Changes could be coming to Austin’s animal shelter, AAC director responds

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A resolution expected to come before Austin City Council next week could bring a number of changes to the way the city-run shelter operates. The proposed changes include restricting which animals can be released into the community and allowing people who find animals to foster them immediately.

The chief animal services officer for the Austin Animal Center, Don Bland, also said it’s committed to eliminating the use of crates in the shelter, something that’s been done for years.

“Working with the city manager’s office, the auditor, council offices, other organizations…these were some of the changes that, you don’t want to say low hanging fruit, it’s things that we could change very quickly,” said Bland.

The largest element of the resolution would limit the taxpayer-funded shelter’s ability to release dangerous dogs into the community and change the way dangerous dogs are classified.

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As it’s written now, the move would switch the city’s current internal measurement for how aggressive a dog is to the nationally recognized Dr. Ian Dunbar scale. That scale ranges from 1-6.

The most severe end of the scale, 6, is an animal killing someone. The least severe, a 1, is aggressive behavior but no biting. The resolution would require the city shelter not to release any animals at or over a 4 — which requires severe and deep wounds.

“A moderate to you…and a moderate to me might be two different definitions, but what a level two is on the Dunbar scale, we all have the same definition,” Bland said.

Right now, before an animal is euthanized at the Austin Animal Center, even if the reason is behavior, other organizations have a “right to rescue.” This would eliminate that possibility if an animal is deemed that aggressive.

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The monster resolution also calls for changes to the city’s requirement that the shelter hold dogs for at least 72 hours in the shelter before releasing them to foster. Currently, if you find a dog, the shelter has to take it in for three days before allowing you to foster it.

The proposal would change that, something they’re calling “finder to foster.” It could allow for more space at the shelter and incentivize people to foster animals.

“That animal would be available just like it would be if it was here and that helps us with space. But also, that animal is going to be happier in that home than it is in a shelter in a cage anyway,” Bland said.

The resolution also asks the city shelter to define the language “animals” from the city code that governs the city’s ‘no kill’ rate and change it to “cats and dogs” so that the city’s reports more accurately reflect pets.

Bland said these changes are a start — but there’s more to come.

“I’ll give you a little hint. One of the next things that we need to look at is an additional location, a satellite location…A city our size to have one location in a far edge of town is detrimental to us,” he said.

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