Thursday, July 19, 2012

Wednesday, July 18, Public Health and Human Services Committee meeting

July 18, 2012 Public Health and Human Services Committee Item 3: Status Report on the Animal Shelter, the Implementation Plan to Reduce Animal Intake and Increase Live Animal Outcomes, and take appropriate action (Abigail Smith, Chief Animal Services Officer).

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Monday, 7pm: Animal Issues Forum in San Marcos

This coming Monday, February 27, we will be meeting at 7pm at the San Marcos Public Library to discuss animal issues in Hays County. Everyone is invited to share their ideas for changes that are needed to current laws and practices that affect pets and their people. The forum will be facilitated by Lynda Rife who has facilitated the Austin Animal Issues Forum since 2009.

The recent case of Angel, a dog who was put to death for killing chickens, attracted a lot of media attention and requests that her life be spared. Hays County Commissioner Will Conley has proposed that the ordinance that caused Angel's death be changed and County Commissioners will be meeting again to vote on proposed changes. Monday's forum will provide an opportunity to discuss the proposed ordinance and to generate other ideas and suggestions from Hays County residents.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Serious Latin American disease is more common in Texas than thought

Austin American Statesman:

A blood-sucking insect that claims thousands of lives in Latin America each year is believed to be a greater threat in Texas than previously thought and has killed dogs and possibly some people in the state, a state health official and University of Texas researcher said this week.

They don't know how many people have been exposed to Chagas disease or might have it because doctors are not required to report the illness to health departments. But state health department official Jim Schuermann and UT researcher Sahotra Sarkar want to change that and hope to make Central Texas doctors aware of the illness.

Central and South Texas are the two highest-risk areas in the state for Chagas, according to Sarkar, a professor of integrative biology and philosophy who has been studying the disease for five years.

"It's nothing people need to panic about," said Schuermann, staff epidemiologist for vector-borne and zoonotic diseases at the Department of State Health Services. "It's not like hundreds of people are dying" in Texas.

Schuermann said he will soon ask the board that oversees the state health department, the State Health Services Council, to require reporting of Chagas. It could take six to eight months for the council to make a ruling, he said.

Chagas disease can sneak up on people like its carriers, the triatomine insects — also called "assassin bugs" or "kissing bugs" — do when they infect mammals, birds and reptiles. The bugs, which are infected from biting rodents or other animals with Chagas, are nocturnal parasites that nest in brush piles, dog houses, rodent nests, chicken coops and cracks in substandard housing. They typically infect humans by biting around the mouth or eyes to suck blood while the person sleeps. The bugs leave infectious feces behind that get rubbed into the person.

The bite can cause an allergic reaction characterized by severe redness, itching, swelling, hives, or, rarely, anaphylactic shock, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Usually, the person recovers after experiencing flu-like symptoms that can include nausea and vomiting, rash and swollen glands. But without treatment, the infection can be lifelong. The CDC said that in 20 to 30 percent of cases, the disease can reappear a decade or two later as difficulty swallowing because of an enlarged esophagus, abdominal pain because of an enlarged colon, or heart disease, including congestive heart failure or sudden cardiac arrest.

"How many heart attacks are Chagas? We really have no way of knowing," Schuermann said. "It is a leading cause of heart disease in Central America."

A blood test can tell whether a person or animal has Chagas, Schuermann said.

"Dogs can look perfectly healthy, and they'll be running around and just die," he said. Some veterinarians send the blood for testing to a lab, such as Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory, which is part of Texas A&M University and can detect Chagas.

The disease can be transmitted from person-to-person by blood transfusions, from mother to child and by transplants. Between 75 and 90 percent of the U.S. blood supply is tested for it, Schuermann said. The Blood and Tissue Center of Central Texas has been testing for Chagas since 2007, spokeswoman Andrea Lloyd said.

The kissing bug is found routinely in Central Texas, and "we are lucky we are not getting more of the transmission here," Sarkar said.

Half of the kissing bugs they've found are infected, he said, and that has raised the worry. A news release Thursday from Doctors Without Borders said that thousands of Latin Americans with Chagas will go untreated because of a shortage of benznidazole, the first-line drug that's used. The organization said up to 10 million people worldwide are infected with Chagas, and 12,500 die each year.

Sarkar was a lead author of a paper published a year ago in the journal Public Library of Science Neglected Tropical Disease that argued that the infection risk in Texas was high enough to warrant required reporting, as Arizona and Massachusetts do.

Because the disease is so little known in the United States, just seven cases have been confirmed nationally, including four in Texas and one each in California, Tennessee and Louisiana, the paper said. However, it said that one research group's estimate that 300,167 Americans might be infected is credible.; 445-3619

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Friday, October 7 Animal Issues Forum

Animal Issues Forum
Friday, October 7, 2011
12:15 - 1:45 pm
Terrazas Library
E. Cesar Chavez and Waller (just east of I-35)


12:15 - 12:30 Announcements and Introductions
12:30 - 12:45 Presentations:
Presentation 1 - Spay Street Program, Luis Herrera, Public Health Educator and Animal Cotrol Officer, Austin Animal Center (confirmed)

Presentation 2 - Creating a New "Community Fund" for:
1. Creative/Innovative Animal Projects
2. Fund Unmet Community Needs

12:45 - 1:15 Q & A and Discussion about presentations

1:15 - 1:45 Brainstorm and Plan for Next Steps:
1. Open or Closed Animal Issues Forums?
2. Focus Groups in the Community?
3. Conduct a Survey about Community Needs?
4. Start Planning a Community Fund?

Please email me at if you cannot attend the October meeting but have suggestions/ideas for the November Animal Issues Forum.

