Written June 26, 2020

How are the models of animal sheltering changing at AAC?

This is an update to the 6/22 post. 

INTAKE OF HEALTHY STRAYS

There are many individuals and groups that have been involved in reporting these issues for quite some time. This update reflects the portions Classic Canines has been involved with.

There are two key points of contention:


 1. The turnaway and lag time in taking healthy strays from finders that can not hang on to them. 

2. Animal service authorization and reporting for transparency in governance.

AAC has been asking finders since the start of the pandemic to do their very best to find pet owners in their neighborhoods and make shelter intake a last resort. They have provided many resources to support this effort. We fully understand and support this. 

However every good thing has exceptions and finders sometimes can not hang on to a found pet and can't keep them safe by leaving them where they were found. Before the shelter closed, the finder would simply bring the animal to the shelter during business hours or they can request a pickup through the 311 system. Now that the shelter is closed, AAC has implemented a new service type that circumvents usage of the 311 service ticket, requiring an intake appointment that can be dated far out into the future. This is a serious hardship for a finder who can't hang on to an animal. We do not know if this new service type has been approved for use overall by the COA and Asst City Manager Shorter, but assume it has been in order to be referenced on a COA website. 

As of today, references are found here: http://www.austintexas.gov/department/lost-found-pet

http://www.austintexas.gov/content/austin-animal-center

We looked at shelter capacity on 6/25 to determine if there was an imminent space problem and found 41% of capacity is in use and 66 found dogs were with finders. We understand that staffing is constrained during a hiring freeze, and also constrained in count during the reopening process and has to be balanced with humans onsite for adoption and foster purposes. Together all staff and advocates continue to work toward solutions to get animals to fosters, adopters and rescues. Still, we think there is room for a middle ground in making sure at least the most urgent of cases are taken into the safety of sheltering.

In regards to point 2-the reporting angle, we give an update on these stats posted on 6/22:

 "Found Animal - Pick Up"

Data for 3/16 thru 6/20

(note: unaudited)

Number of requests: 251

Average pickup response time: 1.4 days

Number of requests completed > 3 calendar days: 22

Number completed < 30 minutes (maybe done onsite?): 16

Longest time to complete: 6.7 days

Number currently open: 12 (7 current & 5 very aged)

The rest were completed in the average 1.4 days

We had shared: What we don't know is how many of the those tickets actually produced an animal to take to the shelter and how many animals had moved elsewhere by the time the ticket was serviced. 

What we found this week is these tickets are closed without pickup in most, or all cases. Read on...

We set out this week to understand the various complaints of the intake process. First we needed to understand how it was being initiated and why some residents still showed up at the shelter and why some used the 311 system and why others seemed to get stuck in a lengthy surrender appointment situation.  With walk up stray intake service closed, the city's 311 system is still available for initiating various animal service ticket types. These can be called in or placed via desktop or mobile application.


We looked first at Austin Lost and Found Pets page where much of the hard work of pet reunification occurs and found instructions had not been updated reflecting the shelters closure. It indicated the usual "open" procedures, advising residents could take found dogs directly onsite. They are working to find the right resource to make the update. It went on to include the correct references for residents to use specific 311 ticket types for those who planned to help find the owner and those who needed a pickup.

Next we looked at AAC's messaging and found their own website was diverting residents away from the 311 ticket types, instead advising residents with found animals they could not hold to submit a request for an appointment on their website.  

We had already reviewed the 311 tickets for FOUND DOG PICKUP and found 251 tickets. They took, on average, 1.4 days to result in ticket closure. However the shelter management has disclosed they are not actually picking up healthy animals through that process. This diverts the servicing away from the approved city methods that are transparent, traceable and potentially used for resourcing and budgeting. 

These discrepancies were shared with the AAC management team the week of 6/22. As of 6/26 we are awaiting an answer, if and when AAC will revert it's instruction to use the proper 311 ticket type and operate under that ticket until it's service is fulfilled or canceled by the requestor.  

