EMANCIPE+ Blog


What Pets Mean to Us by Amy
February 11, 2011, 8:30 am
Filed under: Executive Director | Tags: , , , , ,

In my preparation for a recent presentation on the relationship between people and their pets, I came across some studies that have really gotten people talking.  Since it’s all about love and relationships and sacrifice, I thought Valentine’s Day would be a fun excuse to share some of this data with you. So, here’s what I learned:

Pet owners love their pets and are afraid of losing them.  Not surprising, but… 79% of pet owners felt losing their pet would be more traumatic than getting into a car accident, and 61% said it would be more traumatic than losing their jobs.  Some people were surprised when I shared this last one.  But, this tracks with my experiences in the clinic at Emancipet.  Honestly not a day goes by that we don’t hear a story of a client who has lost his or her job and who is thankful for the love and joy they receive from their pets.

Most pet owners are willing to sacrifice for their pets’ happiness and safety, and an overwhelming 93% of pet owners said they’d be likely to risk their lives for their pets.  Again, it may seem shocking at first, but people do brave and risky things for their pets all the time.  Think back to Hurricane Katrina, and how many people chose to stay behind and risk their lives for no other reason than their pets were not allowed to evacuate with them.  Recent data indicates 62% of pet owners would defy a forced evacuation order if they could not evacuate with their pets.

So there you have it.  We love our pets.  Here’s what I want to know:  Have you ever risked your life (or even limb) for your pet, or any animal in need?  Tell us about it!

Thanks for reading, and Happy Valentine’s Day to you and your furry companions!



Welcoming a New Chief Animal Services Officer by Amy
January 28, 2011, 6:38 pm
Filed under: Executive Director | Tags: , , , ,

After a long, nationwide search, the City of Austin has selected Abigail Smith to become Austin’s new Chief Animal Services Officer, a job with duties that include overseeing the municipal animal shelter and animal control.  Even though we are a separate non-profit, Emancipet partners closely with the City on many of our programs, including Free Days and Spay Street, our door-to-door outreach program; and our clinic is located on the land where the new shelter is under construction (and looking incredible, by the way).  Needless to say, we’ve been eager to find out who the new leader would be.  I’m happy to say that from what I’ve heard, we should be very excited about this selection.

Abigail has a reputation for a fierce commitment to saving the lives of animals in her current shelter, which appears to be matched by an understanding and commitment to preventing them from becoming homeless in the first place.  We don’t know Abigail personally yet, but we’re looking forward to getting to know her, and working alongside her to serve all the animals in our community, and we are optimistic about her potential to continue our City’s wonderful progress on animal issues.

Abigail has a lot of support here, starting with a committed staff at the shelter, and the board and staff at Emancipet.  And it’s a good thing – her’s is one of the toughest jobs in our community, and she’ll need the support and participation of the entire community to reach our ambitious and important goals for a humane community.

I hope you’ll join us in welcoming her, and in giving her the support she’ll need.



Lesson From San Antonio by Amy
August 12, 2010, 6:10 pm
Filed under: Executive Director | Tags: , , , , , ,

I just read this interesting, but not entirely surprising article from our neighbors down in San Antonio.  SA has had a mighty struggle with animal issues (formerly the highest per capita euthanasia rates in the nation).  Recently the SA City Council, area foundations and animal welfare groups have come together to try to transform SA into a no kill community.  They have started investing seriously in programs to increase live outcomes for their homeless pets.

But they quickly realized an inescapable truth – their efforts have not been as successful as they hoped because there are far too many homeless pets to begin with.  They have learned that without significantly bolstering their prevention efforts, they cannot end the killing of homeless pets.  Specifically, they cited the need for more spay/neuter.

It’s a lesson that many communities have to learn the hard way.  The road towards ending euthanasia often starts with a focus on increasing adoptions, and then dead-ends with a realization of the need for a whole more spay/neuter.  Though a balanced approach (between prevention and management of the homeless pet population) is critical, failing to adequately prioritize prevention efforts can be a death knell for humane efforts, and the animals they are supposed to save.

Thankfully, it sounds like SA is getting on the right track and is ready to fully invest in prevention efforts.  Good luck, SA – everyone is rooting for you!



Is TLAC now “No Kill?” by Amy

The other day I was at Town Lake Animal Center for a meeting, and a sweet family came up to the front desk with a tiny kitten they found in their garage.  When they handed her over to a staff person, they said, “Congratulations on being no kill now.  We knew this little kitty would be safer with you guys since there’s no euthanasia anymore.”

The moment really took me aback.  This family had heard on the news that in March, our City Council voted to ban euthanasia at the shelter as long as cages were available, and like many other hopeful animal lovers, they had assumed that meant TLAC was now “No Kill.”  If only it were that easy.

Sadly, the moratorium passed in March has not ended euthanasia at the shelter.  Every day, more animals come in, and with every cage already full, euthanasia continues every day.  In short, our community is still producing far too many unwanted pets.

As you already know, ending unnecessary euthanasia will require reducing the number of animals entering the shelter, and increasing the number that leave alive.  Austin has been making steady progress towards both of these goals for the last few years.  Frustratingly, since the news of the moratorium started to spread, we’ve been losing ground on our race to reduce shelter intake.

Perhaps due in part to the misunderstanding caused by media coverage and mistaken beliefs about the shelter’s no kill status, shelter intake is actually up since the moratorium passed.  Since March, about 800 more animals ended up at the shelter than in the same time period last year – mostly cats abandoned by their owners. (Click here for access to the data)

Thank goodness for the hardworking staff at TLAC and the dedicated rescue groups working to get animals out of the shelter alive.  Remarkably, adoptions and transfers are actually up a little, which has meant that euthanasia has so far not increased with the uptick in intake.  But that can’t and won’t last long if intake keeps rising.

