sourced from inhumane puppy mills. All Texans deserve to be protected from buying sick, defective puppies,” she says.

During the 87th legislative session in 2021, HB 1818 received huge bipartisan support but couldn’t get past the finish line before the session ended.

“There is widespread support and momentum for this policy," Kerby says. “We are excited to work with Representative Patterson again on this issue. His early filing of the bill shows his dedication to halting the puppy mill pipeline into Texas and alleviating the burden on shelters of having an overwhelming number of healthy, adoptable pets in need of loving homes."

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Austin-area pig rescue wins Airbnb contest to build one-of-a-kind pig-themed guest house

This Place is a Pigsty

KVUE — From tens of thousands of entries from around the world, 100 aspiring designers, architects, DIYers, and makers from more than 20 countries and regions have been chosen to bring their unique space ideas to life as part of the $10,000,000 Airbnb OMG! Fund.

One of those winners is Tracey Stabile, director of the Central Texas Pig Rescue (CTPR) in Austin. Tracey and Dan Illescas, founders of Central Texas Pig Rescue, will receive up to $100,000 to create a one-of-a-kind pig-shaped guest space. Over the course of the next 10 months, they will design, construct, and outfit the space to be guest-ready by summer 2023.

"Basically the OMG! Fund contest was a way for people to be really playful and kind of invent a really cool dwelling that would be something that's totally notable to people and be a destination," said Stabile.

Stabile said Airbnb left all of the freedom of creativity up to them. They went through several rounds of design and planning and review.

"Each step of the way, we were like, 'We're one step closer.' It was very exciting. Just getting those emails at each milestone and seeing that we were actually contenders in this contest. Then the fact that we, of course, won and now we're going to be able to build this amazing thing that we absolutely never would have been able to build under other circumstances. It's just an amazing opportunity," stated Stabile.

Stabile said she wanted to build something that was a little bit unpredictable and wanted to avoid some of the shapes that people might expect. The current pig sanctuary in Smithville, about 45 minutes outside of Austin, is home to over 200 pigs that were saved from abandonment. The sanctuary houses a mix of all different types of pigs, mostly potbellied pigs, and is 100 percent volunteer run and 100 percent donation based.

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Read the full story and watch the video at KVUE.com.

Photo courtesy of Service Dogs, Inc.

Service Dogs Inc presents 22nd Annual Mighty Texas Dog Walk

Service Dogs Inc presents 22nd Annual Mighty Texas Dog Walk

The 22nd Annual Mighty Texas Dog Walk will feature a scenic one-mile dog walk. Tons of freebies from premier dog food and treat sponsors will be given. Guests can also benefit from the advice from top vets and trainers.

Lone Star Court presents Howl-O-Ween

At Lone Star Court’s annual Howl-O-Ween Dog Costume Contest, pets can enjoy treats in the courtyard while guests sip wine specials from The Water Trough sponsored by Wander + Ivy. The contest features 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners taking home prizes and a portion of the proceeds will benefit the Austin Human Society.

Doodles Productions presents POP Cats

POP Cats is a cat wonderland with cat catio, cat adoptions, activities, cat art exhibitions, unique cat merch, tunes, and more. A portion of the event tickets and exhibitor fees benefit participating cat organizations.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

2 Austin suburbs cash in among the richest places in Texas for 2023

Where the 1 percent live

Central Texans wanting a glimpse into the lives of the 1 percent won't have to travel far to get a peek. Lakeway has been renamed the fifth richest place in Texas for 2023 in a recent study. Southlake, in the DFW, took the top spot, reprising its past success.

HomeSnacks.com has been ranking cities, neighborhoods, counties, and states across America for more than five years, using data from the Census Bureau, OpenStreetMaps, the FBI, and other sources. For this year's study, released January 18, the website compared 355 cities with populations of at least 5,000 people to determine where "the richest of the rich" live.

With a median income of $239,833, and an unemployment rate of just 2.2 percent, it's no surprise to see Southlake flashing cash around. HomeSnacks shows the median home price for Southlake at $697,000, but as of this writing, Realtor.com lists the city's median home price listing at $1.3 million.

Lakeway came in fifth, with a median home price of $481,900 and a median income of $142,566. Bee Cave, where the median income is $100,179, moved up four spots from 13th last year to ninth this year. Unfortunately, although both cost a pretty penny to stick around, neither made the site's Top 10 Best Places To Live In Texas, which several of the cities in other metro areas did, ostensibly getting more bang for their buck.

