Despite Understaffing, Austin Leads in No-Kill

98% of shelter animals found a home in March

Tawny Hammond (photo by Jana Birchum)

Even local animals have been affected by Austin's rapid growth. Tawny Hammond, whose last day as the city's Chief Animal Services Officer came Sunday, told County Commissioners on Tuesday, May 16, that the number of calls her office gets has escalated with population growth, so response time continues to rise. Animal Services covers about 900 square miles; cur­rent­ly, only three to five of its 16 total officers are on duty at any given time, which Hammond said is "below industry standards." Hammond had requested 16 more officers for the upcoming fiscal year in an effort to cut response times. County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said she saw an "opportunity" to ease the office's burden by uniting them with the constable's deputy trainees, who could possibly assist with animal welfare calls.

Despite the understaffing, Austin continues to lead the country in no-kill. In March, 98% of shelter animals went to foster families, permanent homes, or third-party organizations like Austin Pets Alive!, instead of being euthanized. And Austin Animal Center's Betty Dun­kerley Campus broke ground on an infrastructure improvement project in January. Aside from bigger kennels, larger play yards for dogs, and more parking, Hammond said that AAC will be "transformed" into more of a resource center: "Services will play an expanded role in keeping pets and families together." This includes bulking up services like mobile vet vans, microchipping, and fencing assistance for residents. "Prevention is cheaper than the cost of sheltering, and pets are family members," said Hammond.

Hammond departs after two years running AAC to be the director at Best Friends Animal Society's Mid­west Region – a national organization working to make the country no-kill by 2025. Eckhardt and Com­missioners expressed their regret about losing her, and congratulated her on Austin's record-breaking no-kill achievements. Hammond responded: "We are the flagship of the nation. Thank you for your leadership. ... You all know you can call me and I'll be here."

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Tawny Hammond, Sarah Eckhardt, Austin Pets Alive, Austin Animal Center

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