AUSTIN, Texas - A local nonprofit that helps with Austin's lost and found pets has started a foster program because the Animal Center is no longer accepting non-emergency intakes. On Tuesday, one of their fosters was bitten by a dog and hospitalized, so they are asking the city to help them assess stray animals before placing them.
"We need some sort of animal behaviorist or some sort of help to be able to get this properly done,” said Rachel Bullion, administrator for Austin Lost and Found Pets.
Since the City of Austin issued a stay home order, the Austin Animal Center has only sent animal control officers to pick up sick, injured or dangerous animals.
“You’re asking that person to go out and visit with 10 or 15 people a day. So you’re taking that employee and putting them out there in close proximity with all these other strangers, so I don’t think that that’s very fair to the employees,” said Don Bland, chief animal services officer for the City of Austin.
Now, If someone finds an animal, they are asked to do everything they can to find the owner or leave it where they found it so it can find its own way home
"89% of the animals that are found, are found within the neighborhood where they live. 50% of those people that found those animals were finding those owners of those animals, and, if the animal is picked up and brought to the shelter, we only find 18% of those owners,” Bland said.
“They are telling you to take care of it personally, financially, or to leave that animal to essentially die. They don’t say that, but they’re saying, ‘Leave it where it is.' And that animal will die if it’s not taken care of,” said Bullion.
Austin Animal Center directs people who find an animal to get it checked for a microchip, post on Nextdoor and contact Austin Lost and Found Pets. Bland said it seems to be working.
"I think this model is something that we should morph into something that is permanent so that we can continue to successfully get more animals back home,” Bland said.
"I don’t know where he thinks the success is. In the fact that they don’t have to deal with it?” said Bullion.
Bullion said caring for the unclaimed animals is falling into ALFP's laps.
"I personally have been tagged about five to 10 times a day, and that’s not including the people that are finding animals and keeping them themselves or finding appropriate measures themselves,” Bullion said.
Bullion created a small foster program to bridge the gap.
“And these animals are not being assessed whatsoever for behavioral issues and now we’ve had a foster attacked,” said Bullion. That foster was bitten by a Husky and had to go to the hospital to get stitches.
“Why would another organization take it upon themselves to take over as animal control and house these animals? Why are they taking them instead of letting the citizens, say, find it’s home on their own?” Bland said.
Bullion agrees animals are better off at home than in a shelter, but her main concern is what happens to dogs and cats that don't make it home or don't have one.
“They’re saying that they’re usually within 1000 feet of their home, but I know from experience over the past four years that that’s not true. Especially being the case that a lot of animals are being dumped right now,” said Bullion.
“So a lot of people perceive dogs to be stray and dumped when really they’re not. So until we get more data, I have a hard time believing that there’s that many people that really just dump dogs,” Bland said.
Bland said once the city's stay-home order is lifted, 50 fire stations and 20 parks and recreation centers will be able to scan for microchips to help find a pet's owner.
Bullion said the rescue community needs more help than that. “We are doing everything we possibly can and it’s been overwhelming,” said Bullion.
To report a lost or found pet, or donate to Austin Lost and Found Pets, visit their website.
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