How did Austin, Tex., get to saving more than 90 percent of its homeless dogs and cats? Not by accident, say Ryan Clinton of FixAustin.org and Dr. Ellen Jefferson of Austin Pets Alive at the 5 PM session of the first day of the 2012 No Kill Conference.
Before I start, a note: I am blogging this live; hit "refresh" periodically to see new material. Since this is live, there will be typos. And only things in quotation marks are direct quotes. Everything else is a paraphrase.
1. Political fight
2. Figure out which animals are dying, then figure out how to save them.
3. What City Council mandated
Intros of Ryan and Ellen... I took this opportunity to rest my fingers. :)
In 2005, there was no no-kill movement, 50 percent kill rate, no one in local government or animal welfare was interested in no-kill. Shelter director told him she knew which ones were "adoptable" and which weren't, and her job was to send them to god. She refused help with programs, because she was already saving the savable so there was nothing to do.
But the public? YES! They were interested. So Ryan founded fixaustin.org as a purely political organization.
1. Achieve a 90 percent or higher save right
2. Rigorous implementation of No Kill Equation as in Ithaca, Charlottesville, and Reno (at that time, all there was!)
3. Get a compassionate shelter director.
What did we do? Met with legislators, heavily engaged in democratic process. If you want to change things, you have to engage in the political process effectively.
We professionalized animal advocacy. Not coming across as crazies. We were a moderate professional voice for animals in our community.
You have to get to know members of government and the press, in order to effect change.
We never, ever went away. Resilient. People thought we had unlimited resources and tons of people.
When meet with government, wear suit and tie, always bring bound materials with tabs and an outline.
Ads and materials have your logo.
Use professional press releases.
Sent questionairres to council members and thos running for office. Targeted only those who had real chance of winning. Told them they were going to run a full page ad rating their answers, which mean they mostly answered the way they wanted, and then they were committed.
Informed public about promise of lifesaving reforms
Created huge base of anial lovers
Put no kill on City Council agenda for first time in 6-7 years.
From not getting our calls returned to candidates running on the issue.
BUT... FixAustin was the "shirtless dancing guy," and Austin Pets Alive was the real leader by not letting us dance alone. (VIDEO: Ted talk on "How to start a movement")
Austin Pets Alive was formed in 1997, around when Dr. Ellen Jefferson (now speaking) founded spay/neuter program, Emancipet.
After meeting Ryan and hearing about no-kill, Ellen took over Austin Pets Alive to do rescue.
Wanted to lower numbers of animals dying. First step:
Why were the specific groups of animals dying? Identified gaps they could fill in.
She was told the animals were not "adoptable."
First, what stuck out right away was how many puppies were on the euth list each day. Usually just because ran out of time. Also parvo/diarrhea, mange, ringworm, injured, too young to spay/neuter.
"We were pretty shocked there were so many puppies who just 'ran out of time.'"
They focused on puppies first, seemed most obvious.
How did APA save puppies?
Foster homes for "not enough time" puppies
Developed a dedicated parvo ward (APA)
Treat diseases and injuries while available for adoption (Called mangey puppies "cupacabras" Laughter)
Foster until altered
"Those don't seem like revolutionary strategies, but none of them existed at the time."
Nov 2008, saved every single puppy on euth listd
85 percent parvo, 80 percent distemper/pneumonia save rates.
"It's just problem solving 101."
By developing individual programs to address these identified problems, it doesn't seem so overwhelming.
Next, small dogs.
Why were they dying?
"Out of time"
Deemed aggressive because frightened, stressed
Showed poorly in shelter environment
How did APA save them?
Foster homes! Small breed dogs easiest to get foster homes for
"Hold and Release" evaluation for aggression test - staff member would go into run with dog showing fearful aggressive behavior. Would grab them (wearing oven mitts or using towel) and just hold them in kap, but not talk to them or pet them. The dogs would sigh, and relax, and then she'd put them down and leave. And then the very next time they came, the dog was eagerly soliciting attention from that individual! It's how they could tell if the dog was really aggressive or it was just extreme stress, fear
Fractures heal very easily with little internvention of loss of fucntion
"Sleepover" adoption meetings
Foster until adoption programs
What did APA accomplish?
Saved 1,800 dogs, more than 95 percent
Why were they dying?
Too young to be spayed/neutered
Most young kittens brought in, they were instantly killed because no one to feed them.
How did APA save them?
Bottle baby trailer to handle mass feedings. Like wildlife center -- they didn't kill young animals, they did mass feedings.
Volunteers came to the trailer around the clock to handle feedings.
