We see these words listed repeatedly in reference to what you can do to help shelter animals. But what do they really mean? We wanted to take a moment and break down just how each of us can make a difference and save some lives.
Pretty self-explanatory but it’s still helpful to have a road map. Your options include city and municipal shelters, privately run non-profit shelters, and smaller rescue groups including both breed specific and varied intake. ALL of these are excellent avenues for adoption that will help save lives in your community while scoring you an awesome new best friend. We’d love to encourage you to ask about the long-stay dogs when you head out to adopt, as well as to give some thought to what you’re looking for in a companion and how you’ll make the transition to home as smooth as possible for everyone.
The adoption process varies by organization but you can likely expect a paper application and an in person interview. All shelter dogs and the vast majority of rescue dogs come already spayed/neutered, up to date on vaccines and current on heartworm preventative.
For Austinites, where can you find this adoptable companion?
–Austin Animal Center (7201 Levander Loop): This is our city shelter and is consistently packed full with everything from puppies and kittens, to adult dogs and cats of all shapes and sizes, to bunnies and even the occasional pig or rooster! You can view all adoptable animals at the shelter by clicking on the name or see their long-stay dogs via Hard Luck Hounds or their older dogs at Classic Canines!
–Austin Pets Alive! (1156 W. Cesar Chavez) and Austin Humane Society (124 W. Anderson Lane): These are Austin’s non-profit shelters and both pull directly from Austin Animal Center. APA! is the city’s largest rescue partner and operates a portion of the Town Lake Animal Center. Both are full of amazing, adoptable canines and felines!
–Love-A-Bull and the myriad other Breed Specific Rescues: Whether you’re looking for a lab, a dachshund, a border collie, a malamute, a boxer, or any other special type of canine, the rescue group for you is out there! We are giving Love-A-Bull a special shout out because they save pitties/pittie mixes which are the single most overrepresented and often euthanized breed (or breed label, to be more accurate since they are often misidentified) in shelters.
-We’d especially love you to consider adopting one of our program or class dogs!
This means giving an animal a temporary home. What type of animal and how long the home is needed can vary greatly. You may be fostering anywhere from a few days to a few months, and can have your pick of animals ranging from bottle baby kittens to adult dogs. By fostering, you expand the number of lives a shelter can save and give an animal a real home to wait in instead of a stressful shelter.
When you take home a foster dog, much of the same advice for bringing home a new resident dog still applies. Generally, the organization through whom you are fostering will handle medical care and help market your foster pet. You will be in charge of daily care like feeding, walking, and maybe some basic training (walking nicely on leash, learning to sit, potty training). Investing in an “Adopt Me!” vest, sharing your foster on social media and through word of mouth, and sending great photos and bio info for the organization to post with the animal’s profile can help your foster dog or cat find his or her home faster!
Austinite Foster Tips…
ALL of the organizations listed in the “Adopt” section are regularly looking for foster homes. Our city’s two highest volume shelters (Austin Animal Center and Austin Pets Alive!) in particular have a consistently high and urgent need for fosters. You can find their foster applications here: AAC & APA!
Never underestimate the critical importance of donating time. Your hard work and care directly helps save lives. If you are unable to bring an animal into your household as an adopted or fostered pet at this time, volunteering gives you a tangible way to still help those animals find their path from a shelter to a home. Opportunities vary greatly from dog walking, cat snuggling, shelter cleaning and basic care, fun enrichment activities, marketing, and more!
We’ve written in depth on the importance of care for shelter animals and can tell you from experience it is so very worth it.
If You Live in Austin…
You can apply to volunteer at Austin Animal Center, Austin Pets Alive!, or Austin Humane Society and find an opportunity to help that’s just the right fit for you. And, of course, we would love to have you volunteer with US! We promise, there are a ton of things to do and everyone will enjoy at least one of them!
This is slowing shelter intake at the source and is critically important to saving lives. In addition to spaying or neutering your own pet, spreading the word and making members of your community aware of low-cost spay/neuter opportunities can go a long way.
Austin Rocks at S/N!
But we need your help to do even better. We have wonderful low-cost spay/neuter and veterinary care (standard wellness, vaccination, microchipping) thanks to Emancipet and Animal Trustees. In addition to their clinic hours, Emancipet regularly hits the road to serve vulnerable populations with their mobile clinics. For those passionate about feral cats, Austin Humane Society operates an excellent TNR program. Each of these organizations succeeds with the support of not just donations and volunteers, but community engagement and participation. If your companion or that of a friend, family member, coworker, or neighbor is in need of low-cost spay/neuter or veterinary services, you have wonderful options right here in Austin.
