City Rejects FixAustin Charges

City allays concerns about decreased animal shelter capacity and an animal crematory

Last week, animal advocates FixAustin sounded an alarm that the new animal shelter planned for the Levander Loop in East Austin will reduce adoptable dog space and spew emissions into the air – from an industrial-strength, commercial crematory. City officials say the outcry is, in fact, a false alarm.

On Feb. 25, Ryan Clinton, president of FixAustin, distributed a "breaking news" e-mail announcing that a "leaked" memo to City Council from David Lurie, acting assistant city manager for community services, indicated the new shelter would reduce the number of dog cages from 60 to 40 and that the project may include an animal incinerator. The Feb. 24 memo from Lurie was apparently precipitated by a Feb. 23 posting on FixAustin's website raising the possibility of a shelter incinerator and therefore firing up council phone lines. In his subsequent update to council, Lurie said the relevant information is hardly a secret, as the public document is readily available.

According to Lurie's memo, dog capacity at the new shelter will rise, not fall. Dog cages, twice the size of those at the Town Lake Animal Center, will house more than one adoptable dog at a time and connect to outdoor yards. That's because communal housing "decreases problems encountered with long-term kenneling of dogs," writes Lurie, and the new shelter is designed to house more ready-to-adopt dogs – up to 100 from the current 60. Lurie also noted that greater public access will mean that any animal – whether held in the stray, the medical, or the adoption kennels – may be chosen for adoption at any time.

Panic over an incinerator seems likewise exaggerated. "There is no intention to build a 'massive, industrial incinerator' at the Health and Human Services campus as referenced in a recent e-mail," the memo states. Lurie says the city may build a crematory "requiring modest space with flexibility as to location" – but no decision has been made yet. He said this and "several options" will become more feasible as the city's euthanasia rate continues to drop – it's now at 30% of overall animal intake – and disposal capacity decreases. (According to Dee Besteiro, president of Superior Pet Crematory Services, modern crematories – no matter the size or contents – have a two-chamber design that "completely disintegrates" what's inside.)

Another option under consideration would be to outsource the city's business to a local commercial pet crematory. At present, the city sends animal carcasses to the Texas Disposal Systems landfill in Buda.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More FixAustin
Walking the No-Kill Tightrope
Walking the No-Kill Tightrope
With a new shelter, a new director, and a new strategy, Austin's animal welfare program steps into a brave new world. Can it maintain its already delicate balance?

Josh Rosenblatt, Nov. 4, 2011

Does Austin Need Fixing? Ask Reno.
Does Austin Need Fixing? Ask Reno.
Animal shelter reform has meant less euthanasia in Reno – why not in Austin?

Patricia J. Ruland, Aug. 8, 2008

More by Patricia J. Ruland
TP&W Responds to Racism Allegations
TP&W Responds to Racism Allegations
Department director was 'deeply disturbed by the explosive ... allegations'

Sept. 7, 2012

Parks, Wildlife, and Racism
Parks, Wildlife, and Racism
Wardens recount longstanding, institutional discrimination against African-Americans at TP&W

Aug. 10, 2012


FixAustin, animal shelter, Ryan Clinton, David Lurie

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle