Dallas wants to eliminate holding periods to kill animals right away. Austin more than doubled theirs as they recently passed one of the most rigorous, smart, and comprehensive holding period laws in the country.
Community dogs in Dallas. Dallas Animal Services wants the ability to kill them right away, with no holding period of any kind.
Dallas Animal Services is asking the City Council to embrace a round up and kill campaign of community animals, including the elimination of any holding periods for community cats and, in some neighborhoods, dogs. If it passes, DAS will be able to immediately kill stray animals with no holding period of any kind, without ever making them available for either redemption or adoption, without offering rescue groups the opportunity to save them, and before their families even know they are missing. They already have this power with “owner relinquished” animals; now they propose extending it to “strays.”
This week, by contrast, the Austin City Council–at the request of Austin Animal Services–passed a bifurcated holding period that prevents the shelter from killing any animals for at least seven days. The holding period is not just longer (up from three days); it doesn’t just apply to more animals (both “stray” and now also “owner relinquished” animals); it is smarter, too.
It allows the shelter to transfer animals to rescue groups right away, while still giving their families the same right of reclaim as if the animals were still in the shelter. This not only frees up kennel space and reduces costs, it helps particularly vulnerable animals and thus helps increase lifesaving.
It also incentivizes adoptions by allowing the shelter to adopt those animals to new homes right away if they are relinquished animals and after three days for “strays.” In other words, they can be adopted out or transferred to rescue groups, but they cannot be killed.* The only exception is for animals who are “irremediably suffering” defined rigorously as an animal who “has a poor or grave prognosis for being able to live without severe, unremitting pain even with prompt, necessary, and comprehensive veterinary care.”
While Dallas’ shelter leadership appears completely indifferent to either saving lives or causing heartbreak to families whose animals are killed, Austin’s shelter leadership understands the importance of both and that holding periods play a crucial role in that regard.
How? Our shelters are run on the honor system, and it is a discretion shelter directors abuse time and again by failing to implement readily available lifesaving alternatives or to work cooperatively with those who want to help them save lives. In many shelters, holding periods are often the only thing standing between life and death for an animal.
Tragically, Dallas isn’t the only animal shelter seeking to eliminate or reduce holding periods, even though doing so loses sight of what is, in fact, one of the primary functions and mandates of a taxpayer funded, municipal animal shelter: to provide a safe haven for the lost animals of local people and a place where they can go to find them.
Although billed as an effort to get animals adopted faster, experience proves that shortening or eliminating holding periods entirely has the opposite effect: allowing more animals to be killed and to be killed quicker. Nothing in the proposals require shelters to make animals available for adoption after the shortened (and in some cases eliminated) holding period, but they give the shelters full authority to kill them and that is what many will do.
A mandated, bifurcated holding period, by contrast, allows animals to be adopted out more quickly, allows animals to be transferred to rescue groups immediately, frees up cage and kennel space, and reduces costs, without eviscerating the minimal protections animals and their human families have in holding periods. We need longer and smarter holding periods like Austin’s, not giving pounds the ability to kill animals right away as Dallas seeks to do.
Austin understands this; Dallas does not. But that is not surprising.
Dallas has long history of killing in the face of alternatives, even with rescue groups en route. Even a “bucket full of kittens” who just needed TLC. Even allowing a cat to starve to death in its facility. One city council member even suggested shooting strays from helicopter gunships. Now they want the power to kill even more and kill them right away.
Austin not only actively reaches out to rescue groups for assistance, it is required, under the city’s mandated No Kill plan, to make animals available to rescue. And it consistently goes the extra mile to save lives, with some of the most rigorous standards and protections in the nation.
Is it any surprise that Dallas kills over 9,000 animals a year–roughly one out of every two; while Austin isn’t satisfied with saving 96% of them?
Dallas Animal Services is only 3 hours and 25 minutes away from Austin Animal Services. But in terms of the job they do, they are worlds apart.
It is time for change, Dallas.
* Not that they would. Austin has a 96% save rate and the time increase codifies existing practice. What the ordinance allows it to do is transfer animals right away, lower costs, and provide a mandated safety net for animals regardless of who is running the shelter and regardless of whether they are “strays” or “relinquished.” (The ordinance also makes it illegal for any animals to be sold or used for experimentation.) As such, it gives animals in the shelter extended rights that help codify a No Kill orientation.
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