A puppy's paws rest under the chain-link gate of his 55-year-old pen at Town Lake Animal Center. He's one of about 60 dogs and cats the City of Austin wants to get adopted with the help of the nonprofit group Austin Pets Alive! (APA).
The City of Austin is paying APA $12,000 a month for its help and, through November, Austin taxpayers are covering the cost of utilities. Altogether, Austin officials say the agreement is costing taxpayers about $20,000 a month or about $240,000 for one year.
APA wants to extend the agreement through May of next year which would add another $72,000 to the taxpayers' bills.
Emily Phillips serves on the Animal Advisory Commission. She says adoption rates so far concern her.
"We don't need to be looking at, 'Should we extend it?' We need to be looking at, 'Is this something that we can phase out?'" Phillips said.
Austin officials say the city paid APA $36,000 for November and December. In that time, the nonprofit adopted out 49 animals from Town Lake Animal Center which means, on average, it cost taxpayers $735 per adoption.
"We're spending currently $12,000 a month on an existing contract, allowing them to keep adoption fees and the city has committed to paying the first year's worth of utilities. Those are expenses the city really should think about," Phillips said.
Phillips disagrees with the city commission's recommendation to approve extending the agreement with Austin Pets Alive!. She believes the city could accomplish the same number of adoptions for less.
"If we are willing to spend this money, why is it not going towards the new shelter?" Phillips said.
Ultimately, the city council will decide if taxpayers will be paying an even bigger bill.
YNN made several attempts to speak with leaders of Austin Pets Alive on camera, but they either declined or were unavailable. However, Austin Pets Alive posted a response to its proposal to the City of Austin for expanded use of Town Lake Animal Center on its website.
In addition to extending the terms of its agreement for the Town Lake Animal Center, the nonprofit wants the city to allow them to take in animals from neighboring counties.
Austin animal officials say it could compromise the city's no-kill efforts.