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How to Help At-risk Animals in Austin

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Local animal shelters are asking for help during the coronavirus outbreak. Here are three ways you can help at-risk animals in Austin and across Texas.

By Lucy J. Phillips, Lucy photo courtesy of Hannah J. Phillips

Dear Lucy,

I don’t know about you, but I have been so grateful to have my human working from home. I am enjoying all the extra snuggles and attention, and sometimes we even take two walks on the same day! We haven’t been to the dog park in ages, but I have seen a lot more dogs out walking with their humans in my neighborhood. With so many people staying home with their pups recently, I can’t help but worry about all the animals still looking for a home of their own. How will people meet their furever friends if shelters are closed?

Love,
Alfred the Afghan hound


Lucy. Photo by Hannah J. Phillips - Austin Woman magazine

Dear Alfred,

I have certainly been seeing the same trend in my own neighborhood, and while I am grateful for the bonus walks, I share your concern about shelter dogs (ok, cats, too). Fortunately for me, I am a graduate of Austin Pets Alive! and my human was in a position to provide a long-term home when she adopted me in 2013. Thankfully, humans across the country have similarly opened their homes to at-risk pets during this difficult time. In New York City, the Best Friends Animal Society and Muddy Paws rescue groups reported that local shelters saw a tenfold surge of adoption applications in just two weeks in mid-March. Likewise, Austin Pets Alive! announced on social media that Travis County shelters were the emptiest they have been in the last 70 years thanks to local volunteers and a few celebrities.

Kyle Chandler, forever known as Coach Taylor from Friday Night Lights, adopted a lucky pup named Clive into his “Texas Forever” home. Chandler and his wife visited the shelter with the intent to foster, but they ended up falling in love with little Clive at first sight! Queer Eye’s Antoni Porowski, who has been quarantining in Austin, fostered an APA! pup named Neon, encouraging Austinites to still help their local shelters—even if they can’t make a long-term commitment.

“It’s very important for us to support our local shelters because they’re getting a lot less foot traffic…[By fostering a dog, you] provide the nice quality of life they deserve because they’re pups and they love unconditionally,” Porowski said in a video APA! posted on Instagram.

Austinites definitely listened, and, as of late April, APA! has placed more than 1,300 animals in temporary homes while shelters were closed. In an online Q&A between APA!’s Executive Director Dr. Ellen Jefferson and Don Bland, chief animal services officer at Austin Animal Center (AAC), Bland reported that AAC had placed 479 animals in foster care by April 1, almost double the amount than in previous months.

The rise in fostering and adopting allowed APA! to support other Texas shelters in turn, traveling to towns without no-kill policies like Bastrop and Beaumont to rescue at-risk pets. Looking ahead, Jefferson believes this surge in fostering could create even more sustainable life-saving opportunities in the future. In a video posted on social media in April, she shared her hope for how animal services will continue to adapt long after shelters reopen.

“If you think about the way shelters have always operated,” she said, “we’ve always been these centers that lots of people come to, all the animals come to, and that’s not allowed anymore…We are really excited about the future because it means we can actually do more of the lifesaving hopefully, and do it in a better way.”

In the meantime, APA! is calling for more than just adoption and foster volunteers. Dependent on charitable giving (which dropped significantly in the spring) and on large, annual fundraising events (now postponed or canceled through 2020), shelters like APA! need donations. Humans who are unable to provide permanent or temporary homes can still support animals by donating online.

So, whether humans adopt, foster or contribute financially, there are plenty of options to help local animals through these challenging times!

Puppy love,

Lucy

If you have a dog-related question for Lucy, reach out and follow her on Instagram @asklucydog


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