Lucy digs up the details about why we celebrate Austin as the largest no-kill city in the U.S.

By Lucy J. Phillips, Grayson photo courtesy of Austin Pets Alive!, Lucy photo courtesy of Hannah J. Phillips


Dear Lucy,

I’ve read that you were adopted from Austin Pets Alive! I am currently a foster pup there and I’m so grateful for all the amazing work APA! did to help our city implement no-kill status eight years ago. I tried to share the significance of this anniversary with other doggos at the park with my fosters recently, but I got too emotional thinking about where I might be without APA!’s amazing work. Maybe you can help me explain why it’s so important to celebrate?

Grayson the grateful

Dear Grayson,

I can certainly relate to the difficulty of expressing your gratitude to APA! Dogs like us owe our lives to APA!’s incredible programs, and that’s not an easy sentiment to convey while chasing squirrels and playing tug of war with other pups. When I was surrendered in November 2013, I was suffering from parvo. Though treatable, the virus usually results in euthanasia simply because of a lack of resources at many shelters throughout the country. Thanks to APA!, I recovered quickly in the Parvo Puppy ICU—just in time for Christmas! When my human came to ask volunteers about adopting, I sneakily fell asleep, snoring in her lap and became the best present she ever gave herself.

But that’s not the end of my story. Beyond adoption, APA! also invests in the long-term care of the animals the organization saves. Though my time in the shelter was short, being a rescue dog can come with behavioral side effects like separation anxiety. Once you’ve found your human, it’s terrifying to think she might leave—even for an hour! In those first few months, my human relied heavily on the lifetime follow-up service offered by APA!’s Dog Behavior Program staff for all adoptions.

These are just two highlights of the remarkable work APA! does to rescue Austin animals and keep them in fur-ever homes. I chewed the fat with Stephanie Bilbro, director of lifesaving operations at APA!, to better understand just how much there is to bark about at the organization’s upcoming No Kill Anniversary Party this month.

With a background in the hospitality industry, Bilbro started volunteering in the Detroit metro area shortly after her father’s death. 

“I came across a brochure for the local shelter while cleaning out his apartment,” she says, “and I thought if I started volunteering, I’d be fulfilling his dream.” 

When a temporary position opened up, the job soon led to another role covering maternity leave. Before she knew it, Bilbro was pursuing a full-time career in animal welfare. She joined the Austin Pets Alive! team a year ago and now manages the day-to-day operations of the nonprofit’s programs. She believes coming from cities that aren’t yet no-kill locales gives her a unique perspective. 

“Thinking back to my previous shelters, certain protocols didn’t feel right to me, but that was just sheltering at the time,” she says. “Coming to Austin confirmed that what was normal in other communities still wasn’t the best we could have done, but I’m glad I have that background knowledge because it’s easier not to take it for granted.” 

APA!’s annual anniversary party rallies Austinites to remember how hard we’ve worked as a community to become the country’s largest no-kill city. 

“It’s still such an accomplishment every year,” Bilbro says. “We’re constantly reminding people that communities not far from Austin still struggle for the resources, government support and community support that enable us to implement the programs we offer. Plus, there is a small percentage of animals that are still euthanized. We take that number seriously and are always asking what we can do better and what the city can do better.” 

Beyond attending APA!’s No Kill Anniversary Party this month, Bilbro recommends humans stay informed about animal-welfare issues by following Austin’s Animal Advisory Commission, which provides citizen oversight for city shelters. She also advises supporting shelters by volunteering, donating and encouraging friends to adopt. 

“Ultimately, our goal is that Austin is not the largest no-kill city in the country,” she concludes. “Then we’ll really feel like we’ve done our job.” 

Paws up to that, Grayson, and best wishes on finding your fur-ever home! 

Love and slobbery kisses,


P.S.: For more information about adopting Grayson—or other dogs at APA!—check out the Available Dogs link on the APA! website.



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