Turning No Kill Lessons into Law

October 19th, 2019

Thursday, October 16, history was made when the Austin City Council passed the most comprehensive set of laws to protect animals in the country. Austin is considered the safest place in the nation for homeless pets, and the largest No Kill city in America. Now, in a first ever move, Austin became a model for complete transparency with the public.

In 2018, through a strong partnership between Austin Pets Alive! and the city’s public Austin Animal Center, the total number of animals that died in the city shelter was 203. In 2007 that number was over 15,000 dogs and cats were killed in the same shelter.

Earlier this year, Austin adopted a 95% resolution, telling the world we will continue to push past the 90% No Kill benchmark we set a decade ago.

In August 2019, local leaders announced the third change in city shelter leadership within three years. In an effort to ensure the city continue to lead and not fall backward regardless of internal change, animal advisory commissioner Ryan Clinton, proposed a new set of laws. The proposed ordinance is unlike any that exists elsewhere, based on the work Austin has done over the past decade.

In Austin, every pet is guaranteed a chance at life, above and beyond the current means of the government-funded shelter. In many cities across the country, municipal shelters block rescue partners from saving pets; there are parts of the shelter that are off limits, records are hidden and euthanasia lists are not accessible. According to the new laws, passed this week, all animals, with the exception of animals that are irremediably suffering, or those that have caused severe unprovoked injury to a human, MUST be pled to rescue groups before being killed or euthanized. Protection for visibly pregnant animals and their litters is also included.

What is especially unique about this new set of city code, is that it also requires the government-funded shelter to report comprehensive data and metrics to the Animal Advisory Commission, which is open to the public. Metrics include reporting the live release rate, but in addition to this, reporting the number of animals given vaccines at intake, the number of animals sent to foster homes, the number of cats released to the public and 13 more metrics that measure the success of programs. This law means the public is now guaranteed transparency, open communication, a voice to push for improvement, and the ability to compare data to previous months to ensure sustainability in shelter practices. If given the chance, we have found in cities across the country that there's not much the public won't do for homeless pets. By providing the most comprehensive set of information possible, we allow them to help save lives.

The last decade of lifesaving in Austin proved that killing is no longer an acceptable solution to a solvable problem. Lifesaving is rapidly becoming an expectation of the public, everywhere. This week continued progress was made towards the eradication of the century-old system of animal sheltering, built to cull and kill animals. The public now expects to have a transparent shelter and we believe access to information is their right. Austin made a promise to animals to continue to provide homeless pets with the care we'd want for our pets at home– even those previously thought to be unsaveable. We hope that other cities will look to Austin as a model for this new set of protection and bring these protections to their local, government shelters.

We are especially grateful to Council Members Leslie Pool and Ann Kitchen, as well as their co-sponsors Mayor Adler and Council Member Kathie Tovo, who took the lead on pushing for a sustainable, measurable No Kill Austin. We also thank Council Members Alter, Casar, Ellis, Flannigan, and Garza, who voted yes. With this new set of protections, Austin has codified itself to be the safest place for animals in the country.

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