It's our hope that these two central issues that leave a vulnerable portion of Austins' stray pets under serviced, get resolved quickly, during trying times that force a delicate balance of human and pet safety during a pandemic. The sooner this is resolved, the sooner we can collectively focus on getting pets to owners, fosters, adopters, rescues while feeling confident the shelter services remain available for the animals most in need of them. Stay tuned.

Now, for that bit of good news! Chimchurri has been adopted and has a new dad! Happy tails to this sweet girl who was so afraid when she first arrived. Thanks to staff for taking the time to work with her and make her more comfortable since we can't be there. 

 

Written June 22, 2020

How are the models of animal sheltering changing at AAC?

This is an update to the 6/18 post. 

INTAKE OPERATIONS ITEMS

We participated in a volunteer live video session on Friday 6/19 with Don Bland, AAC Executive Director, and Mark Sloat, Program Manager-Animal Protection. The meeting was called by staff to address many questions from volunteers about possible changes to the shelter intake models after it was discovered AAC had participated in AMPA planning efforts of the HASS initiatives https://americanpetsalive.org/human-animal-support-services

Questions as to if AAC were planning to operate as a pilot shelter in the American Pets Alive HASS initiatives was asked, and the answer to that was "no", that the shelter already applies many of the procedures that are being rolled out to the HASS shelter pilots. From what we can see, AAC has been a lead model for the HASS initiatives. Many of the playbooks reflect current AAC procedures and nomenclature

Volunteers were assured that intake procedures used pre-COVID, would be the same post-COVID, essentially that walk up services for intake would be permitted again once the shelter was fully open.

Don Bland indicated that the shelter is not deemed as an essential services provider under the state guidelines but is by FEMA guidelines. It's worthwhile to note that the shelter has been following the state's guidelines of office occupancy during COVID re-opening phases, using this to determine to manage count of people onsite. 

Don and Mark presented reasons why attempts to reunite animals in their neighborhood should be exhausted as possible, noting that recent data collected showed this to be far more successful than reuniting at the shelter, with the most effective means for reuniting coming via microchip, NextDoor, Austin Lost & Found Pet page & other listing services. 

Don Bland was asked if there was any collaboration with Austin Lost and Found Pets at the start of the COVID crisis. He indicated there had not been, indicating they have an unofficial working relationship.  We feel it's important to mention here also, Classic Canines was also not any part of the collaboration either and has not been proactively reached out to for special project needs or throughout this crisis. We feel the AAC team can do better in engaging their volunteer and partner programs.

There were many questions and concerns regarding intake servicing, especially where a finder can not keep an animal in their home long enough to find the owners. The city has a pre-defined service level of 3 business days for picking up a confined animal and this is troublesome for those who can't keep the loose pet confined that long. Mark Sloat indicated that calls are now being made to those parties to triage and help determine how long they can keep the pet in their care. 

We pulled statistics from the COA public data portal to take a look at intakes,  to determine if all intake types were still being serviced for the time period of the shelter's closure on 3/16/2020 through 6/20/2020.

Here are the counts we found.

(note: unaudited)

Type/Condition    DOG    CAT
Stray                    410     470
Surrender             165      87
Normal                 388    299
Sick                        52      77
Aged                        8       1
Feral                                 6
Injured                  93    109
Medical                  9        5
Nursing                25      59
Pregnant                          1
Total-->              575    557


Next we went to the COA public data portal to look at 311 tickets created for 

 "Found Animal - Pick Up". This is one of the largest complaint areas due to the problems described above, a finder can't keep a pet and isn't permitted to drop them off at the shelter and must wait for Animal Control to respond to the 311 ticket, find someone else to take over the care of the animal or in some cases they may be letting the  animal loose again. 

-------------------------------------------

 "Found Animal - Pick Up"

Data for 3/16 thru 6/20

(note: unaudited)

Number of requests: 251

Average pickup response time: 1.4 days

Number of requests completed > 3 calendar days: 22

Number completed < 30 minutes (maybe done onsite?): 16

Longest time to complete: 6.7 days

Number currently open: 12 (7 current & 5 very aged)

The rest were completed in the average 1.4 days

What we don't know is how many of the those tickets actually produced an animal to take to the shelter and how many animals had moved elsewhere by the time the ticket was serviced. 

