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.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

FixAustin, animal shelter, Ryan Clinton, David Lurie

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