Christopher Shelton" />
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Monday, September 25, 2023


Being humane with animals

Austin is a leading voice in the nation for the protection of sheltered animals.

This year, Austin became a no-kill city and saved 91 percent of animals from being euthanized unnecessarily.

According to, “A no-kill community is one that doesn’t kill healthy or treatable pets. There are many different interpretations of what ‘healthy and treatable’ could mean, but the communities leading the way have found that at least 90 percent of pets entering the shelter fit into one of these two categories. Thus, communities that are considered no-kill save 90 percent or more of the pets that enter the shelters.”

Austin’s success hinged on crucial legislative victories because of its being a community that values its furry counterparts, but it didn’t happen overnight. It was a three-year process, but hard work paid off. Austin residents can be proud of their animal treatment policies.

In Nov. 2009, Austin’s City Council passed a resolution which directed their city’s staff to work with Austin’s Animal Advisory Commission. The two came together to develop an implementation plan that was released by March 2010. The Commission recommended changes that would get Austin to a save rate of 90 percent.

On March 11, 2010, a bill including the recommendations passed Austin’s City Council with bipartisan support. It was a clean-sweep (7-0) decision. Perhaps the most visible facet of the bill is a moratorium on killing animals if cages are available, which sounds like common sense to me.

Austin Animal Center is Austin’s only facility that kills. They do not turn away any animals, similar to Houston’s Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care (BARC). Before March 2010, if a dog did not meet the qualifications for adoption he was placed on the euthanasia list and was killed the following morning.

According to, five shelters in Houston practice the same procedure, including BARC, Harris County Animal Control, Houston SPCA, Houston Humane Society and the Citizens for Animal Protection.

Austin Animal Center helped remedy the problem by no longer producing a euthanasia list. They now produce a “no holds” list. If cage space capacity is reached, the animals on the aforementioned list are euthanized first. Rescue centers work in accordance with Austin Animal Center to save many of the condemned pets.

Countless animals have been saved in Austin. In Houston, however, we leave the death of defenseless animals to a business decision.

We have not succumbed to our better angels. As a city which prides itself as a pet-friendly place, we can do better. We should do better. Mayor Annise Parker promised to nudge the city in a direction similar to Austin, in terms of animal treatment.

Parker was given a No Kill questionnaire from then congress person, Jolanda Jones while on the campaign trail. She was asked, “Would you commit to making ‘no kill’ — defined as killing less than 10 percent of pets sheltered at an open-admission shelter — the official policy of Houston and support any laws or policy changes necessary to achieve this goal?”

She answered, “Yes.”

Unfortunately, the reforms have been miniscule and as a consequence, the results are miniscule. Houston is not close to attaining no-kill status. From 2010 to 2011 the kill rate at BARC has only dropped three percent. For March 2012, the kill rate for BARC was 46 percent.

In March alone, 1,009 dogs and cats were euthanized at BARC, according to results BARC releases each month.

Parker’s tenure in office was supposed to close the gap between Houston and Austin’s animal policies, but it remains the same.

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