Animal Control is now calling those who submit these ticket types in order to check in and better prioritize these. 

We have no visibility to intake surrender appointments and how long those are taking to complete and are asking for access to that information so we can become more proactive in preparing for senior dogs that require rehoming.

FOSTER/ADOPTION OPERATIONS:

Due to the need for scheduled appointments for foster and adopter interests to meet dogs onsite, both are slower than usual, but were recently increased to 4 per hour from 2 per hour. This scheduling is due to AAC using the state's office occupancy limits for how many persons can be in the building at a given time.

We have seen 2 recent cases where senior dogs had to to stay onsite longer than necessary.

This occurred when a foster pickup appointment is made, and an adoption appointment is made before the foster pickup actually occurs. Adoptions take preference over foster commitments. Instead of allowing the dog to be released to the foster and the adopter to follow up with the foster, the dog is being kept onsite for the adoption appointment. This has left senior dogs in the shelter longer, ranging from a few hours,  to a day longer than needed. Our goal is to get them out as quickly as possible and we've asked AAC to consider that a mutual goal. 

For those waiting for foster and adoption appointments, please know they will take additional time to schedule. 

Classic Canines is having a redefining and refining moment as sheltering is in a constant state of flux. We continue to look at where services are needed the most, and be part of a solution to fill those needs. Stay tuned.

 

Written June 18, 2020

What happened when Austin Animal Center closed their doors to the public on March 16th.


The pandemic brought with it Stay At Home orders that left Austin Animal Center closed to the public and volunteers, leaving hundreds of animals in the shelter to be cared for by a smaller crew of essential workers. In an "all hands on deck", the on site staff and remote staff and volunteers set out to get most of the animals out of the shelter to foster homes. It was a frenzied time. Within about 2 weeks every senior dog onsite, 28 of them, were placed.


With the shelter closed to the public, stray and owner surrender animals could no longer be brought directly to the shelter doors by residents. Servicing was requested via the 311 system with residents opting to either keep an animal and help locate the owner, or report a found animal and request a pickup if they could not participate in finding the animals home. Animal Control officers were dispatched first to the most needy animals, the sick, the injured and dangerous animals. Healthy found animals and owner surrenders were serviced as a low priority, time permitting, in order to reduce human to human contacts and to use less kennel space and essential workers at the shelter. Our founder confirmed those emergency procedures with shelter staff and discussed those implications in March with the ALFP (Austin Lost and Found Pets) founder and stepped up monitoring of their page, as well as the APA PASS (Positive Alternatives to Shelter Surrender), to be ready to be of assistance to senior dogs that may be under served due to these temporary procedures. We shared posts as we could, for dogs in need from either of these services and offered vetting assistance for 4 finders and/or rescues that stepped up to help.  Note is made there was no active collaboration made by the AAC regarding any of the shelter's emergency servicing plans. Although disappointed for the lack of coordination, we understood these were emergency and temporary procedures. 

The impact of the pandemic to our medical sponsorship program

Classics was handling 25 active cases when the pandemic started, and has continued to stretch to take in sick and injured seniors that arrive to the shelter with urgent needs. We've done this without the benefit of being able to evaluate behavior and condition directly in person. In essence, our operations continue with light adjustment. As of today we have sponsored medical care for 74 senior dogs so far this year. 49 of those dogs have completed care and 25 are currently in progress. While demand for service has continued, our medical partners, like all veterinarian clinics, restricted their services according to priority, to ensure adequate staffing would be available, in order to service the most pets. Servicing moved out of the lobbies and exam rooms to curbside drop off and pick up with heavily gowned, gloved and masked staff meeting dogs that were already very unsure and scared. The friendliness of the technicians made it so much better for them. Surgery schedules have been impacted from time to time. Some routine services have been deferred. Our partners have done a great job through a challenging time to balance our dogs' needs with those of their private clients. We are so glad they were considered essential services. For the segment of Classics dogs that are serviced by the AAC's own medical team, they also constrained some services that could wait and engaged more in telemedicine and split into teams.

