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With Socks at Austin Pets Alive. Her motto: “It’s great to be alive!”

I just returned from reviewing shelter operations in Austin, Texas. The city shelter, Austin Animal Center, has been running save rates of 95% or better, despite an intake of roughly 18,000 animals a year. Last month it hit 97%. I also spent time at Austin Pets Alive visiting, among the many dogs and the cats, its FeLV and FIV+ cat ward, ringworm ward, and parvo ward.

I met playful dogs who showed me their balls (tennis balls!):

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And funny, little cats with curious noses:

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But in all seriousness, it was a very important trip for me, and for the movement, for primarily two reasons. First, the row after row of dogs commonly referred to as “pit bulls” are finding homes. The FeLV/FIV cats are finding homes. The ringworm cats are finding homes. The parvo puppies are being saved and finding homes. The dogs with behavior challenges are finding homes. Although it sometimes takes some time, all of these animals, including rabbits and others, are (say it with me): finding homes.

When a shelter says “no one will adopt pit bulls” and keeping them alive would lead to “suffering,” what they are saying is that it is more convenient to kill them.

The results put the lie to the claim that “no one will adopt them.” The conclusion: shelters should not be in the business of determining which animals people are allowed to fall in love with by killing them without giving the public a chance to do so.

Second, it is well past time to reject the absurd notion that death does not harm animals, even though such a view is endemic to sheltering, to the “animal protection” industry in general, and to many in the veterinary community. Indeed, it is central to the philosophy of the Humane Society of the United States, the ASPCA, animal control associations and shelters across the country, the AVMA, and the Association of Shelter Veterinarians. And, as Austin proves, it is a lie.

Although Austin still has operational challenges, it is very successful. And no matter how successful a community is, there will always be a loud, vocal minority calling for killing. The more successful the shelters are, the more extreme their “euphemisms” become. In Austin, that euphemism is “suffering.”

The word “irremediable suffering” has a very specific definition. “Irremediable physical suffering” means 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. (There is no such thing as irremediable psychological suffering.) As used by many No Kill Naysayers in Austin (and increasingly elsewhere), however, the term “suffering” has been corrupted and become little more than a euphemism for convenience killing.

Austin success, it’s decline in killing, is tremendous. At one time, the city shelter was itself committing animal cruelty. At another, it was ignoring the rights of its neediest animals by killing them, while attacking Austin Pets Alive, the agency doing the lion’s share of the work of saving them. Today, it has a robust partnership where both agencies are true partners in lifesaving who put animals first. Yet people are still complaining, still casting aspersions, still casting about looking to return the community to the days of true suffering: mass killing.

For me, operational challenges aside, I found Austin a revelation. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Austin now has the leadership it deserves.

And Austin Pets Alive finally has city shelter leadership that respects and appreciates, rather than condemns and undermines, their immense contribution to No Kill in the city.

Of course, I would be remiss if I did not also mention the tremendous work of the rescuers, staff, volunteers, and everyone else making a lifesaving difference in the city.

I would also be remiss if I did not also mention the vegan donuts:

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The delicious veggie burgers:

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The seitan sandwiches and lots and lots of French fries. With its commitment to animals in and increasingly out of shelters, Austin, TX, is truly one of the finest cities in America.

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