Virus delays flooding solutions at Austin Pets Alive! building

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Renovation and rebuilding efforts at the Austin Pets Alive! headquarters will have to wait.

“COVID-19 has put plans on hold and will likely change our design as we think about what we, as both an organization and a community, need for the future of animal services,” said APA! Executive Director Dr. Ellen Jefferson, through an organization spokesperson.

For years the facility on West Cesar Chavez St. has struggled with structural issues and a drainage system that often results in flooding after heavy rain.

KXAN has reported that facility kennels flooded over the holiday weekend, with volunteers and staff moving dogs to higher ground and having to pump the water out.

APA! has operated out of the Town Lake Animal Center site (TLAC) since 2012. Every year the organization accepts thousands of dogs the city cannot take in.

This license agreement between Austin and APA! was extended by six months following a City Council vote last week.

Austin Animal Center tells us the city and organization were not able to come to a multi-year agreement before the previous one expired on May 23.

Meanwhile, APA!’s financial filings show it spends tens of thousands of dollars every year on repairs.

“The building is more than 50 years old and requires constant upkeep,” said Austin Animal Center spokesperson Jennifer Olohan. “We understand that APA is working to fundraise in order to renovate much of the facility.”

APA! declined a recorded interview for this story. 

The organization has spent the last three years vetting opportunities for renovating and rebuilding on the TLAC property, Jefferson said.

That included hiring engineers, architects and other contractors to evaluate restrictions on the site.

In the statement forwarded to KXAN, Jefferson called the old building and the restrictions on it “complicated” and added APA! has only been fully able to identify all these restrictions in the last month.

But the coronavirus pandemic has now pushed all of this back.

“Though on the surface a delay in new facility planning may seem disheartening, we believe it’s actually quite serendipitous as the pandemic has provided us the opportunity and platform to redefine animal sheltering of the future,” said Jefferson.

She added that the shelter’s pre-coronavirus design would not meet the needs of a post-pandemic world.

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