Austin Pets Alive! awarded grant to offer Spanish and ASL-speaking interpreters


AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Pets Alive! was awarded a grant to offer interpreters to translate for Spanish or American Sign Language speaking customers but volunteers worry the services could be short-lived if they aren’t used.

“To fully understand, reduce errors and miscommunications, we want adoptions to last forever and the best way to set that up is by someone completely understanding the pet they’re bringing home,” said Macie Sharpe, a former Austin Pets Alive! accountant turned volunteer. She wrote the grant and came up with the metrics to know whether it would be successful or not.

After the innovation grant got approved in April, it was funded at the end of May, so staff and volunteers spent the month of June planning how they would use the money.

“I think it’s so important to have someone who speaks your language when you’re here trying to add a member of your family to your home,” Sharpe explained. “You want to know their skills, do they know how to sit, are they already potty trained, what do they like, what do they not like, what are their own special quirks and I feel like that can really only come across when you’re speaking your own language.”

So they got right to work and had new signs made that are now posted while driving in to Austin Pets Alive!, near the entrances directing people where to go and all around the property where the pets are housed.

Sharpe said she was inspired to look for opportunities to offer this service after asking her primarily Spanish-speaking neighbors if they would be interested in adopting a pet, since she felt they had the perfect home to add a furry member to their family.

“They shared it’s the language barrier, that it’s very difficult for them to just walk in somewhere when Spanish is their first language and pretty much only language right now that they feel comfortable adding a member to their family,” Sharpe said, adding that it even inspired her to start learning American Sign Language. “That sparked the idea that there are probably a lot of amazing homes for amazing pets that don’t feel comfortable coming in without these services.”

For people wanting a Spanish-speaking interpreter, email The center has volunteers that take care of answering those emails so they know to immediately direct that to their Spanish interpreter and depending on availability, an appointment will be set up.

For people who speak ASL, there are interpreters available on the upcoming days:

  • August 10, 12-3 p.m.
  • August 24, 1-4 p.m.

Shelter staff decided on those days based on their busiest influx of customers and though Sharpe said their social media posts about offering the services got a lot of attention, she wondered if the services would get used and worried if they didn’t they would go away.

“That means we need entire community involvement and I’m sure we all have neighbors or friends who may be deaf or hard of hearing or their first language is Spanish, and so we want to make sure that they feel that they are part of this community that we want them here and that we want them to adopt,” she said.

The shelter does have to show that services were used for it to be considered becoming a permanent thing offered to the public. Sharpe said those results will include the number of dog adoptions that resulted from the services being used and their reach on social media for boosted ads.

“Austin is the largest no-kill city in America, that’s something we’re super proud of and we can’t do that without all of our community. Everyone, every language, every person, everyone who wants to be involved, we want to make a place for them.”

Macie Sharpe

KXAN is determined to help our partners across central Texas to Clear the Shelters as part of our annual adoption drive on Aug. 17. Join us, and give a furry friend a forever home.

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