As the shelter gradually re-opens following the governor and city's plans

Occupancy is limited to a small contingency of staff and foster and adoption visitors, permitting 2 visitors per hour and throttling intake of a small number of surrenders daily which are served from appointments made well in advance. Volunteers are not yet permitted on site as all slots for 25% and 50% occupancy are being used by critical staff and adopter/foster visitors. There is no open reporting on finder intake appointments or surrender appointments. We don't know if people are waiting 6 days or 6 weeks and are asking to get access to this data in order to be more proactive on the front end. Residents have been asked to refrain from surrendering their pet to the shelter and are encouraged to use traditional sources and  2 primary sources  - the APA PASS program, and the AdoptAPet Rehome program. These are published on the shelter website. It's not known if any of the shelter's 190+ rescue partners were notified of these changes in order to look in new places for animals to pull into their programs. It's significant to note animals re-homed in this manner will be largely not vetted, not necessarily micro chipped, may be intact, may not have current vaccines including the most important, a rabies vaccine. 

Next Steps in Re-Opening

Re-opening plans are re-evaluated by the city every 28 days and depending upon COVID hospitalizations, the shelter can be in any phase for an extended period of time. As the reopening plans occupancy rates are gradually increased, at some point volunteers will be permitted back, possibly in a priority role ordering first. At this time we realistically don't expect this to happen before August.


There has also been discussion by shelter management if some of these emergency COVID time frame animal servicing changes will become permanent in order to eliminate the significant overcrowding the shelter experienced during normal operations. Reducing intake would arguably reduce illness in the shelter animal population and offer a better quality of sheltering to those onsite and allow the shelter to continue to reach high no kill outcomes of 98% and not have to make quality versus quantity choices such as dropping back to a minimum service level of 95% in order to reduce illness and maintain quality of life. These are all very valid shared concerns.


 

What it all Means for Classic Canines Mission

Classic Canines core mission is based on creating a shorter, less traumatic, safe and sound path home, with fewer stops, for senior dogs, while reducing tax payer cost associated with shelter kenneling. 

Classic Canines is pursuing these efforts to ensure we can continue servicing Austin's homeless senior dogs today while building services that can also be tapped into by others as well. 

1. In order to participate in a given shelter, every senior dog must have equal opportunity for a safe outcome whether ill, injured or healthy. 

2. We ask for inclusion and transparency to changes in shelter service models moving forward. This helps us be proactive to evaluate how our servicing may need to change to help. We support ALL stakeholders and partners being engaged as solution partners.

3. We ask for ongoing access to upcoming surrender appointments and finder intake appointments so we can begin working on solutions for these requests ahead of the senior dog arrival.

4. Classic Canines will develop and offer a standardized re-homing form for senior dogs on our web site, that will be used to create posts on our social media platforms, for senior re-homing requests. The new form will offer a senior- tailored and localized solution that can complement the use of the ADOPTAPET Rehome program.  

5. Classic Canines will require AAC Volunteer Coordinator assistance in helping promote and fill our open volunteer roles from within the shelter's volunteer pool.


6. Classic Canines will start a search to add a board member that has  community service experience within the animal welfare sector.

7. Classic Canines will pursue local and national grant and service provider partners to provide standardized senior wellness services. A wellness package would then be issued for use in re-homing situations, thereby avoiding shelter surrenders, and for encouraging adoption of senior dogs in kill shelters in the Austin-surrounding areas, helping reduce senior dogs brought in from outside of jurisdiction.  Services included in the package would cover vetting, vaccinations, microchip insertion, and spay/neuter services. 

These items are subject to change upon further discussion with the Austin Animal Center executive team. Check back for updates.

 

Classic Canines Summary of Services for 2019

A look at our accomplishments, revenue and expense for the year.

 

PO Box 142762

Austin, TX 78714

©2020 by Classic Canines, Inc.