Austin 'No-Kill' advocates urge City to listen up after tragedy at Animal Center

"I want to make very clear: Austin's "no-kill status" as the largest no-kill City in America is at risk,” said Austin attorney Ryan Clinton.

A coalition of Austin no-kill advocates filled City Hall's media room Friday morning, led by Clinton who helped draft many of the city's no-kill policies a decade ago.

The group is urging the City to re-open the recruitment and hiring process for Austin's next Chief Animal Services Officer.

"The process this time deliberately excluded key stakeholders," Clinton said.  

The finalists for the job are Don Bland and Linda Cadotte.

Bland is the Executive Director of the Humane Society of Central Texas.  Cadotte is Director of Parks, Recreation and Forestry in Superior, Wisconsin.

"The two candidates have experience but in communities that are a small fraction of the size of Austin's whereas there are people who did apply -- who were for whatever reason excluded from the finalists who do have experience in large cities," Clinton said.

The City says they went through a nationwide recruiter -- a spokesperson saying the City is "...proud of the final two candidates and knows that both of them are seasoned public service professionals with a passion for animal care."

"Of course the City Management is going to put out a press release that says everything's fine, don't worry about it," Clinton said.  

Animal welfare advocates have already been concerned about what they see as a downward trend in save rates since the beginning of this year.

Clinton told the story of Marley, a healthy dog surrendered to the Austin Animal Center this week.

"It turns out, as Austin Animal Center correctly diagnosed, that Marley was pregnant so by her size she probably had about 8 puppies inside her," Clinton said.

"The policy is that that pet is then -- they notify "rescue" to see if they'll take the animal because it's not good for a very pregnant pet to give birth in the shelter," said Larry Tucker, former Chair of the Austin Animal Advisory Commission.  

Clinton and Tucker say Austin Pets Alive! made arrangements to take Marley.

But the Animal Center ended up spaying the dog, aborting the puppies...before Austin Pets Alive! had a chance to come get her.

An Austin Animal Center spokesperson tells Fox 7 "The spaying of Marley was an unfortunate result of human error. The Austin Animal Center veterinarian staff does follow a standard operating procedure of scheduling animals who are not confirmed on by the deadline, for surgery the following day.  A miscommunication occurred, causing staff to schedule Marley one day early.  This situation has helped us identify a weakness in the communication process with our partner, and we will be implementing additional safeguards to ensure this does not happen again.”

"Similar to the Marley situation, what we find is the protocols, policies and procedures that advocates wrote in conjunction with the City of Austin are now being ignored," Tucker said.  

Council Member Leslie Pool who recently spearheaded increasing the City's no-kill rate to 95% sent out a statement saying in part "What happened yesterday at our Animal Services Center is unconscionable - long-standing procedures weren't followed - and it is now imperative that we get the right shelter director to ensure that Austin's important no kill policies are not only protected but deepened and expanded."