EMANCIPE+ Blog


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!



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  There is a lot of misinformation out there about this topic, and combined with information that is just out of date compared to current veterinary expertise, it’s no wonder pet guardians are confused.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.



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.



Puppy Love and Budget Cuts by Amy

Yesterday, I worked at a City of Austin Free Rabies Vaccination Clinic.  These happen four times a year so that Austin’s lowest income pet owners have access to vaccinations to keep their pets, and the entire community, safe from rabies.  The City also uses these to educate pet owners about local resources to help them.  At the clinics, I set up a station so I can sign people up for free spay/neuter from Emancipet.  Yesterday we signed up 90 animals in just a few hours.

Not everyone was interested in spay/neuter, of course.  At one point, I saw a young man, maybe about 17 years old, standing in the shade off to the side.  He was holding a little pit bull puppy that was about 8 weeks old.  I asked him to come over so I could see the puppy.

He said he wanted to breed him one day and sell the puppies to make some money like his friends in his neighborhood.  What he really wanted, he said, was a free microchip for the pup, but not surgery.  I kept talking to him because I could see that he really wanted to do the right thing.  When he looked at his new puppy, his eyes told the same story that those of us who have fallen in love with a pet already know.  He looked surprised, a little embarrassed, and completely smitten with a little brown puppy.

Because of City  of Austin funding, I was able to offer him a free microchip, free vaccinations, and free Frontline for 6 months, all if he would do what we both knew was right – to neuter this little dog.  When he agreed, everyone around us cheered for him.  It was a great moment, and we have many moments just like this at every rabies clinic.

If the City of Austin budget cuts go through as proposed, not only will we lose half of our regular Free Sterilization program – where we go into neighborhoods and provide free spay/neuter from our mobile clinic, but we’ll also lose the funds to provide spay/neuter and incentives like this at Rabies Clinics and other events.  Without free spay/neuter funding, more unwanted animals will be born, more will end up at the shelter, and more will die.

We can’t let this happen.  I hope that if you agree, you’ll help us fight these budget cuts. Visit www.emancipet.org for more information on how to get involved.



City Budget Cuts Threaten Animals by Amy

The City of Austin is facing a budget shortfall, and City leaders have asked the community for input on some proposed budget cuts released this week.  There are several proposed budget cuts for animal services, but the one of most concern to me is the proposed cut to Emancipet’s free sterilization program.

The program is a highly successful partnership with the City that provides 4,000 free pet sterilizations and more than 3,500 free rabies vaccinations each year via our mobile spay/neuter clinic, primarily to pets living in low-income neighborhoods.  This program is currently funded by the City at $195,000 per year.   We estimate that it saves the City far more than that in reduced intake and sheltering costs.  A 2005 LBJ School of Public Affairs study of five years of data conclusively determined that the free sterilization program has dramatically reduced the intake of both dogs and cats at the shelter. To put it in perspective, one surgery costs about $33, while the City’s average cost to shelter one animal is $141.95.

There are two proposals for reducing the city outlay for this important spay/neuter program. One calls for a reduction of 50% of the program funding out of the City’s general fund, and funding that portion instead through unsolicited – and unguaranteed – citizen donations to the City’s donation fund (currently used to treat sick and injured animals and provide additional sterilization services). The second proposal will cut the entire $195,000 from the general fund budget, wiping out support for the free sterilization and vaccination program completely, and requiring us to rely solely on the City’s unreliable donation fund.

These proposals could reduce the number of free surgeries we can offer by 2,000, and even more as the donation fund dwindles.  And, if the City cuts the program in half to save $97,000 this year, if shelter intake increases by just 683 animals (a low estimate), the cost of housing those additional animals would theoretically be equal to the savings gained by reducing the program funding. In short, the reduction would mean zero savings, and most likely a higher cost on all fronts.

The worst of those higher costs, of course, is the cost of innocent animal lives. Without adequate funding for spay/neuter and vaccination services, there will be more stray animals, causing a higher intake at Austin shelters, and more animals will be euthanized.  This would be especially heartbreaking if it happened now, right as we are making such progress.  Just two years ago, our city was killing half the animals that came into the shelter – now less than 30% are killed.

I urge you to speak out against this budget reduction.  Please sign our online petition, join the Save the Free Days Facebook Group, and e-mail City Manager Marc Ott (marc.ott@ci.austin.tx.us) and tell him the free sterilization program should be fully funded as a part of the general fund.  And, please come out to the Town Hall meetings on Monday and Tuesday evening to show your support for animals.

If we speak up now, we can get this proposed budget cut off the table before it ever goes to Council.  Please participate and make your voice heard to save animal lives.