Pat Valls-Trelles

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Canadian Petland Stores to Stop Selling Puppies and Kittens

Canadian Petland Stores to Stop Selling Puppies and Kittens

September 15, 2011, 12:24PM MT
By Cathy Scott, Best Friends staff writer

Pet store chain decides to follow a humane model and work with animal rescue groups

The Petland chain is phasing out selling puppies and kittens in its stores across Canada, giving hope to those in animal welfare that it is a continuing trend. The decision marks the second Canadian chain in recent weeks to make the humane move, with PJ’s Pets recently stopping its sales of puppies and kittens.

In its announcement, Petland said it was phasing out sales at its 50-some stores in Canada. Petlands in the U.S., however, according to the chain’s corporate office, are not participating.

Elizabeth Oreck, national manager of Best Friends’ puppy mill initiatives, lauds the move. “The fact that Canada is taking such progressive steps to address the puppy mill issue,” she said, “is a really good indication that the world is taking notice of the puppy mill-pet store connection.”

That’s because it is widely believed that overpopulation and abandonment at animal shelters is made worse because of pet stores being supplied by puppy mills, where dogs are bred for profit in inhumane conditions.

“Pet stores in the U.S. have been on the same track,” Elizabeth continues, “and I believe that once the Canadian Petlands demonstrate that a pet store can be successful without supporting puppy mills, their U.S. stores will follow.”

In place of selling pets, the stores plan to instead work with and help animal rescue groups by having adoption events at their locations and even taking in rescued pets at the stores to adopt out.

Petland chief operating officer Robert Brissette, in a statement released to the media, did not acknowledge ethical reasons for phasing out the sales. Instead, he said it was, in part, because of a decline in store sales caused by people shopping online instead of in stores.

“Our business decision to end these sales was a tough one and was based on business fundamentals,” he said. That decision “reflects the fundamental change in the way consumers are sourcing and purchasing puppies, resulting in a decrease of sales within pet stores.”

Lorne Terrault, with Paradise Pet Centre in St. Albert, said he is proud to be at the head of the trend, rallying to make it happen. “It makes me feel great that we were at the start of this," Terrault told CBC Canada, noting that he was motivated by concerns about animal treatment. "We've found, so far, that it hasn't hurt our business. If anything, we're having more people coming in."


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Proposed 2011-2012 Animal Services Budget

Animal Services proposed budget for 2011-12 can be found on pages 225-227 of this pdf:

The Animal Services program’s FY 2011-12 Budget
includes an $816,662 increase for the Animal
Services Implementation Plan. This comprehensive
plan includes 5.50 new full time equivalent (FTE)
positions and several programs to assist in
maintaining live animal outcomes at 90% in the
Austin/Travis County community. In November 2011,
the new Animal Services Center will open for
operation. The FY 2011-12 Budget includes $121,441
for moving expenses, increased temporary and
overtime expenses related to the move and 1.0 FTE
to assist with the operation of the new center.
Revenue in the Animal Services program is expected
to have a net decrease of $65,510 due to the
increased number of adoption fee waivers needed to
maintain the 90% live outcome goal.

Animal Services
City Council approved the Animal Services implementation plan in an effort to increase live animal outcomes. This plan includes a new half-time Rescue/Foster Coordinator position. In addition to personnel, the plan includes funding for spay/neuter for owned cats and at rabies clinics, PARVO prevention, a feral kitten program and the Davenport Adoption Center.

The implementation plan also includes $53,500 for utilities at Town Lake Animal
Center (TLAC).
0.50 FTE $304,347

The Animal Services Implementation Plan also included a moratorium on euthanasia. As a result, Animal Services has experienced increases in costs related to personnel, food, medical and dental supplies, and cleaning supplies. The FY 2011-12 budget includes $278,588 for 5.0 FTEs and $233,727 for these increased costs.
5.00 FTEs $512,315

In the fall of 2011, the new Animal Services Center will open for operation. The FY 2011-12 Budget includes one Animal Care Worker position for the operation of the new shelter. In addition to the increased personnel, one-time increases of $76,240 are included for moving expenses, marketing, increased temporary and overtime expenses related to the move and cat carriers to transport the cats from TLAC to the new shelter.
1.00 FTE $121,441

The Animal Services Program reimburses the Austin Police Department for the detective who investigates animal cruelty violations. To cover APD's increasing cost resulting from salary adjustments for this reimbursed position, $43,238 is being added to the budget. $43,238

Additional funding is included in the FY 2011-12 Budget for increased database
maintenance cost for the Chameleon database in Animal Services. $11,520

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Animal advocate supports Kathie Tovo for City Council

Tracey Whitley, former member of the Animal Advisory Commission and current member of the animal advocacy community, wrote this statement of support for Kathie Tovo for City Council:


I want to urge you to vote in the upcoming Council election run-off. I believe that this election is critical and can sway the direction the Council takes in the future and I urge you to vote for Kathie Tovo.

Despite the fear mongering by the home builders association, Mike Levy, and the chamber, Kathie was the clear choice for me and many other folks I work with on community and environmental advocacy issues. Tovo supports public safety across the board. That TV commercial attempting to scare people into thinking Tovo opposes safety, and even suggesting that building WTPA4 would help fire fighting is, frankly, shocking. There is not a shred of truth in it. And, Tovo has served on public planning and clearly understands the difference between "no growth" and "smart growth." Tovo stands for smart growth.

Tovo supports Austin as a No Kill city and she has promised an open door to animal welfare, environmental concerns and issues dealing with the poor and homeless. I believe that this will be a true open door where the insight and perspective of citizens will be heard.

I believe in Tovo so much that I have contributed to her campaign. I believe she can make a difference. I believe she is the better choice. Please vote on Saturday, June 18th. The animals need you. The environment needs you. The homeless need you. Austin needs you to make a change and make a difference.
Tracey Whitley