New study: Austin’s ‘No Kill’ policy has $157 million economic impact

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — A newly released study from the University of Denver claims, between 2010-2016, Austin’s “No Kill” policy has helped drive Austin’s economy to the tune of $157 million.

WaterShed Animal Fund, based in New York, paid for the study that’s said to represent the most comprehensive analysis so far of the impacts of Austin’s resolution that designated the city as “no kill” in its animal shelters.

The 69-page study states, “The majority of the positive economic impacts result from increased employment within animal services as well as the increased use of pet care and pet retail services. An additional benefit appears to be the positive contribution of Austin’s progressive animal welfare policies to its brand equity. This impact is important as municipalities compete with each other to attract employee demographics that in turn draw new business and new economic growth to their area.”

The city’s no-kill policy doesn’t mean animals aren’t put down in Austin. It just means that more than 90 percent of animals are saved. Last year the city’s no kill rate was 94 percent. This year it’s 97 percent.

“Austin is the largest no kill city in the country and there’s a lot that went into that initially to kick start that and to maintain that,” Mary Heerwald, with Austin Pets Alive! told KXAN.

In the last seven years since Austin City Council implemented the no kill resolution, the Austin Animal Center’s budget has more than doubled to $12 million. Austin Pets Alive! relies on donations and brought in nearly $4 million last year.

“We’ve certainly seen an upward trend in donations, which has been really necessary as we’ve also seen an upward trend in capacity and in what we’re trying to do the community has really stepped up to meet the need year over year,” Heerwald said, adding the city saves more than 20,000 animals a year under the no kill plan.

But it’s not easy.

“We’re also now dealing with this sort of top tier of animals that, they’re harder to find adoptive homes for. They have medical treatment or chronic medical conditions and we need really specific homes for them,” Heerwald explained.

Mayor Steve Adler says the study not only affirms the city’s investment in the Austin Animal center, but the people, who make no kill even possible.

“It is so dependent on so many members of the community volunteering to participate that you just can’t transfer this to other cities, because you can’t make people in other cities care about it the same way our folks do, to the extent that they step out and volunteer and say we’re going to make this work,” Adler said.

The Austin Animal Center has a strategy to help maintain it’s no kill plan. That includes resources like having a foster program, which saves more than 2,500 pets each year. The city of Austin and Travis County also fund spay and neuter surgeries and rabies vaccinations. The Austin Animal Center also provides free microchips and tags for pets in Austin and Travis County.

“What this report really pointed out was how the brand of the city is so crucial to our economic development so I would expect us to continue doing the things that contribute to that,” Adler said, of it being known Austin is a pet-friendly city.

Interim Animal Services Director Lee Ann Shenefied sent KXAN the following statement:

Since 2011, the City has achieved a 90 percent or greater save rate each year. For FY17, which concluded September 30, the City’s save rate was a record setting 97.8 percent of the approximately 16,000 animals entering the Austin Animal Center. The city of Austin is recognized nationally as a trendsetter in animal welfare, and this report confirms that progressive animal sheltering and field services policies and programs have benefits to the entire community. Sustaining this level of lifesaving is truly a collaboration between local government; local non-profits; volunteers; and residents who choose adoption, foster pets in need, donate, share social media and support progressive animal welfare programs and policies.”

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