Austin Pets Alive! | Doing More in 2024 Requires Change

Feb 23, 2024
We’re nearly three months into 2024, and this year is already in full motion! At Austin Pets Alive!, we started the year with a promise to be even louder about the importance of progress for Austin’s pets. We’re not going to break that promise. We also aren’t going to ignore the role we play in implementing progressive changes. And we certainly aren’t going to pretend that we do animal sheltering perfectly, because there isn’t a bigger impediment to growth than the refusal to take a close look within.
Our multi-year strategic plan identified growth opportunities at APA! and we’ve narrowed our focus to two major areas in 2024: saving more lives in Austin and beyond and building a new business model within our own shelters. We’re excited to share more about our future plans with you in this article because the future is full of solutions for the things that have held us, and the entire animal welfare industry, back.
Here’s how we will accomplish more lifesaving and improved operations this year:
Saving more lives:
Saving more lives within our facilities. 2024 is a year of change for us. We will be moving a portion of our Town Lake Animal Center (TLAC) operations to new properties. These facilities are custom made to save more parvo puppies, more panleukopenia kittens and much more. You will be hearing a lot more about how you can help get these facilities over the finish line in the next month. This will give us more room at TLAC to keep serving our main dog and cat populations who are waiting for adoption for the remainder of the year.
Offering more hands-on assistance to shelters. If you tune into news coverage or follow social media channels about shelters, you are well aware that many pets are suffering in communities and in shelters throughout our state, including Austin. This doesn’t need to be the case. There are solutions that can be implemented that will decrease the time pets spend in the shelter so they can live, experience joy and bring that joy to their new families. APA! is overwhelmed by the need from all shelters that need us, and as a nonprofit with the mission to eliminate shelter killing, we take it very seriously that we can’t help every single one. We will always take in pets, treat them and rehome, just like we do now, but we also need to offer more assistance to shelters who can help themselves but lack the expertise to do it. This means that we are leveraging the experts within APA! so that more shelters can benefit from hands-on support. We will offer support to many shelter jurisdictions, allowing the ones that can accept the help to do so. We will see the faces of the APA! team members who have made a great impact with the work they are doing to help others. Although extremely hard, saving lives in large volumes is a key skill set that most shelters do not have but our team has in spades.

Building a new business model at our shelters.
The methodology that all shelters share is based on the belief that there are not enough homes. As a consequence, shelters have never built the operational framework to save lives and get pets into homes in whatever volume is handed to them. We are leaps and bounds above where the industry was in 2008, when APA! started rescue work, but now we find ourselves in the same situation as most shelters today- trying to save lives but overwhelmed with animals and no real way to understand the people power needed to do the work it takes to get them into homes.
Our solution is to dissect what we do, why and in what quantity to then build a real business model for humane No Kill sheltering. This requires us to quantify everything we do, set goals for each and then measure our success.
The beauty of doing this is three fold:
It makes it commonly known how much work it takes to do the job of lifesaving and rehoming so that any shelter can expand to meet the needs of their community. This sounds rudimentary but, sadly, it is not clear how many people it should take to care, treat and adopt out, say, 5,000 pets. We probably have more intel than most but even for us, after years of adding more people, we can’t seem to figure out the right staffing ratios in the face of need. That is most important to us here in Austin, both at our city shelter and at APA!, but it will also fill a huge need nationwide as no shelter has this operational model figured out, yet.It elevates the role of the shelter worker. Right now, there is no career path defined. There is no certification required and the pay structure is low nationwide. Shelter worker turnover is high and unhappiness is even higher. As we figure out the business model of sheltering, a key component is to make this more of a profession where workers are certified and can command higher pay based on more education that is in line with what communities members want from shelters.The community wins. For so long, shelter directors have believed that there is only so much we can do to meet the demands of the community and unhappiness is just part of the job. I have even thought that! The reality is that we, shelters, are the ones holding ourselves back. The community wants No Kill, wants excellent care for pets in the shelter, wants a safe place for pets in need to go and wants to be engaged. Instead of automatically dismissing concerns and demands, we should be able to meet those demands and bring our community with us.
Saving lives and building the business model both translate into a better community, doing better by pets, better jobs, better mental health, better satisfaction, better pay and better impact.
Stay tuned for progress reports on these two exciting initiatives as we move through the year. We are excited for what the future holds and are grateful for you coming with us on this journey.

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