At Emancipet, we are working hard to combat this new trend by advocating for spay/neuter and offering free spay/neuter as often as we can afford to.  As owner surrender rates rise, we can’t afford for even one unwanted litter to end up at the shelter, competing for scant resources with the dogs and cats abandoned by their owners, many of which are adults and harder to adopt out.

Want to help?  Here’s two easy things you can do right now that will make a difference:

  1. Tell 3 friends about Emancipet’s free and low-cost spay/neuter clinics and walk-in wellness clinics.  Or, better yet – donate $50 so we can offer another family a free spay/neuter surgery.
  2. E-mail Sarah Hammond (sarah.hammond@ci.austin.tx.us) at TLAC to volunteer to foster kittens or other animals in need.


Animal Services Center Update by Amy
February 19, 2010, 1:00 am
Filed under: Executive Director | Tags: ,

As you may have seen recently on the news or online, there has been concern about a possible delay in the approval process for the construction bid that would allow the City to finally break ground on a new Animal Services Center.  We wanted to give you the latest facts and news on this issue as we understand them:

•    At the January 28 City Council meeting, in the introductory statements, Mayor Lee Leffingwell announced that item 20, which was the approval of the construction contract for the new shelter, was postponed “indefinitely.”  Click here for video of that.

•    This caused great concern in the animal welfare community, because this particular construction bid expires on April 9, 2010, and this facility is desperately needed as soon as possible.  The current TLAC facility, with its 1950’s design, is far below the modern standard for humane and healthy housing for homeless pets.

•    Since hearing this, concerned citizens have contacted Council and staff encouraging them to get the item back on the agenda.  Responses from some Council members indicate that the removal of the item was to allow more time to first consider some of the other important animal welfare issues currently in development, namely the use of the Davenport building for adoptions, and was not intended to delay the construction process.

•    Further, several City Council Members have indicated in their responses to citizens that the item WILL be voted on in March and that the construction will continue will continue without delay.

We are relieved to hear that the item will be back on the agenda in March.  While we certainly understand that the shelter is not the only animal welfare issue facing the City Council, we do believe that it is one of the single most important things we can do to improve the welfare of animals in our community.  It is so important that it should move forward as planned, regardless of any other issues that may also be considered.

We are also very excited about the City’s commitment to utilizing the Davenport Building for adoptions, and partnering with the community to save more animal lives.  While those plans may not yet be finalized, we are confident that the City Council and staff will continue to make progress on this front, and we hope the construction of the shelter can begin without delay as these plans are fully developed and evaluated.

Background and more info:

In November of 2006, Austin voters approved $12 million for a new animal services facility. The design process occurred in 2008 and 2009, and the facility, which will be state-of-the-art and Silver LEED certified will finally allow us to house our community’s most at-risk animals in safety and health.  The new Center will be located with Emancipet at the 7201 Levander Loop site.  You can click here to see the plans.



Spay Day 2010 by Amy

PetsMart Charities has just released the results of a study about the causes of pet overpopulation and homelessness, and the barriers to spay/neuter.  We weren’t surprised to hear that much of the nation’s pet overpopulation problem is caused by the one or two “accidental” litters born each year before a pet is spayed or neutered.  Most people just don’t know when to spay or neuter their pet, thinking they have to wait until they are six months or a year old, or until they go through a first “heat cycle.”  There is a lot of misinformation out there about this topic, and combined with information that is just out of date compared to current veterinary expertise, it’s no wonder pet guardians are confused.

Dr. Laura Helmueller, Emancipet’s Medical Director, is eager to get the word out while your own vet should help you determine the optimal age to spay or neuter your own pet, in general, “5 Saves Lives!”  “Spaying or neutering your pet before the age of 5 months is the best way to prevent an unwanted litter,” she says, “and it makes the procedure much easier on your pet.”

To help get the word out, and to celebrate Spay Day 2010, Emancipet is offering a special price on spay/neuter surgery for pets aged five months and under on February 23, 2010 – National Spay Day.  To book your appointment now, please call 512-587-7729 or go online by clicking here.

Click here to read our prior blog post on this topic with more medical information.



Reflections on 2009 by Amy

Emancipet is fast-paced, to say the least.  As an organization with two high volume spay/neuter clinics – speed and efficiency is our mantra around here.  That fast pace is essential in an organization like ours, but it also makes it hard to slow down occasionally and reflect on our successes and our challenges, and take the time to learn from them.  2009 was a year with plenty of both.

The economic crisis was at the heart of some of those challenges and we started the year anxious about the potential increase in demand for our services, a decrease in donations, and losing support from the City of Austin, a major partner in our free spay/neuter program.  In fact, we did see a huge increase in demand for our services, and in June, the City put our free spay/neuter programs on the list of budget cuts.

In a wonderful and unexpected way, each challenge turned out to be a gift.  We had the privilege of caring for more pets than ever before.  We spayed or neutered 16,688 pets and provided wellness care to an additional 11,569 pets.  We did not have to turn away a single pet in need because we cut costs, found efficiencies, and were the fortunate beneficiaries of an increase in donations and volunteer hours to accommodate the increase in demand.  And this community rallied together in the most inspiring, unified way to fight City budget cuts, and saved the Free Mobile Spay/Neuter program.

That would have been an inspiring enough year, but to add to it, we finally moved into our new clinic and office space this fall after a long, long wait.  I am looking forward to great things in 2010.  We expect to serve even more pets this year, and have an exiting group of programs to get our services to the animals who need them most, including the Mobile Free Spay/Neuter program, Spay Street, Free Rabies Drive Clinics, the Regional Mobile Spay/Neuter Clinic, and more.