Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Puppy Mill Awareness Day Austin!

Billy, available for adoption through
Austin Dog Rescue
Puppy Mill Awareness Day Austin is an extremely special day in Central Texas. Not only do we see a community of pet lovers come together to find homes for adoptable animals, but this great charity puts on an event that highlights some of the saddest stories in animal welfare. 

PMAD Austin was founded by my lovely friend, Courtney, who also happens to be the vice president of Paws of Austin Great Dane Rescue. In addition to her huge dogs, Courtney also has a huge heart. After working with American Humane Association on several cases to help save dogs from puppy mills, she decided to do something more. Puppy Mill Awareness Day Austin was formed and has been hosting this event annually over the last several years. 
Zeus, available for adoption through
Don't Bully Me Rescue

PMAD partners with area rescue groups and invites them to bring out their adoptable pets to meet potential adopters and spread the message about their adoption programs. Rescues like Don't Bully Me Rescue, where I met Zeus, an adoptable pit bull mix who has been waiting for his forever home for nearly 4 years! 

As an active member in the Austin animal welfare scene, it's always lovely to meet new rescues and chat with old friends about our adoption stories, our heartbreaking rescue cases and our hopes for the future. Austin is an amazing city, the largest No Kill city in the nation and yet, we still see so many neglected animals here in Central Texas. As long as there is money to be made with breeding dogs, irresponsible, greedy people will exploit them for cash. 

So, what is the difference between a  responsible breeder and a puppy mill? 
Mellow, available for adoption
through Wee Rescue in Austin, TX
A puppy mill is a large scale breeding operation where purebred or 'designer' dogs are bred solely for the money they can bring to the business that is selling them. The dogs often get no medical care, the adult dogs and puppies are kept in cramped, unsanitary cages and the puppies are generally taken from their mothers far too soon in order to sell them when they are as small and 'cute' as possible. Puppy Mills often sell to pet stores, where they will have no interaction with the new owner and these puppies are often unsocialized and can be sick. 

A responsible breeder will always be involved in the well being of the puppy. They will generally raise the breed for the traits of the breed vs money. Responsible breeders will ensure that the puppies and their parents receive medical care, live in healthy, proper conditions and that the puppies are properly socialized and old enough before they are taken from their mothers. Not all breeders are responsible, as being a responsible breeder takes a lot of time and money, so it isn't quite as profitable as a business. Not all breeders are responsible, so it is important to do research and meet the breeders, adult dogs and see the conditions that the puppies have been living in before considering a breeder purchase. 

Yes, there are some responsible breeders, however, every breed of dog ends up in rescue at some point or another. The most responsible choice you can make as a pet owner is to look into rescue and be patient. Even if you don't see your new pup right away, I assure you that with a little time, you will find the perfect pet to adopt! Petfinder is an amazing place to start searching for your new family member. Choose adoption and you will be saving two lives - the pet you adopt and the next pet who is able to take their kennel at the shelter or rescue. 

Stephanie Conrad
Pet Studio Art | Owner | Artist

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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

This Kitten Might be a Husky After All

Sometimes, a story just melts your heart. For me, this story of a sweet kitten who was saved by her Husky pack really brightens my day! Rosie the kitten was brought into her family as a foster when she was just days old. She was sick and needed some special TLC. Surprisingly, Lilo, a Husky instantly took to Rosie and from then, something truly special happened. This tiny kitten started improving. As time went on, it was obvious she had found her home with Lilo and the rest of her Husky pack. This little kitten now spends her days as one of the big dogs! 

Stephanie Conrad
Pet Studio Art | Owner | Artist 

Who doesn't love a Husky!? Show off your puppy love with one of our adorable 'Flame the Husky' tote bags!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Don't fight the Help!

Lou, adopted through WCRAS.

As a volunteer for an open-admission shelter, my job of photographing animals can seen daunting and never ending. Luckily for me, I volunteer with a shelter that truly appreciates every single volunteer that offers their time and talents for the greater good of the shelter pets. Unfortunately, across the country, this is not always the case. 

As a member of several artist-based organizations, including one called Hearts Speak (Artist's Helping Animals), I hear the sad tales that come out of these shelters. Not necessarily the sad tales of the animals themselves, but of how shelters will alienate those that want to help. I hear the stories of egos getting in the way of life saving changes and stories of volunteers being banned or turned away when they make suggestions on how those shelters can improve their save rates and continue to help more animals. 