First year, saved 250 kittens first year, 1,200 now -- 100 percent.
Large scale foster to meet seasonal suppley/demand.
Treat ringworm while available for adoption.
Put ringworm cats in highly visible areas, and they got adopted easily! Full disclosure, waivers.
Have saved over 2700 bottle babies since Nov 2009!
What else worked?
Multiple offsite adoption locations 7 days a week in high traffic locations throughout the city.
Customer service is key.
PASS Program - "Positive Alternatives to Shelter Surrender." Volunteer sat outside the shelter and talked to people about options to the 50 percent kill rate in shelter.
Found vets and behaviorists who would donate or discount services. Got boarding kennels to donate a cage or two in exchange for advertising. Doing rehoming advertising online for the owners, and they were willing to keep the pet until they got the home. PASS person would say "Give me 48 hours!" Volunteer is great sales person.
Consistent hours, locations, service
Fast responses to online inquires.
If people are inquiring at many different places, they animal they adopt is usually the first one who gets back to them!
Efficient convenient adoption process. Adoptions same day. Follow up where volunteers call and email 30 days after adoption, have not run into too many issues.
Behavior training for big dogs with behavior problems -- huge problem for Austin. They needed a mass approach to behavior... one dog, one trainer, one person taking care of dog every day for 6 weeks, totally impossible in their situation.
So hired someone recommended to them, length of stay has gone from 68 to 52 days since June 1. Go to Aimee Sadler's program.
Everything we do is about MASS TREATMENT.
All positive, fun marketing. People don't want to be part of something that's depressing. Even the exclamation point in Austin Pets Alive!
It's all about what anmials we saved because of your help! Helps people want to be part of the process.
Ryan: One of the things Ellen did -- she calls it "stupid" -- and she stepped forward and said, "We're going to do this as fast as humanly possible. And we need all of you to help us get there." People came out of the woodwork, because they wanted to be part of something big.
Showed this video:
And this one:
Ryan: Volunteers are empowered -- they made these videos!
Next: The City of Austin's Mandated No Kill Plan
Whenever anyone would talk to local government about no kill, the "experts" at the city shelter and humane society would tell local gov it wouldn't work, couldn't work.
So Ellen just said, fine. I'm just going to do it FOR THEM.
So they started doing off site adoptions,and it worked.
In March of 2010, convinced city council to mandate no kill at shelter.
1. Change mission of Animal Services to saving 90 percent of all impounded animals.
2. Mandated off site adoptions.
3. Mandated large-scale foster4 program is. "I'm pretty sure we have the only city council that knows what an off-site adoption or foster program is."
4. Mandated behavior rehab program.
5. Mandated intake counseling.
6. Community cat spay/neuter and release based on Jacksonville.
7. Low cost and free spay/neuter programs.
8. Required shelter give rescue partners advance notice of euth list pets.
9. Mandated public awareness campaign and new, improved website
10. Mandated city work with Washoe County Animal Services to improve return to owner. (Washoe County returns 65 percent of stray dogs to owners.)
11. Moratorium on killing when there are empty cages. ALL ANIMAL WELFARE STAKEHOLDERS LOBBIED AGAINST THIS! City shelters says this provision, which was so opposed, has probably saved more animals than any other mandated provision.
From March 2010 to Oct 2010, went from 50 percent save rate to 90 percent. (Shelter director left position, too.)
Save rate has been at or over 90 percent since then.
Largest No Kill City in America
In 2011, Austin's open admission municipal shelter saved every healthy and treatable cat, kitten, puppy, and small dog to enter the shelter.
Still need to be saved: Large dogs with behavior issues.
1. NO KILL WAS NOT AN ACCIDENT.
They had a plan. That's what they aimed for, what they did, what they achieved. Was not luck or money. No Kill Equation.
"So many animal advocates think their job is to sit around and brain storm new ideas." We already know what to do. We just need to emulate success.
2. No Kill is achievable. It all started with a small group of people who said enough is enough, and 5 years later it was done. Even in the face of powerful and entrenched opposition.
In 2008, there were 3f no kill communites. Now there are over 40. Something can't be immpossible if it's happening!
3. No Kill is inevitable.
4. No Kill is a choice.
You can lead lifesaving in your community, you can be an obstacle to lifesaving, or you can stand on the sidelines while lives are lost. We want you to choose to lead the lifesaving in your community. And the faster your community will be no kill.
5. No Kill is Fun
6. No Kill is love. We have to get past this period in America where we believe killing a healthy or treatable animal is an act of love or compassion.
Saving their lives is the act of compassion.
Note: You can see yesterday's liveblogging here.