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City struggles with animal shelter use

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TWC News: City struggles with animal shelter use
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Austin Pets Alive! must move out of its shelter by the end of May. Tuesday, Austin's Public Health and Human Service Committee considered the group's proposal to expand the use of the Town Lake Animal Center.

The nonprofit currently uses 60 kennels at the old Town Lake Animal Center as part of an agreement to ease overcrowding at the city's new center in East Austin.

Officials with Austin Pets Alive! say they need to use 80 more kennels if the city wants to keep its no-kill status.

"The reality is we will be losing our building in two months. If we don't have another immediate option, we'll be decreasing our scope of work beginning in April," Austin Pets Alive! Executive Director Ellen Jefferson said.

Jefferson said her nonprofit saves as many as 3,000 animals a year. Without the space, she says fewer than 80 percent of animals will survive, which could cost the city its no-kill status.

One hang up on the expansion is that Austin Pets Alive! accepts animals from outside the city.

"As a nonprofit, we depend upon this revenue source to rescue the hard-to-save animals," Jefferson said.

Austin Chief Animal Officer Abigail Smith runs the city's shelter. She said it's so packed, some pets are kept in offices.

"We're out of room. We are just out of room," Smith said. "With an average of 50 animals in foster (care) and another 40 or 50 over at Town Lake already, we are still short. That's not an easy problem to solve."

Officials say only half the kennels at Town Lake are fit to use and Smith said the city needs them.

Other animal groups suggest the center be used by everyone, especially since no-kill rates have recently dropped by a few percentage points.

"If we can open it up to the other rescues to use that facility on a temporary basis--while they are waiting for that foster home to open—then, I believe you can get that 3 to 6 percent increase back," Training by Tara Owner Tara Stermer said.

The city council now must determine the best way to save the city's strays.

The Austin City Council must hold a special hearing to change the rules and dictate how the Town Lake Animal Center will be used. The hearing may be as early as April 12.

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