Thursday, February 1, 2024

City Council Approves Recommendations to Maintain the Austin Animal Center’s No Kill Policy while Protecting Public Safety

 

The recommendations are the result of an independent assessment that addressed challenges with overcrowding, safety and quality of care.   

The Austin City Council approved an ordinance at its regular meeting today to amend the portion of the City Code related to Animal Services, incorporating new recommendations to improve conditions and outcomes at the Austin Animal Center (AAC) with a focus on continuing the City’s No Kill Policy. 

The recommendations were presented by an independent consultant in response to a Council-requested audit that found while AAC has the highest live outcome rate in the nation – remaining above 95% - the shelter struggles with conflicting priorities.  The recommendations include changes to address public safety concerns regarding dogs with significant bite histories, enhance the quality of care for animals in the shelter, and improve the process for intake and adoption.  

Currently, the City Code requires the AAC to make most dogs with a significant bite history available to members of the public and rescue groups, creating a safety risk for the community. Rescue groups may find homes for dogs but are not required to share the dog’s bite history. AAC has experienced several instances where a dog with a known significant bite history has caused severe injury to members of the public after being released from the AAC. The independent assessment recommended applying a nationally recognized six-level Dunbar bite scale to assess a dog’s bite history. If a dog has a level four or higher on the Dunbar scale, the dog may be euthanized without being made available to rescue partners. Staff will consider each case on a case-by-case basis, looking at the totality of the situation. 

“There is no individual factor that got us to where we are today,” said Deven Desai, the independent consultant who conducted the assessment. “We hope that the recommendations adopted today, in addition to the existing operational changes and those yet to come, will all lead to comprehensive animal service solutions for the public and animals in our care.”  

Desai worked with the City Manager’s Office, Council Members, various stakeholders, partners, and Animal Services staff over the past six months before bringing forward the recommendations. 

Additional amendments include expanding the term “impoundment” in the City Code to include the period when animals are fostered by a finder and clarifying that the live outcome ratio only includes domestic pets (dogs, cats, guinea pigs, and other exotics) rather than including wildlife such as bats, which are unlawful to allow the public to adopt.   

For more information on the changes, visit https://www.austintexas.gov/page/ordinance-change-faq-page 

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About Austin Animal Center 
Austin Animal Center is the municipal shelter for the City of Austin and unincorporated Travis County, dedicated to providing care, shelter, and adoption services for homeless animals. Austin Animal Center has been proudly no-kill since 2011, exceeding the national no-kill standard of 90% live release rate every year. In 2019, City Council recognized the high level of lifesaving and officially mandated a live release rate of at least 95%. Austin Animal Center also plays a crucial role in the community by promoting responsible pet ownership and connecting community members with resources for their pets.  Learn more at austinanimalcenter.org

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