Still Seeking No-Kill Solutions

San Francisco consultant offers advice on reducing animal shelter euthanasias

Animal Center workers select a dog to be euthanized.
Animal Center workers select a dog to be euthanized. (Photo By John Anderson)

Hey, remember when the Chronicle put the dead cats on the cover (Nov. 18)? That was soooo cool. But a coalition of Austin animal groups want to make sure we never have the opportunity to ever do that again by stopping the problem at its source. By bringing in No-Kill consultant Nathan Winograd for a two-day conference March 25-26, the coalition wants to reinvigorate Austin's foundering effort to reduce the number of cats and dogs killed each year at Town Lake Animal Center. "The hope is to bring the animal welfare community together to see how possible it is. It's incredibly possible," said Emily Jourdan of the SPCA of Greater Austin, which organized the event in coordination with Emancipet, Animal Trustees of Austin, Spay Austin, Shadow Cats, and others.

Despite a six-year-old plan to reduce the number of euthanasias performed each year, TLAC still kills a little more than half of the 20,000-plus animals that come through its doors each year. That's better than many urban areas, where kill rates run in the 80-90% range. But animal lovers still dream of rates like San Francisco, where less than 20% die.

Winograd, who led the San Francisco shelter to its current fame and glory, now flies around the country helping shelters change their ways. He is a consultant, and charges for his services – a current contract with Philadelphia, for example, cost $16,000. After one year of his services, a Philadelphia shelter reduced its kill rate from more than 80% to 56%. After hearing about his services, the SPCA raised $5,000 to hold the two-day conference. Winograd has not looked at Austin's situation in detail (one of the services he offers is shelter assessments) but he says the systems that helped San Francisco and other cities reduce their kill rates can work anywhere. "The problems are the same," he said. "The numbers may be slightly different, the percentages of certain animals may be different, but all shelters are dealing with" problem areas like feral cats, large dogs, pit bulls, adult cats, and so on.

Austin is already doing many of his recommended activities, such as extended adoption hours, and volunteer and animal-foster programs. Others it does not, such as offering cash-back incentives to fix pit bulls, large-scale free spay/neuter campaigns, or holding regular, frequent opportunities to adopt animals at public locations like fairs and malls. And, even if TLAC has programs in place, Winograd suggests they may not be as efficient as they need to be. "If it was doing them fully, and fully exploiting the potential, you wouldn't have the level of killing you do now," he said.

For Jourdan, the conference provides an additional opportunity. Austin has a large and active animal welfare community, but many members complain that too often everyone seems to be tripping over each other. "We realized [Winograd] could meld us together like glue," she said. "If we had a consultant holding us responsible, we'd work together better."

The free conference takes place Saturday and Sunday, March 25-26, 9am-5pm at Cap City Comedy Club (8120 Research, 467-2333), which is of course the only logical place to discuss animal euthanasia. For more info, contact Jourdan at info@spcaofGreaterAustin.org. To register, go to www.spcaofgreateraustin.org. And for more on Winograd, visit www.nokillsolutions.com.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

animal welfare, Nathan Winograd, no-kill, SPCA of Greater Austin, Emily Jourdan

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