It appears that wealth is not only moving into Texas, but moving around, as well. Heath is up 8 spots from last year, breaking into the Top 10 at No. 7, followed by Highland Village at No. 8, up a huge 17 rankings.

Elsewhere in Texas ...

The Houston suburb of Bellaire came in at No. 2 with a whopping median income of $211,202 and other signifiers of affluence, moving up two spots from last year's rankings. Pearland, with a median income of $107,941 is the only other Houston-area city to rank in the top 20, squeaking in at number 20.

San Antonio's top spot was Alamo Heights. Ranked third, the area had a median income of $147,475 and an even lower unemployment rate than Southlake and Bellaire at 1.4 percent. The median home price on the list was similar to the cities that beat it, too, despite the very different income bracket, at $614,000. Bexar and Comal county cities Fair Oaks Ranch and Bulverde came in 16th and 17th. Median income in Fair Oaks Ranch is $127,917, while it's just $100,419 in Bulverde.

Dallas-Fort Worth suburbs dominated the list overall; a total of 13 cities in the area cashed in with a top-20 ranking. Lucas, a Collin County suburb with a population of 7,612 in the 2020 census, came in fourth, moving up from fifth place last year. With a poverty rate of just 1.1 percent and a median income of $159,563, the (comparatively) tiny little town is a haven for the well-heeled. Falling into the "more than comfortable" range are Coppell (No. 6), Heath (No. 7), and Highland Village (No. 8). HomeSnacks' 10th through 15th places are occupied by Keller, Royse City, Corinth, Krum, Rockwall, and Roanoke, in that order.

Texas' top 10 richest cities for 2023 are:

1. Southlake
2. Bellaire
3. Alamo Heights
4. Lucas
5. Lakeway
6. Coppell
7. Heath
8. Highland Village
9. Bee Cave
10. Keller

Visit HomeSnacks' website to see the top 100 richest cities in Texas, download the full list and rankings, or search to see where your city came in on the list.

Comedy heavyweights can't find the funny in racially-charged You People

Movie review

While the idea of systemic racism is a generally accepted fact in American society, a more indefinable concept is the cultural biases that people hold. It can be easy to spot someone who wears their racism on their sleeves, but sometimes a prejudice only reveals itself when someone is confronted with a world that is not their own.

This idea is attempted to be played for laughs in the new Netflix comedy You People. Ezra (Jonah Hill) is a 35-year-old stockbroker/aspiring podcaster who has yet to meet the right woman, much to the chagrin of his mother, Shelley (Julia Louis-Dreyfus). He has a meet-cute with Amira (Lauren London), a graphic designer, when he mistakes her car for an Uber.

While Ezra and Amira bond quickly over a number of shared likes, it’s the ingrained beliefs of their parents that threaten to stand in their way. Shelley and dad Arnold (David Duchovny) are a Jewish couple who either rely on Black stereotypes or go overboard in their attempts to relate to Amira. Meanwhile, Amira’s parents, Akbar (Eddie Murphy) and Fatima (Nia Long), want her to stay true to her Black Muslim roots, and do all they can to discourage the relationship.

Directed by Kenya Barris and written by Barris and Hill, the goal of the film – to shed a funny light on how awkward it can be when people of different races spend time in each other’s spaces – is clear, but the execution is sorely lacking.

The first mistake they make is that the film is almost exclusively focused on Ezra; while Amira gets a small introduction prior to meeting Ezra, there’s never a true exploration of who she is or what she wants outside of her relationship with him. Consequently, their bond is never believable; there appears to be little chemistry existing between the two, and any moments that might endear them to the audience are yada-yadaed for the sake of expediency.

The second is the strange way in which the film’s biggest star – Murphy – is withheld until 20-30 minutes into the movie, introduced in a lackadaisical way, and then given precious few opportunities to showcase his comic skills. Barris and Hill can never seem to find a great way to use the legendary comedian, giving him tepid scenarios that don’t come close to eliciting the big laughs for which he is known.

Ultimately, the film feels more like a series of barely-connected situations than a cohesive story. Any incisiveness that might come from putting the two racially- and religiously-disparate families together is lost because the filmmakers constantly jump from scene to scene in search of laughs. You’d think that Barris, who knows the value of establishing characters from sitcoms like Black-ish, would have figured out how to do that by now, but the film flails its way through its nearly two-hour running time.

