Commission takes over Austin’s code regarding animal abortions during sterilization procedures

AUSTIN (KXAN) – Should the city of Austin rescind a 2019 section of the city code that prohibits the Austin City Shelter from neutering a visibly pregnant animal (unless medically necessary) until relief groups had a chance to intervene? This is something the Austin Animal Advisory Board recently considered.

“I work very hard and have taken extreme measures of which I am quite proud to save the lives of puppies and kittens, but it is very different from the experienced vets and animal welfare workers at the shelter who make people say they can’t make a decision anymore about a pregnant cat or dog,” said Dr. Paige Nilson, a rescue veterinarian who works with the Austin Animal Center. She furthered discussion at a committee meeting last month.

Nilson said the rule contributes to the overcrowding problem at the shelter, and while puppies and kittens can be quickly adopted, additional animals impact city services. She also said it has an impact on people who tend to cat colonies and who try to bring in cats to be spayed and neutered so colonies don’t grow.

“When members of the public bring them into the shelter to do the right thing, to have them neutered or neutered, because of this order, they’re sometimes told, ‘I’m sorry. You did the right thing. for your city, but because this cat is pregnant, your municipal shelter cannot provide you with the services for which you brought this cat here,” Nilson said.

This often means that people bringing pregnant animals to the city shelter have a choice: allow the animals to be offered to other shelters, which will allow the animal to give birth and try to adopt the babies, or to return and collect the animal without sterilization.

One of the groups in Austin that would be informed of a possible neutering of a pregnant animal would be Austin Pets Alive!, which sees the problem a little differently.

“We have several studies that show there are a lot more adopters than we could possibly have enough pets for, and most adopters want puppies and kittens, so that just doesn’t have a lot of sense for us to know why this is even taking place. discussed,” said Dr. Ellen Jefferson, President and CEO of APA!

Jefferson said APA! welcomes 100% of pregnant cats and female dogs that the city shelter offers them and that these puppies and kittens do not stay long at the shelter.

“The code simply directs the city shelter not to neuter any visibly pregnant animal until rescue groups have had a chance to take that animal. It doesn’t require them not to neuter that animal, it just requires them to give notice,” Jefferson said.

APA! told KXAN that they’ve taken 21 pregnant cats to the Austin Animal Center so far in 2022, resulting in the birth of 73 kittens. They also took in 16 pregnant dogs from ACC, who had nearly 100 puppies.

“We have no problem getting puppies up for adoption, we’ve never raised puppies in our facility and stayed there forever and all of our kittens are adopted as well,” Jefferson said.

But Nilson said this city code imposes an unnecessary restriction on a procedure often recommended by a shelter professional, or delays the process of that procedure.

“We need to make decisions about this based on our experience and specialized training and we don’t need laws that prevent us from making the right decisions for cats and dogs and people in our community,” she said.

A spokesperson for the Austin Animal Center said that, per the 2019 order, they did not spay any pregnant females at the shelter.

“From time to time, an animal will give birth here at the shelter before being picked up; sometimes the family is ultimately not recovered by a rescue. This means that if we cannot find a foster home, the puppies or kittens are accommodated at the shelter for up to 2 months,” the spokesperson wrote.

The commission rejected a resolution by Nilson to forward the possible change to the Austin City Council, but Nilson said it’s a conversation that will continue to be had.

“I think it’s a discussion worth having and I think it’s a discussion people are interested in and I’m definitely going to talk about it more,” Nilson said.