AUSTIN (KXAN) — Just about everything has changed at the Austin Animal Center over the last 18 months.

The shelter has embraced new technology, adapting to the pandemic by offering virtual adoptions, and dealt with fluctuating interest in adoptions as people’s work habits changed.

But as different as the shelter looks compared to just two years ago, one important fact remains the same – it’s completely full.

A puppy available for adoption at the Austin Animal Center (Picture: KXAN/Harley Tamplin)

That’s why KXAN is partnering with animal shelters across Central Texas for the Clear the Shelters campaign, our annual adoption drive to help find homes for homeless animals in our area.

“If you’re looking for a pet, we can fill that need,” said Don Bland, director of the Austin Animal Center. “Clear the Shelters month is a great opportunity – come on in.”

There are only a few days remaining of the campaign, but the Austin Animal Center is hosting a special adoption event on the last day of Clear the Shelters.

Adoption fees are waived for all animals on Sept. 18 (Picture: KXAN/Harley Tamplin)

On Sept. 18, the animal center opens two hours early, at 9 a.m., and adoption fees are waived for all animals – yes, even puppies.

Reflecting on the pandemic’s impact on the shelter, Bland described it as “18 months of continual change.”

“Getting people here to adopt, foster, rescue, that was a little more difficult, at the very beginning especially,” he said.

Dogs aren’t the only animals available for adoption (Picture: KXAN/Harley Tamplin)

Bland explained that more people working from home led to an increase in fostering, which helped to give many of the animals a break from the stresses and strains of shelter life.

However, that trend didn’t last when many of those people started returning to work, he said.

“We have less fosters now than we did at the very beginning of the pandemic,” he added.

The biggest lesson that Bland said he learned from the pandemic is that not enough people in the local area microchip their pets.

“We really need people to microchip their animals because even with the best pet owners, an animal can get away from them or wander off,” he said. “They can’t tell us where they live, but those microchips can and those animals that are microchipped, that’s a free ride home.”

The Austin Animal Center is fully open with in-person appointments seven days a week.

KXAN has partnered with animal shelters across Central Texas for Clear the Shelters, an annual adoption drive and donation initiatives to help animals get out of shelters and into loving homes.

To see a list of available pets, check out the participating shelters below: