austin, tcIn the interest of full disclosure, I am a Texan. Originally from a small town in Texas, and now with my parents living in Austin, I admit I pay attention to what goes on there because my family is there, my roots are there. But I’m also paying attention because Austin, Texas is doing great work to help animals. That’s what this article is about: getting inspired to do something, small or large, in our own towns today to help our local shelter animals. Now, it may be hot down there but it’s also a great place to live – especially if you’re a shelter pet. Austin has frequently been named one of the most pet-friendly communities in the country, and not too long ago, they decided to move full steam ahead on path to become a “No Kill” city! The Texas-capital’s accomplishments are in no small part due to rescue groups, animal shelters, leaders, politician and citizens working together to utilize their advocacy, skills, and heart to help their homeless pet population.

There are many fantastic organizations and innovative people doing great work for the animals, but here are various groups I discovered that are helping Austin achieve “No-Kill” status.

Austin Pet’s Alive is a non-profit volunteer organization committed to promoting and providing the resources, education and programs needed to eliminate the killing of companion animals. It’s hard to believe, but this 501c3 is run almost exclusively by dedicated volunteers who develop innovative and progressive programs to assist Austin and Central-Texas in becoming no-kill. Austin Pet’s Alive both focuses on helping healthy, treatable animals in shelters and helps owners who are having problems with their own pets so as to decrease owner relinquishment. They are their own rescue group and find great homes for the many pets in their care, especially those who have been overlooked, through their various programs including an active foster system, mobile events and the upcoming Adoption Resource Center building they will soon open. Austin Pets Alive also work closely with the Town Lake Animal Shelter so that their city can achieve a save/adoption rate of 90% or more for all pets entering shelters.

Teeny’s Friends collects toys for needy dogs. Their goal is simple: to make sure that no dog ever has to go without the simple pleasure of chasing a ball or snuggling a plushie. They raise money by doing toy drives and their buy-one-donate-one designed toy program. All the toys they gather are then donated to rescue groups, animal shelters, and families in low income neighborhoods – all with pooches who need a little mental stimulation that only a toy can bring. Teeny’s Friends helps promote adoption retention and gives back to homeless pets.

We all know sterilizing our pets is one of the most responsible things we can do to solve pet overpopulation. Emancipe+ offers high volume, high quality spaying and neutering for pets who live in the City of Austin and Travis County. They offer free spay and neuter at their mobile clinic on Thursdays and Saturdays. They also offer a low-cost clinic for those who are can afford to pay for the low-cost services, and all surgeries are performed by licensed veterinarians. The City of Austin/Travis County Animal Funding provides sponsorship for this program and donations are welcome. Emancipe+ will also now be offering low cost, walk-in wellness clinics for dogs or cats who are already spayed or neutered so that local communities can have access to more affordable basic care such as vaccines and preventative medicine.

The Austin Humane Society is helping feral cats (also known as free-roaming cats) as they are the largest cause of pet overpopulation in Austin. Their Free Roaming Cat Program has already sterilized and vaccinated more than 15,000 feral cats since 2007. They are currently the only program offering free feral cat sterilization in their community and are calling on every-day citizens to get involved and be a part of the solution. The cats are humanely trapped, sterilized for free, and then returned to their colonies safely and effectively. In 2009, the feline euthanasia rate in Austin dropped more than 40% due in larger part to the contribution of their feral cat Trap-Neuter-Return Program!

Love-a-Bull is dedicated to educating and advocating in Austin and beyond, on behalf of the American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, the Staffordshire Terrier, and Bull Terrier (all breeds commonly referred to as “pit bulls”) and pit bull mixes. Their mission is to promote responsible ownership and improve the image of pit bulls in the community. Their strategy is to lead by example and so they started an all-pittie therapy group, The Pit Crew. These pitties and their handlers visit children and adults in need, providing therapeutic interaction that can improve mood, build confidence, and repair hearts.

In some ways, what can help homeless pets most is spreading the word that they are sentient beings with personalities, preferences and individual characteristics. Virtual Petwork is a social networking site catering to pets – it’s a way for Texas pets to connect with their pet pals. Pets can blog, join groups, chat on a message board, discuss [or complain about!] their parents, write on their pet pal’s wall, and support their favorite animal charity among other activities. The Virtual Petwork is giving voices to animals, something us pet owners already do. By helping make sure other people get it too, and including an adoption corner available to members, they’re helping promote adoption and shift perspectives.

These are just some of the many, many resources I found when researching animal welfare and the progress this city is making; there are plenty more terrific groups and organizations out there. There is a lot we can learn from Austin, and I urge other volunteers in other towns to do their part in helping homeless pets near them. It seems when it comes right down to it, what I believe is making Austin successful in their efforts is that people are uniting to make a difference for the animals in their community. I guess it really does take a village – even if it’s a really hot one.