Austin grants permission for shelter to sterilize animals on first visit

AUSTIN (KXAN) — City council voted to let the animal shelter spay or neuter cats and dogs the first time they show up at their door.

The ordinance is designed to help lower the number of stray pets you see on the street and alleviate overcrowding at the Austin Animal Center, aiding the city’s “No Kill” policy. This resolution asks the city manager to amend the city code and allow the animal shelter to sterilize an animal if it has been impounded at least one time, rather than the current two times. In situations where Animal Services Office (ASO) cannot meet the demand to spay/neuter animals, this resolution gives that office the ability to issue vouchers for Emancipet, other rescue partner organizations or contracted veterinarians to perform the service.

Jennifer Carroll, executive director of Wags Hope and Healing, a non-profit dog rescue in Blanco County, came to share her thoughts on the resolution at city hall Thursday.

“This affects us. We still get animals that are being dumped, we get adopters from Travis County trying to get help with the shelter can’t,” Carroll told KXAN, saying her non-profit is feeling the burden of shelters filled to the brim.

“We have a number of dogs that we have unchained or we have found stray or we’ve found deceased on the road with microchips from specifically Travis County,” she said. “When people in Austin can’t get help and we’re procreating in the streets and we’re not doing spay and neuter and we’re closing intake, they take them and they put them out in the county.”

East Austin is another area experiencing the strain. Council Member Ora Houston pointed to Austin 311 data, which shows there is a disproportionate number of stray animals east of I-35. It’s a problem she said the shelter can’t build its way out of. But Austin Pets Alive! Director Ellen Jefferson voiced concerns about resources for more sterilizations with the current wait time.

“You have to build the capacity to do that, which means hiring more veterinarians, getting more spaces to do the surgeries and I don’t think that the city has that right now,” Jefferson said. She wants to make sure pet owners are still met with education and a choice, rather than pressure to sterilize.

Amendments to the resolution require the animal shelter to wait three days until going ahead with the surgery, allowing owners time to claim their pets at the shelter. It also says animals will not be fixed if they’re too old or not healthy enough for surgery. If the shelter is too crowded the surgery won’t happen. KXAN couldn’t find an estimate on how much this new measure will cost, but last year the shelter says Austin and Travis County set aside around $550,000 to sterilize animals. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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