Local animal shelter Austin Pets Alive! calls on community for help, extra foster volunteers

Sarah Brager, Life & Arts Reporter

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in the August 2, 2022 flipbook.

When warned about potential power outages across Texas earlier this month due to the extreme heat, local animal shelter Austin Pets Alive! wasted no time asking community members to temporarily foster pets on short notice. Suzie Chase, APA! community relations officer, said Austinites responded without hesitation, picking up over 50 animals within 48 hours and adopting some as permanent family members.

“This community is the most dog-loving and generous community that I have ever heard of,” Chase said. “They were picking up dogs without even knowing what they were getting.”

While Texas is no longer threatened by power outages according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, Chase said daily triple-digit temperatures make pet care more challenging. As a result, APA! continues to ask community members to foster higher-risk pets, such as senior and disabled animals, for around two weeks, so the shelter can regulate resources, ease demands on volunteers and keep pets out of the heat.

“We have fans, swamp coolers and misters to help animals stay cool, but there is always a risk of going into crisis mode if there’s a power outage,” Chase said. “Fortunately, we have not had one on our campus in 2022, but it’s something that we’re always preparing for.” 

Chase said after the 2021 winter storm that left many Texans without power, APA! realized it needed an urgent foster system for emergencies. Many Austinites fostered pets for the first time during the freeze and now continue to foster on a regular basis, Chase said. With newer APA! programs like Dog N’ Dash, a matchmaking system that connects animals with foster families overnight, people can easily help pets find a safe place to stay. 

Psychology junior Caitlyn Petescia said she adopted her cat George from APA! earlier this summer, creating an instant, inseparable bond. She said she was familiar with APA! before meeting George, so the decision to adopt from the shelter was easy. 

“Before meeting George, I wasn’t actively thinking about (adoption),” Petescia said. “After meeting him, I was like, ‘Okay, that’s going to be my cat.’” 

While adoption isn’t an option for everyone, Petescia said there are other ways for students and other Austinites to help APA!, such as donations and volunteering. 

“You can easily go (to the shelter) and help out or just play with pets to give them affection and socialization,” Petescia said. “Volunteering is a great way to be involved (with APA!), and it’s great for us because we’re giving back to the community.” 

APA! encourages community members to get involved in four primary ways: fostering, adoption, volunteering and donations. With about 350 animals to care for, staff and volunteers work tirelessly, and Dawn Dickerson, a dog behavior volunteer at APA!, said in an email that more fosters and potential adopters would significantly alleviate extra demands due to the hot weather. 

“Excessively high temperatures have been physically hard on (staff and volunteers),” Dickerson said. “We often cannot do as many outdoor tasks as we normally would, and we have to take more breaks to make sure we’re staying hydrated and don’t experience heat exhaustion.” 

With months remaining of scorching Texas heat, Chase said APA! urges community members to consider short-term fosters and help protect both the pets and their caretakers. 

“Triple-digit weather can seriously impact the animals,” Chase said. “If we can get more pets into homes, even if it’s on a temporary basis, that will help out all of the operations here on campus.”