Overcrowding, heat concerns grow at Austin Animal Center

A broken Portacool fan during triple-digit heat has only highlighted ongoing space and resource issues at the Austin Animal Center.

"I would definitely say these conditions are inhumane, dogs sitting in crates for 23.5 hours a day, smushed together as much as we can fit crates. They're lining our hallways. They are lined in that storage area," said the center's marketing coordinator Stephanie McCutcheon when FOX 7 Austin visited the shelter on June 15. "We're seeing so many more dogs, less adoptions and dogs staying here longer. So that all formulates kind of into the crisis that we're in right now."

Council member Mackenzie Kelly had toured right before the June heat wave hit.

"I was looking ahead and thinking that I wouldn't treat my own worst enemy in that regard, and I wouldn't want the animals to be in those conditions either," said Council member Kelly.


Responding last week to a memo sent by Councilmember Kelly, Chief Animal Services Officer Don Bland noted that the Austin Animal Center opened in 2011 with space to accommodate 309 dogs and 165 cats. Austin adopted a no-kill policy in 2010.

As of June 12, 2023, there were 562 dogs and 669 cats at the shelter. Bland also pointed out that "the intake of large dogs continues to outpace outcomes."

In 2021, the shelter launched an out-of-state transport program to make more room. Also in 2021, an Animal Advisory Commission working group issued a report with recommendations.

The detailed report noted delays with spaying and neutering pets and issues with the out-of-state transport program.

However, ASO staff pushed back on some of the claims in a response, saying the main issues were the following: long-stay medium/large dogs, intake of "owned" strays, a decline in pulls from partners and a lack of microchipped pets.

In recent years, overall intakes at the Austin Animal Center have actually gone down. However, adoptions have also gone down, as have transfers to other facilities.

Here is a look at some of the numbers according to the Austin Animal Center dashboard:

Intakes Per Fiscal Year (Dogs/Cats)

  • 2018-19: 34,274
  • 2019-20: 29,446
  • 2020-21: 21,345
  • 2021-22: 22,320

Adoptions Per Fiscal Year (Dogs/Cats)

  • 2018-19: 17K
  • 2019-20: 15K
  • 2020-21: 12K
  • 2021-22: 13K

Transfers to Other Organizations Per Fiscal Year (Dogs/Cats)

  • 2018-19: 8,408 (5,881 to Austin Pets Alive!)
  • 2019-20: 7,345 (5,130 to Austin Pets Alive!)
  • 2020-21: 5,049 (3,353 to Austin Pets Alive!)
  • 2021-22: 5,267 (2,989 to Austin Pets Alive!)

In 2022, Austin City Council passed a resolution based on the working group recommendations, mandating a new audit that is expected to be completed in August.

The last audit was done in 2015.

Currently, intake is closed at the Austin Animal Center due to overcrowding. Adoption fees are being waived to encourage adoptions and fosters.

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