Friday, July 22, 2011
Saturday, July 16, 2011
We welcome the update on the city's planned new $12 million animal shelter, which Austin City Council Member Mike Martinez says is on budget and, at this point, on time. It is scheduled to open in November. We also applaud the Town Lake Animal Center's efforts in keeping with Austin's no-kill policy during one of the busiest times for the shelter.
In June, the center surpassed no-kill goals, achieving a live outcome of 91 percent, meaning at least 9 of 10 animals that came in to the center left through adoptions, foster care or other placements that kept them alive. So about 1 in 10 died or was put down. And June is not a fluke; the animal center has achieved a live outcome of 90 percent for the past six months, and that is no small achievement considering that the center provides shelter for about 23,000 animals, mostly dogs and cats, each year. In the past, it relied heavily on putting stray animals down to manage Austin's stray pet population.
This weekend would be a great time for the public to support the center and Austin's no-kill goal. On Friday, the center ran out of space for cats and set up temporary cat cages in administrative offices. To make more space, officials are calling for owners who have lost a cat to come to the shelter to look for it this weekend and to wait a week before dropping off any other pets.
"Being a no-kill city takes the support of the entire community," said Abigail Smith, the city's chief animal services officer.
Through Sunday, the Town Lake Animal Center is running a $20 adoption special on all ready-to-go pets.
The no-kill goal recognizes that some animals must be euthanized because they have a serious illness, are too aggressive or are dangerous. But we're still hearing tragic stories from some volunteers there who say the center continues to put down dogs with behavioral issues brought on from being caged in dismal surroundings for too long. Those dogs would be adoptable if they got better attention sooner. And when the center reaches capacity, as it has now, dogs and cats are at risk of being euthanized.
The next big decision regarding the animal center will be made by City Manager Marc Ott, who will select a nonprofit to run the Town Lake animal shelter after the city's new animal center in East Austin opens. The old shelter will become a pet adoption center for at least six months to give the public a chance to adjust to the new site. After that, just one building at the Town Lake center, the Davenport Building, will continue as an adoption facility.
Austin has a strong and vocal animal welfare community that makes itself heard at City Hall. This month, the council passed a resolution directing Ott to choose a nonprofit to run the Town Lake shelter that would focus on animals that are the hardest to place. That decision is pending.
Austin's experiment with no-kill policies is still evolving, and it seems logical that the city will need expanded adoption programs to be successful. We support no-kill policies as the humane way to handle stray animals or abandoned pets. But that effort takes more than adoption centers. It takes educating owners about properly caring for their pets to prevent them from getting lost, providing affordable ways to spay and neuter pets, ensuring pets have identification tags or chip implants to help find owners when pets get lost and working with apartment managers to create more friendly pet policies and affordable fees so that people are not put in the position of abandoning animals when they rent apartments.
And it also takes partners, such as Austin Pets Alive and the Austin Humane Society, which rescued 350 dogs and cats and 90 animals, respectively, from the Town Lake Animal Center in June.
Let's give them all a hand. Even better, let's help Austin maintain its no-kill goal. Pets have improved the quality of life for so many. We can do the same for them.
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Ty: We’re heading up the West Coast this summer, but we’re still reminiscing about the time we spent in Austin back in April.
Buster: That’s right. We’ve traveled more than 25,000 miles so far, and Austin is the most dog friendly city we’ve seen.
Saturday, July 9, 2011
Friday, July 8, 2011
Most pets are home to stay. Rarely do you hear of pets being replaced. Rather, once a person has a dog, cat or bird that they love, they tend to get another… and another. Why?
Is this about pets or people? Is there an emotional reason that an individual or a couple starts with one pet and ends up with many more?
When I have raised these questions with pet owners and pet professionals, the reasons given are as complex as the people and pets involved. Overall, however, they reflect the reciprocal mix of needs, emotions and love inherent in the unique exchange that people and pets share.
Thursday, July 7, 2011
Summertime has hit Central Texas hard, and my dog Oskar and I are trying to cope with the scorching heat.
We’ve modified our running routine so neither of us passes out from heat exhaustion. We’ve trimmed our distances and focused on having fun instead of going fast.
Oskar is a 2-year-old Australian cattle dog mix I got from the Town Lake Animal Shelter about a year and a half ago. Lucky for me, he loves to run, swim, surf and catch Frisbees.
