AUSTIN (KXAN) — Negotiations between Austin Pets Alive! and the city of Austin have stalled for a new long-term land-use agreement that would allow APA! to continue operating at the city’s old animal shelter, the two parties tell KXAN.
Since 2011 Austin Pets Alive! has occupied the Town Lake Animal Center (TLAC) on Cesar Chavez Street in exchange for taking in thousands of at-risk animals from the city. The nonprofit aids the city in its goal to be “no-kill.” Under city of Austin standards, “no-kill” means a minimum of 95% of homeless animals who enter shelters must leave alive.
The city says its current rate is at 97%.
The two sides have been working under a short-term agreement, allowing APA! to continue occupying TLAC. However, this agreement ends Nov. 23, and the organization says it may have to move its operations outside city limits if the partners can’t reach an agreement.
“Significant changes in animal services at the city that jeopardize the sustainability of No Kill, as well as the declining state of the Town Lake Animal Center (TLAC) property, create the need for immediate council action to ensure Austin stays No Kill now and for evermore,” reads a post on APA!’s website from Sept. 15.
Austin Pets Alive! notes a potential move out of Austin is more than a threat. The organization plans to tour nine facilities in the next week; APA! said that all are at least 20 miles outside city limits.
In an interview with KXAN, APA! President and CEO Dr. Ellen Jefferson added: “We recognize there’s a high likelihood that we’re going to have to find another property and build elsewhere.”
At the heart of the disagreement between the two sides is how many animals APA! will agree to take in from the city, along with the organization’s interest in helping at-risk animals from outside the Austin area.
“We have been helping shelters battling high kill rates all over [Texas] for 11 years and in rare circumstances like Hurricane Ida, we take from beyond Texas,” said an Austin Pets Alive! spokesperson. “This is nothing new. We are asking for our agreement to allow us to utilize the resources we have at our future building to treat any animal, even if not from the greater Austin area, which is currently not allowed.”
In an additional statement to KXAN, APA! implicated that the city was trying to micromanage it.
“ACL is not restricted to only hire bands from Austin for their shows,” said the statement. “Here at Austin Pets Alive! we only ask that we be given the same respect as other organizations using city land.”
The organization is appealing to City Council to approve a new agreement with terms more favorable to it, since “[city] staff will not agree to the License Agreement terms.”
Austin Animal Center has a different perspective.
“The current facility is on City owned land which ultimately was paid for with tax dollars. APA! is using that land for free, in exchange for helping AAC and pulling animals,” said an Austin Animal Center spokesperson. “They are asking to help AAC less and use the same tax-funded property to help animals from other cities and states.”
She added: “The current license agreement allows animals from a five-county region to be housed at TLAC. But not animals from beyond that region.”
We asked Austin Animal Center about their nonprofit partner’s claim that the city would be in jeopardy of losing its no-kill status if it weren’t able to come to an agreement with Austin Pets Alive!
“Austin will remain No Kill regardless of the outcome of these negotiations,” the department spokesperson said. “We are sure that AAC will remain No Kill, first and foremost, because we are committed to doing the right thing for the animals in our community. We are also required by City Council to maintain a 95% live outcome rate.”
Earlier this summer, the Austin Animal Center reported not having any additional capacity to house animals and that staff is doubling up dogs in each suite. A June 25 memo from Chief Animal Services Officer Don Bland said staff may possibly need to resort to euthanasia.
Last week, the city’s Animal Advisory Commission voted unanimously to form a committee to monitor and provide oversight over Austin’s no-kill policy. City Council’s Audit and Finance Committee will need to approve the commission’s request to change its bylaws for this to happen.