Hill, as star, co-writer, and co-producer, is obviously the driving force behind the film, and he is given plenty of time to dole out his brand of comedy. London is likable enough, but we never get to know her character well enough to fully judge her performance. The wealth of talent on the supporting side – including Murphy, Louis-Dreyfus, Long, Duchovny, Sam Jay, Rhea Perlman, Molly Gordon, Deon Cole, Andrea Savage, Elliott Gould, and Mike Epps – is mostly wasted.

Finding comedy in race relations has been done many times in movies and on TV, and can be a winner if done properly. The story of You People can never find its footing, opting for a haphazard approach that doesn’t make good use of its greatest assets.

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You People debuts on Netflix on January 27.

Photo by Tyler Adams/Netflix

Jonah Hill and Eddie Murphy in You People.

7 things to know in Austin food right now: Upscale bowling alley rolls into Cedar Park

News You Can Eat

Editor’s note: We get it. It can be difficult to keep up with the fast pace of Austin’s restaurant and bar scene. We have you covered with our regular roundup of essential food news.

Openings

Sometimes it feels like Austinites always have to be doing something, and that's what makes this town beautiful. In the spirit of not taking drinks sitting down, Spare Birdie Public House is rolling into Cedar Park (1400 Discovery Blvd) for a soft opening on February 1, and a grand opening on February 20. A bit like an upscale Top Golf or neighborhood bowling alley with an incredibly chic interior, the bar and restaurant serves its "chef-driven" food among bowling lanes, augmented reality and indoor golf setups, billiard tables, yard games, and more. The team that started Goodfolks in Georgetown are bowling over alley cliches like hotdogs and fries with lamb meatballs, grilled oysters, and Wagyu sliders.

The Belterra Plaza out in Dripping Springs is collecting new restaurants left and right, making itself a fast burger destination. Mighty Fine Burgers opened its seventh location — the first that is freestanding — in a huge 4,000-square-foot space at 165 Hargraves Drive, Suite T100. The simple menu sticks to the tried-and-true with The Classic Texas Burger, crinkle fries, onion rings, and Blue Bell milkshakes. In January, monthly specials shake up those base elements: a pimento cheese burger and a coconut cream pie shake. The new location is the first in Dripping Springs.

Theres been some buzz about burgers at the Buzz Mill recently, with the very recent departure of the vegan food truck Plow Burger. The buns were barely cold before the Buzz Mill opened its own burger truck, some vegan and some not. The grand opening coincided with the bar and coffee venue's tenth anniversary, on January 20. These are not beefy burgers; the thin patties leave plenty of room for toppings, and there are lots of other snacks to fill up on, like loaded fries, meatless chicken nuggets, and extra patties. The truck is open daily from 11 am to midnight.

Other News and Notes

Chefs Michael Fojtasek and Amanda Turner, of Austin's celebrated Southern restaurant Olamaie, are throwing a new chef series in the fryer on January 31, emphasizing Southern cooking styles while utilizing Texan ingredients. "Southern Exposure" is scheduled for the last Tuesday of every month, and there are three on the calendar already. Chef Turner, a James Beard semi-finalist and CultureMap's reigning rising star chef of the year, is taking the lead while collaborating with Fojtasek. Tickets ($100) available at olamaieaustin.com, benefitting the Jeremiah Program.

Nothing gold can stay, and unfortunately that means Loro's golden ramen noodles are ephemeral on the menu. For the month of February, the "Asian smokehouse" is offering two types of ramen. Both serve up a unique Balinese curry broth, one with brisket and one with grilled prawns. These winter items pair also include ajitama egg, green onion, and sesame, as the more traditional elements. Loro does not accept reservations.

If you can't afford rent in Austin, have you tried, like, not buying coffee? That might work if you were used to Proud Mary Coffee Roasters, an Australian company with an Austin cafe offering just 22 super-luxe cups of $150 joe here and Portland, Oregon. It seems like it's worth the price, given its award-winning flavor and very expensive source beans, but in case that's still not in your budget, a golden ticket giveaway may cover it. Purchase a Hartmann presale tin ($48) online on January 26 to enter.

The Bloody Mary Festival is now almost two weeks away, so people who love drinking their tomatoes should consider snatching up a ticket soon (although ticket sales will technically be open until the day of the event, if they last). On February 11 from 10:30 am to 6 pm, bartenders are pulling out all the stops, or at least all the toppings. Attendees will vote for participating local bars to choose the best cocktail. Tickets (starting at $49.50) available at thebloodymaryfest.com.