Feb 02, 2024
February 1st was a big day in the City of Austin — a potential butterfly effect in the history of No Kill. While our city leadership is working to find solutions, there is much work to be done in the next six months and beyond in order to help us continue our forward movement as leaders in animal advocacy.
This week, the Austin City Council passed a resolution to allow the city to euthanize dogs who have bite histories without first giving notice to groups like APA!, who offer rehabilitation opportunities. There is a six-month delay to this change, which would apply to a dog whose bite causes severe injury, requiring stitches that cause punctures as deep as half the canine tooth of a dog. This will also apply to both provoked and unprovoked bites.
As we have consistently said, APA! is not opposed to humanely euthanizing dogs who are not safe to be in the community. The safety of the community and our pets is a foundational aspect of No Kill; “having a behavior program is not just about saving dogs; it is about ensuring the safety of our community,” explains APA!’s Chelsea Riseman, Director of the Dog Behavior Program. Our opposition to yesterday’s resolution lies in that the city records contain many errors and are unreliable, which could potentially mean death for a dog who has actually not bitten at all.
We are hopeful that having six months before this change goes into effect will allow for time for the city to collect and supply accurate data pertaining to the dogs with bite histories. If, in six months, our city adopts this resolution without proper feedback, data, and training, this will be nothing short of a big step backward in seeing animals as individuals.
The Austin of yesteryear found tremendous pride in leading the country in No Kill during a time when shelters struggled to save the lives of even half of the pets who entered their care. Today in Austin, the battle for animals’ lives is no less urgent. Our city must continue to take the lead in modern, data-backed, lifesaving solutions.
We know and intimately understand the challenges that Austin is facing. Our city is not unique in this regard; this past year has been enormously challenging for shelters and communities across the country. We know it can sometimes be hard to save lives, and easy to backslide.
Individual animals’ lives are on the line, and each of them is worthy of all our efforts. They have intrinsic value. They deserve to be seen as individuals, for us to give them our all, and that is what we are doing.
To preserve and protect what we’ve achieved, and what we have still to do, we are advocating to make sure the critical lifesaving gains we all value so highly will not be undone, and that we can keep moving forward. We will be fighting for No Kill, for safety, and for transparency every step of the way. For No Kill is not a destination. It is a journey.
If we want to live in a city that not only values progress and being the best, but demonstrates it, we have to collectively voice that, and fight to not only maintain No Kill in Austin but to improve on it. As Chelsea Riseman pled, “Let’s work together to implement humane, effective solutions that uphold our shared values of compassion and responsibility to our community.”
APA! will continue to offer solutions and be a partner to the city and community. We ask you to use your voices to make it clear that we do not need to choose between safe and humane conditions for pets who enter the shelter system and a safe community.
If you have not already done so, please complete this survey and share it with members of your community.
Everyone wants our community to do better. Thank you to our animal-loving community for all you do!
Dr. Ellen Jefferson
President and CEO, Austin Pets Alive!