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Austin Pets Alive struggles to keep no-kill policy due to lack of funding

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Austin Pets Alive says the city is in danger of losing its no kill status. The non-profit group says more animals may be put down unless more money comes in. But the city says there's no bite behind that bark.

It's easier to start with what Austin Pets Alive and the city agree on both facilities are over capacity and both want to maintain a no kill status in Austin.

A higher than expected rescue rate for Austin Pets Alive is one reason the non-profit says it's having money issues. Austin Pets Alive says a surprise inspection by the Texas State Department of Health discovered cracks in kennels and gave the group until October 2013 to resurface all of them. The third factor in the group's money woes is its losing $12,000 a month from the city.

"Our budgeting from this year was set for 5,000 animals total and we have over extended ourselves, we keep taking in more and more animals and it's not sustainable for us to keep doing this without funding either from the city or public," said Ellen Jefferson, Executive Director of Austin Pets Alive.

Jefferson says if they can't raise money for repairs, more animals will be euthanized, and therefore risk the city's no kill status. The city isn't buying that.

"I don't foresee that," said Deputy Chief Animal Service Officer Chris Noble.

Noble says as for the repairs, those are not a surprise. That's why the city built the new facility in east Austin. He also says getting city approval for repairs on park land where watershed issues are in play won't be easy.

"There are certain hurdles, especially being in a watershed area as far as construction issues particularly with subterrainal drains at that facility and as far as soil contamination and run off," said Noble.

Jefferson says an unusually busy summer has continued and forced Austin Pets Alive to dip into its reserves. But that's not enough to stop the group from taking in animals from other counties.

"We take animals from surrounding counties and we only take puppies and highly adoptable animals and there's a certain adopter demand for puppies and if they don't find that demand, they're going to go puppy mills and buying animals," said Jefferson. Puppies actually draw adopters in and we may be able to say ‘hey have you thought about this dog instead?'"

Since January, Austin Pets Alive says it has saved more than 4,000 animals. Without help from the community, Jefferson is concerned that number will go down.

Noble says the city's center will do what it takes, including doubling up in kennels and working harder with partner groups. Noble says they had planned on getting its 60 kennels out of Austin Pets Alive by next October.

"We will have to leave, on or before that date," said Noble.

Jefferson says they are operating day to day. They saved animals today, but tomorrow is another story.

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