Keeping Austin Weird and Dog Friendly

By Emma Bittner

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When college students see a dog or any animal for that matter, we all kind of stop and gawk. It’s a normal reaction. We’ve all left our pets at home to go walk to class in the rain and write papers until midnight with only the company of our roommate snoring.


So, needless to say, when I walked into Austin Pets Alive I stopped and gawked. There were dogs everywhere ready to be loved, and there were even cats pawing you through their cages. I was in heaven. Leaving my cat to go to college was probably the hardest thing I’ve done. You go from having your pet with you nearly all the time, to never,


As college students move to their own apartments and start to get pets of their own or even just want to play with some animals every now and then, Austin Pets Alive’s door is always open. Austin Pets Alive has made a deep impact on the community and is easily recognized as a prominent Austin organization.



Cookie, one of Austin Pets Alive’s adoptable dogs.


“I first heard about Austin Pets Alive because of their thrift store, which is a cool extra way of them to earn money because they are a non-profit,” said Rachel May, a sophomore at UT who recently adopted from Austin Pets Alive. “I already really loved the idea of Austin Pets Alive, helping animals that were previously in a near death spot and now giving them a forever home.”


Even though Austin Pets Alive is well known for their thrift store with set prices, $5 grab bags and having some cute pups running around while you shop, they are more known for their goal as an organization. This is Austin’s 7th year as the largest no-kill city in the nation and Austin Pets Alive plays a huge role in earning this title.


When Austin Pets Alive was first formed by a small group of volunteers, the save rate in Austin was 71%, and now is closer to 90%. This rate rose so much because Austin Pets Alive prioritizes animals on euthanasia lists at other shelters nearby.  They take them in and give them either the medical and behavioral attention needed to be adopted out soon.


“It is important for people to understand the types of dogs we take in,” said Ariana Garza, Austin Pets Alive Dog Adoption Manager. “We have a lot of dogs due to space reasons, dogs that are good with kids and highly adoptable. We also take in a lot of medical cases. These cases require consistent medical care or a foster, and may still have severe medical issues that are not cured. Additionally, we have a lot of behavior dogs that are at risk for euthanasia.”


A new kitten available at Austin Pets Alive.


Adopting isn’t always the first idea people have when it comes to getting a new pet, but it should be. Austin Pets Alive has a matchmaking system to put people with the best pet for them, think million-dollar matchmaker, but for your pet. Garza explained that this service increases the chance that a pet will find a forever home and not be returned.


“I chose to adopt because I really wanted that companionship that came with having a pet, and I missed having that. Adopting Artie forced me to stay on top of things and be responsible, it forces me to do something that is not just for myself and it has really helped with my anxiety,” May said. “There are so many animals that are stuck in shelters and need a home, there is really no reason not to adopt. Adopting is so much cheaper, Artie was actually free, and you can find amazing animals that need your help.”


While Austin Pets Alive can provide you with a friend for life, it also has a strong community bond. Everyone at the shelter plays a crucial role in getting pets adopted and rehabilitated. The staff is more like a family and goes through the ups and down together.


“The more I learned and got involved I fell more in love with Austin Pets Alive. You come for the animals and stay for the community,” Garza noted. “I’ve met the best community while working here, not limited to my coworkers, but also volunteers and fosters and adopters. I love coming to work even though it’s hard and stressful, it is just really rewarding.”


Every day the staff works with some of the same pets and have strong bonds with them. Watching them grow up and finding a home can be bittersweet, but it’s what makes the job worth it.

Pearl, another one of Austin Pets Alive’s adoptable dogs.

“My favorite part is to train the staff and watching them fall in love with the dogs. Knowing what we do is great, but having that one-on-one relationship with the dogs is a game changer,” Garza explained. “Even when having a stressful day, you know this is why you keep coming back. When dogs leave its hard, but it makes every day worth it. I can’t describe what it’s like to have a dog that you see constantly and have them finally finding a family. It’s like watching your kids grow up.”


When we think of Austin we think of dog parks, dog-friendly bars, and the ZilkerBark Instagram page, but it wasn’t always this way. When we think Austin, we think of keeping Austin weird and keeping it dog-friendly. When we think we see a dog we stop and gawk, not because we are jealous or upset, but because we love a dog just as much as the next person. Austin Pets Alive allows us to share that love in the largest no-kill city in the nation.