Spay Street by Asha
March 15, 2010, 9:44 pm
Filed under: Outreach

We all know the story about the man who stood on the shore watching a beautiful woman who was dancing on the sand.  As he walked closer, he realized that hundreds (or thousands if you like the drama) of starfish had been washed ashore and were dying on the beach.  It was getting dark and the man asked why she even bothered to try to save some of the starfish – there were just too many – they couldn’t all be helped.  She continued to pick them up one after another and said, “But I just saved that one.”

The first time I heard that story, I was moved.  The second, third, and tenth time – I was over it.  But today I have visions of starfish swimming in my head.

I had the opportunity to ride along with our Spay Street program coordinator.  Spay Street is a door-to-door community outreach program that provides resources and education to pet owners in Austin’s neediest communities.  Thanks to a generous grant, Emancipet is able to provide free spay/neuter and other basic services to these pets in need. I understood the program before, but seeing it in action gave it a whole new meaning.  In just two hours time, we covered about 3 blocks. Some homes had boards covering openings where windows should be, others had gates so flimsy I wondered why they even bothered.  There was one common theme: lots and lots of dogs and cats.  As we approached each house, the barking was often loud enough to bring residents to their front door. Laura, the program coordinator, explained why she was there and that she had the resources to provide much needed services to their pets.  The van used for transporting animals to the Emancipet clinic was full after just over an hour. Many pet owners were thankful and even a bit relieved. I must have heard, “I don’t want anymore” at least a dozen times. One house had a small, sweet puppy who was clearly very loved.  The man explained that this puppy had a sibling, but that sibling was nowhere to be found.  Another house had 8 Chihuahuas living together in a large yard.  The family had gone to the City of Austin Rabies Vaccination clinic the week before and had gotten all of them their shots.  We were able to bring in the dogs that had not been spayed or neutered to keep them from adding to the brood.

When the van was full and we had to drive away, I couldn’t help but feel like there was so much more that we needed to do.  But, like the lady dancing on the shore, I know we made a real difference in the lives of the handful of pets we were able to help that day.


Reaching Out by Asha
March 5, 2010, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Outreach | Tags: , , ,

If you would have asked, I never would have imagined a few years ago that I would be doing what I am today. I knew I wanted to help “people” so I received my graduate degree in Social Work. Long story short, I adopted my first dog, Miko, who is the love of my life and quickly taught me what so many already knew- that pets are some of the best “people” around.  Years later, I jumped at the opportunity to interview with Emancipet and here I am.   

My position in outreach involves coordinating events, managing volunteers, media and the ever-so-popular social media relations, and communications. I have found over and over again that people are genuinely interested in the work we do and I want to share that with you here.  Hopefully, you will find my journey into this work as exciting as I have.  If there is something you want to hear more about – tell me and I’ll fill you in.

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.

Power of Ten by Amy

We’re officially into holiday mode here at Emancipet.  That means a higher than average percentage of clients in need of free services for their pets.  We always need the community’s help and donations to get through this season, and this year is no exception.  If anything, we expect to need more donations than ever before to ensure that we can meet the needs of the 2,000 dogs and cats we expect to help in the next 6 weeks alone.

We also know, however, that it’s been a tough year for everyone in our community, and that we are all hoping our dollars go far enough this holiday season.  So, in honor of our tenth anniversary this year, and in recognition of what a tough year its been for everyone, we are launching our “Power of Ten” holiday fundraiser.  It’s our way of saying – “You don’t have to give a lot to make a big difference for animals.”  The Power of Ten allows you give at a level that’s comfortable for you, while ensuring the power of your gift is maximized to help the greatest number of animals.

If you give to the Power of Ten, you’ll choose a gift of $10, $100, or $1,000 – and your gift will be automatically matched by two generous donors who will both donate one dollar to Emancipet for each dollar you donate.  Then, you’ll have a chance to make your gift go even further by picking ten of your friends, colleagues, or family members to receive a personalized Power of Ten request to match your donation as well.

With this campaign, you could give as little as $10 out of your own pocket, but Emancipet and the animals we serve would get $130 total from you, your friends and our automatic match. And the best part?  The money you donate goes directly to providing free and very low cost spay/neuter, which reduces our homeless pet population.  It’s wonderful to know that your gift can actually help more animals get a home for the holidays by reducing the number of homeless pets in the shelter, waiting for a happy ending.

I would like to offer my heartfelt thanks to these donors who have already contributed to the Power of Ten in the first few days of the campaign: David Gunn, Karina Hernandez, Deanna Burger, Kim Rabago, Lorrie Meyer, Randy Martin, Scott Bonilla, Asha Thune, Amanda Myers, Nick Weynand, Debra Ellerman, Piret Sari-Tate, Kimberly Edmondson, Wendy Murphy, Nicole Tumlinson, Farhaneh Shirazee, Lara Gale, Whitney Lawson, Susan Culp, Denise Maryanski, Lisa Iguchi, and James Flaggert.

Spay/Neuter Capacity at Austin’s City Shelter by Amy

This Thursday, September 24, the Austin City Council will consider a resolution directing the City Manager to develop a plan to increase the capacity for spay/neuter surgery at the Town Lake Animal Center (TLAC).  This would allow TLAC to provide spay/neuter services seven days per week, to sterilize all the animals that leave the shelter.  Currently, the shelter does not have the staff capacity to spay and neuter every animal in their care, meaning that some animals wait several days for spay/neuter, even if they have already been adopted, and some leave the shelter before being spayed or neutered.

I was thrilled to see this resolution, which marks a major step forward for Austin’s animal shelter.  Emancipet has advocated for more spay/neuter capacity at TLAC for some time now, and we are so glad that Council Members Bill Spelman and Laura Morrison, who have co-sponsored this resolution, understand the importance of spay/neuter, and the impact that increased veterinary capacity inside the shelter will have on live outcomes for animals.

The value of this resolution is not just that all animals will leave the shelter spayed or neutered – it can also increase the number of animals that leave the shelter alive.  Currently, adopters have to wait until an animal is spayed or neutered before they take their new pet home.  Some wait several days, depending on the day of the week they adopt the animal.  If spay/neuter is occurring every day, the wait time between an adoption and when the animal can be picked up by the adopter will decrease, resulting in shorter shelter stays and therefore more space for additional animals.  Further, if all animals are spayed and neutered in-house, rescue groups with limited budgets will be able to rescue more animals from the shelter because they won’t have the financial burden of paying to spay or neuter the animals they save.

This resolution could very well save the lives of hundreds of animals each year at the shelter.  Please take a moment to send an e-mail to the Austin City Council – http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/council/groupemail.htm – and encourage them to vote for Item 70 and move forward with increasing spay/neuter capacity at the City Shelter.  This is an important step forward for our City, and our shelter.