Want to throw money at the problem? Please do! Saving lives and providing quality care does not come free. We suggest you throw that money locally to a non-profit whose mission you support and whose work you can verify. When you donate to shelter or rescue organizations, your money pays for veterinary care ranging from standard wellness and prevention to rehabilitative care for injury or illness, spay/neuter, feeding and housing of animals, equipment and care for behavior, enrichment, and training, marketing support, and more. You can also look for an organization’s wish list and make a donation of goods or services. Opening your wallet may not feel as meaningful as opening your home or giving your time, but funding is a critical part of life-saving. Plus, there’s no reason you can’t do both!
Of course your pets are spayed/neutered. Of course you’d never surrender them to the shelter. Of course you adopt instead of shop. Maybe you already volunteer your time and donate what you can. Maybe you’re on your second litter of bottle baby kitten fosters or your third adult project pup has just taken up temporary lodging in your guest room.
You can take your passion and all you’re already doing to the next level by sharing your experience with others and doing it in a positive way. Instead of thinking lecture (as tempting as it may be), think sharing the power and positivity of making a difference. Those of us who’ve been in shelter/rescue for a long time sometimes start to assume everyone knows what we know. They don’t. We didn’t always know it ourselves. Share positive experiences, guide people to resources, and help promote the wonderful dogs and cats available for shelter and rescue. Perception, communication, and knowledge all make a difference.
Where to Find Resources in Austin?
1. Low Cost Vet Care and Spay/Neuter: As we mentioned, Austin rocks at this. Head over to Emancipet or Animal Trustees and get your pet taken care of by caring professionals for little to no cost. It’s a no brainer and it’s awesome.
2. Behavior Help: If you adopted through a local shelter or rescue, contact them first to see if they provide post-adoption behavior support. The Schrodi Memorial Training Fund provides scholarships to The Canine Center for Training and Behavior, one of Austin’s best training facilities, and was founded to help owners whose finances are a barrier to behavior support.
3. Housing Help: If the challenge is breed discrimination or lack of pet friendly homes, Love-A-Bull has compiled an excellent guide on finding local housing with your dog. For general moving tips, check out this nice guide from Oregon Humane. If you just need a little comic relief, here ya go.
4. Pet Food Bank: Helps feed both owned pets and feral cat colonies.
5. Positive Alternatives to Shelter Surrender: An absolutely wonderful program run by Austin Pets Alive! to keep pets out of shelters by providing alternatives or helping with rehoming.
This means more than just educating. It means standing up. It means fighting for what you care about. It means finding the way that you personally can make your best and biggest impact. We are all most passionate about something special within our movement. For us, it’s the dogs we affectionately call naughty. In reality, they are wonderful dogs, full of potential, who just need someone to help them meet it. They are dogs who don’t have to be defined by their past; who can have a bright future that speaks to resilience, inspiration, beauty, strength, humor, and love. But they are also dogs who, in most places, don’t even have a chance. In Austin, they are the final group still consistently not making it out alive. They are our favorites. They are our passion. They are who we choose to stand up and advocate for.
We admire the runners fighting for the high-energy dogs, the nurturers fighting for the bottle babies, the suckers for cute who help socialize puppies and kittens, those who see the wisdom and beauty in the eyes of an older dog, the angels who take in hospice cases, the skilled caretakers who make medical rehabilitation possible, the big hearted fosters consistently serving as the bridge to a new life, the visionaries attacking the problem at its source through spay/neuter services and community outreach, the writers, photographers, videographers, and forces of marketing who make the animals shine, the adoption counselors and matchmakers who help animals and humans find each other, and the every day dog walkers, kennel cleaners, bowl fillers, and paperwork filers who provide the very foundation upon which the rest of us stand.
So, when we say those words that are said so often: Adopt. Foster. Volunteer. Spay/Neuter. Donate. Educate. Advocate., we are not just pushing an empty mantra. Each of those words contains within it not just meaning, but action. They all require that you do something. We’d go so far as to say that they all require you to do something great. Find the course of action that is most practical for you, but let your heart in on the plan too. Do what energizes you. Do something that matters. Help save lives and watch the incredible ways it impacts your own.