For the first time in its history, the Austin Animal Center has reached a 99 percent live release rate for both dogs and cats.
In a memo to city leaders last week, interim Chief Animal Services Officer Lee Ann Shenefiel said 99.5 percent of dogs and 99 percent of cats that came into the office’s care were not put down.
In July, when the center reached the milestone, 862 dogs and 733 cats came into the facility.
“This achievement is due to the community, volunteers, partners and staff,” Shenefiel said. “Without their support, the pets at Austin Animal Center would remain within our system, and live outcomes would be jeopardized.”
City data show that live outcomes — which include animals that are returned to their owners, adopted or transferred to rescue groups or other organizations — have improved since at least 2011, when the live outcome rate at city shelters was 88 percent.
The total live release rate has fluctuated in 2018, dipping as low as 96.4 percent in April, when live outcomes for cats fell below 90 percent.
The average live release rate for this year through July is just under 98 percent, city data show.
“Austin is seen as a leader in animal welfare by peer groups and cities across the nation. Representatives from shelters across the nation and as far away as New Zealand contact and visit the AAC to learn about our operations and implement innovative programs that promote live outcomes,” Shenefiel said in the memo.
Animal Services spokeswoman Jennifer Olohan said animals that die at the facility are usually injured or sick when they arrive. Officials have collaborated with other organizations, such as Austin Pets Alive and the Austin Humane Society, to care for those animals to bring their overall live release rate up.
Since the animal center is an open intake facility, authorities can’t pick and choose which animals come in or consider such factors as breed, behavior or health.
“We’ve been seeing increases so (99 percent) wasn’t necessarily a surprise. I think when we all saw it and realized, we were really excited,” Olohan said. “We’re humbled, and we’re grateful to the community because we couldn’t do it otherwise.”
Austin Animal Shelter live release rates
2011: 88 percent
2012: 90 percent
2013: 93 percent
2014: 94 percent
2015: 94 percent
2016: 97 percent
2017: 97 percent