Here are a few things I’ve learned that may help you get through another Texas summer with your dog:
- Make sure your dog can go the distance. When I got Oskar he was ready to run and full of energy, but I started him out with an easy mile jog and slowly ramped up his distance. Even a mile may be too long for a dog that’s not in shape. You don’t want to overdue it.
- Can he handle the leash? Oskar still likes to pull on the leash from time to time, but otherwise he’s pretty dependable and comfortable with it. Still, if he eyes a squirrel, all bets are off. Try a basic obedience class or learn on your own (use a lot of treats).
- Breed of dog. Oskar is a short-haired cattle dog and was bred to work. If he doesn’t get enough playtime, he gets cranky. Some dogs don’t make good running companions. Make sure your dog can handle it. Bulldogs, for example, have a hard time breathing and some colder climate dogs aren’t built for the heat.
- Water water everywhere. Here in Austin we are lucky to have Lady Bird Lake in the heart of downtown. Unless the water is flowing along the Barton Creek Greenbelt, I take Oskar downtown. He swims in the cold water coming off the Barton Springs spillway before we even start. I also let him jump in and cool off multiple times during our run. Plan your outing to include some swim time. You may be feeling the heat as you run, but your dog is doing it while wearing a fur coat.
- Drink up. Make sure your dog has plenty to drink before, during and after the run. Even if you don’t feel thirsty, your dog may need water.
- Go easy. Other than keeping your dog cool and wet, the pace you set is probably the most important part. Just as you have to slow down in the heat, so does your dog. Pay attention to his body language. If he his lagging behind and you have to pull him along, he may have had enough. Watch out for excessive panting and vomiting — they are indications that your dog is in trouble. Save the speed drills for when you are running sans the pooch.
- Have fun. It may sound cliche, but if you aren’t having fun, then why do it at all? If you do it right, your dog can be your best running partner. If you find, mid-run, that you just aren’t enjoying yourself, call it a day and try again another time.
Be careful out there this summer. We’re stuck with this high heat through September, so take it easy when you run. And if you see me and Oskar, don’t tell him where the squirrels are hiding.
A chicken, a dog, and a homecoming: Just another week in the life of Your Style Avatar
AN ACT OF DOG My 17-year-old niece Annie Moser was visiting from Seattle a few months ago when a man showed up at our door. Because my mom runs a neighborhood list on the Internet, the man had been directed to us by neighbors. While visiting from Houston, he had been involved in a car wreck near our exit on I-35. Voice breaking, he explained that he got out of his car after the accident to inspect the damage and his dog, Chloe, upset by the accident, escaped from the car, disappearing into the brush of the old Heep Ranch property. The man was devastated, and my mother immediately sent out an alert on our list and on nearby neighborhood lists as well. The man put up those sad "lost dog" fliers around the area, but being from Houston, he eventually had to return to his home and work. All of us knew the heartbreak of having a missing pet, so Annie (who wants to be a veterinary doctor) and my sister Margaret continued the search by adding more and larger signs and driving around for miles searching the fields for the dog. Every time they would see something white moving off in the distance, it turned out to be an errant grocery bag littering the landscape. Every time my mom and I would go to the grocery store, we scanned the fields looking for the dog ... or something, even if it was just buzzards circling. The signs my sister and Annie posted remained in place for months, a constant reminder of the missing dog, until my sister and I finally removed them two weeks ago. Just days later, a neighbor posted that she had found a small white dog and was taking care of it even though it was causing trouble with her cats. Margaret and I went to the neighbor's house to bring the dog to our house, where it could be with our dogs until we figured out what to do. Filthy, burr-matted, and slightly injured, the dog was given a bath and a trim. She settled down quickly, eating, drinking, and sleeping among our dogs. It did not take long before my mother, the St. Franc[e]s of Manchaca – who rescues baby birds, fawns, and opossums – began to wonder if by some stretch of the imagination this could be the same dog that had escaped from the car accident. Searching through her files, she found the contact info for the man from Houston and called him. We wouldn't know until the man could see the dog close-up. He arrived early the next morning from Houston. When my mom opened the door, the man saw the dog and screamed "Chloe!" and fell to his knees. The dog immediately responded by dashing toward the man, licking him, and scampering around. No one could quite believe this was happening. It was an emotional moment, knowing that the man had already grieved the loss of his dog for several months. We had no clue what had happened to the dog during that time, only that à la The Incredible Journey she had returned to the place she had last seen her owner. It had taken time, energy, and a handful of people to bring this episode to its happy conclusion. It's what we all pray would happen if it were our dog who was lost.