AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Pets Alive! Executive Director Dr. Ellen Jefferson wrote in a blog post Friday it has been “inundated” with offers to help its Parvo ICU, after photos of the conditions surfaced Thursday.
KXAN obtained images of puppies in the Austin Pets Alive! parvo ward being held in dirty and unkempt kennels, leading the communications team at the animal shelter to admit that it is “not up to their standards.” They later stressed that at most kennels, these sick dogs would have already been killed.
In a blog post Friday, APA said there are a number of ways people can support their efforts to help these dogs, including volunteering, fostering and donating money or items. It shared details of each on its website.
A current staff member at the shelter, who asked to be kept anonymous, shared the images, saying animal waste piles up and that puppies are often caged in their own filth “without adequate food and water.”
Parvo is a highly contagious virus spread through animal feces, mainly affecting puppies. Symptoms may cause the animals to frequently defecate, often involuntarily within their own living arrangements.
“Everybody who works there feels the same way, and they all know. Just nobody ever does anything about it,” the staff member said. “I tell my managers and still they never do anything about it. All the veterinarians know but nothing ever gets done about it.”
Katera Berent, the public relations and events manager at Austin Pets Alive! confirmed the images were from the shelter but said each of those puppies has been cleared of parvo and is up for adoption. She said it is not uncommon for the animals to show disturbing symptoms.
“It is hard to state how gross it is,” Berent said of parvo. She said the images might be shocking for those that don’t encounter it often. “It is a horrible disease.”
Berent was unable to time-stamp the images, which makes it hard for her to provide context to the exact circumstances of the kennels at that time. She said it is not uncommon for emergencies to arise elsewhere which requires immediate attention from staff.
Berent said there are a number of team members inside the parvo ward, including technicians, veterinarians, volunteers and the parvo ward manager. They have cleanliness protocols they try to maintain, including cleaning the kennels every two hours, Berent reported.
When asked if the images depicted the standards APA! maintains, Berent said they do not.
“That’s not our standard but it occasionally happens,” Berent said. “But that’s not our standard.”
In a statement, delivered by Berent on behalf on Austin Pets Alive!, the shelter said, in part:
“Austin Pets Alive! treats puppies with parvovirus who would be killed in other shelters because of the contagiousness of the disease and is able to save 85% of those afflicted. The disease is filthy by nature and generally lasts 3 days before the vomit/diarrhea stops. APA! has 4 staff members providing daily care for the dogs and puppies who are housed in the Puppy Parvo ICU as well as daily veterinary visits… Despite the circumstance, our staff is doing amazing work and the pups pictured have cleared parvo, recovered, and are available for adoption.”
Berent also said that in recent weeks, there have been two staff vacancies and a broken washer/dryer, which has led to more dirty laundry and slower morning cleanings than usual.
“The ICU has saved thousands of lives since its inception in 2008 and is now the place that shelters from all over the world come to train at in effort to go home and save their own community’s parvo puppies,” APA! said in the statement.
KXAN has requested a formal interview with Dr. Ellen Jefferson, executive director of Austin Pets Alive! as well as the parvo ward manager. KXAN has also formally requested a copy of the parvo ward cleanliness protocols.
Berent said the Austin Pets Alive! facility could benefit from more volunteers to help with kennel cleaning and daily operations. Berent couldn’t say with certainty how many puppies are currently being held in the parvo ward. The average stay for a puppy in that unit is typically less than one week.
Editor’s Note: Austin Pets Alive! has been a participant in KXAN’s Clear the Shelters annual event.