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!

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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.


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.



City Saves Sterilization Program! by Amy

Today is a great day for the animals of Austin!  This morning, the City Manager presented his budget recommendations to the City Council, and he recommended no reductions to Animal Services.  This means that our free sterilization and microchipping programs will remain fully funded, as will the feral cat sterilization and medical care fund.

These programs are critical to maintaining our progress towards becoming a humane community – a place where no cat or dog is ever killed just for being homeless.  I am thrilled that our City Manager and his staff had the opportunity to hear from all of us on this issue, to help them understand what was truly at stake.  Ed Van Eenoo, Austin’s budget officer, indicated this morning that the results of the Town Hall meetings largely determined what programs were spared.  It is because of you, and your attendance at those meetings, your emails and calls to City staff and Council, and your signatures on petitions, that these programs have been saved.  You prevented the City of Austin from taking major steps backwards, and reducing investment in animals at a time when animals need us most.

The experiences of the last month have taught us a valuable lesson about our role in ensuring that our local government continues to invest sufficiently in animal services, and fulfill its responsibility to prevent animal homelessness and manage our homeless pet population.  The City must continue to provide for these basic, foundation services, which the non-profit animal welfare organizations like Emancipet will build on, so that we can collectively make the greatest possible difference for animals.

We do have a role to play in ensuring that ours is a community that is moving, every single day, towards ending unnecessary euthanasia. We will be doing more from now on to keep you informed of policy issues that impact animals, and we’ll be asking for your help from time to time.  I hope you’ll continue to stay involved – and that you’ll always be willing to make the calls and send the emails that will save innocent animals.