Each and every time I hear these stories,  I realize how wonderful the city of Austin truly is for homeless animals. My heart also breaks a little with each story as I know first hand how stressful and heartbreaking this work can be. It makes me wonder how any person involved in animal welfare can blatantly disregard programs or simple suggestions to help the animals in their care.
Reba, saved through WCRAS.
Due to the welcoming environment of the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter, I happily donate my time helping not only with photographing animals, but with occasionally helping with marketing on social media. It's where my skill set lies, as I am constantly marketing my own business and artwork. I love being able to help in this way, but it also gives me personal insight into the types of images, stories and shelter happenings our supporters really respond to. Knowing these things helps us plan our marketing and reach new goals and audiences to share our shelter pets. Positive marketing for our shelter is priceless when it comes to bringing in adopters, and isn't that what it's all about? 

Just this week, I heard a story from a fellow photographer who donates her time in the same manner that I do. Her frustration lies with the shelter staff, as they continually post low quality sad shelter photos over her beautiful, cheery photos. The staff justifies this by stating that they want people to 'see  the sad animals and want to adopt them'.  After taking a peek at the shelter photos vs those that my friend has taken, I am horrified that the shelter staff even thinks there is a chance the 'sad' photos would get more attention. Over  the past 7 years, as Austin has become the largest No Kill city in America, I have learned many things, one of those being this; having a positive image for your shelter and animal welfare organizations brings in your community. No one wants to see sad things, and sad shelter photos keeps potential adopters, fosters and volunteers at bay. Not only are the photos depressing, they can give the image that your facility is dirty, your animals are sad and sick and that you don't care to put in the effort to ensure they are happy, healthy animals waiting for their forever homes. 
Professional photo shoots are priceless to shelter animals. A before
and after shot of a shelter cat named Mufasa, who was adopted shortly
after his new photos were added to his online biography. 
At almost any given time, you can look at our shelter website and see cheerful images of dogs and cats just waiting for the perfect family. After all, as a shelter, we are competing with breeders in our area, who no doubt are showcasing the adorable 'puppy in the window' image. The effort our photography team of 6 puts into our shelter image is incredible. We speak almost daily, with one volunteer putting together a list each morning to send to us, highlighting the animals that need updated photos, including where in the shelter they are located (in the dog adoption area, stray hold, etc). This helps us maximize our volunteer time and keeps everyone in the loop so we do not duplicate photos and end up hurting feelings by uploading images over another photographer's shots. The team work is beautiful and I know that we are all working together for the greater good of these shelter pets! 

A shelter with positive, bright photos is welcoming. Your website is often the first impression the public will have of your shelter. If you have low quality photos of animals up, how do you expect to be perceived? They say a photo is worth 1000 words, but I say, a photo can truly be the difference between life and death for shelter animals. 

If you have a photographer that wants to donate their time, welcome them! If you have a blogger who wants to write a story on a special dog available for adoption, invite them to tour your shelter! Volunteers give new life to charities and they have the passion and drive to truly help save lives! 

Stephanie Conrad

Pet Studio Art | Owner | Artist 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Meet Olive & Toby!

Olive, available for adoption though Love-A-Bull, Inc. 
I absolutely love volunteering my time offering photo sessions for rescue organizations. It's my way of giving back to charities that I support and of course, I love to snuggle with new pups and kitties any chance I get. Happily, last week, I had the pleasure of meeting and photographing two beautiful dogs for a great rescue, Love-A-Bull, Inc. This organization has been one that I have worked closely with for years. Their rescue program is top notch, offering foster homes to rescued bully breeds in the Austin area, and they also have committed themselves to being a positive voice for dogs in our community. 

Olive and Toby are just two of the great dogs that are part of Love-A-Bull's program right now. Olive came into Love-A-Bull's program after being found locked in a storage shed, heavily pregnant and malnourished. This charming girl ended up having 8 beautiful puppies, who Love-A-Bull happily raised until they were old enough to be adopted. Once her puppies found their forever homes, it was Olive's turn and it seemed that her happy ending would be an easy one as she was adopted into a home of her own. Sadly, two years went by and Olive was returned to the Love-A-Bull program, where she is currently waiting for a new and hopefully forever family to find her. Olive is a little selective with other dogs, so she needs to be in a single pet home, but she loves attention. After I picked this sweet girl up from the boarding facility, I was in awe of how calmly she rode in the passenger seat of my car as I rubbed her velvety fur on our way to the park for her photo shoot. Olive is very attentive and was a dream subject during our photo shoot! 

Toby, available for adoption through Love-A-Bull, Inc. 
Toby joined the Love-A-Bull program after being discovered at a small rural shelter in Georgetown, TX, He is about 2 years old, goofy, playful and overall a wonderful dog! When Toby first came out to say hello, this tall, lanky, goofy boy just made my day! Toby is a little taller than the average pit bull, maybe he has a little Hound in him, but that doesn't stop him from thinking he is a tiny lap dog. After happily hopping into my car, Toby tried to curl up between me and the steering wheel for some scratches. After I asked him to scoot over to the passenger seat, this funny boy tried his hardest to curl into a ball, never quite finding a comfortable spot on the ride over to a local park for his photo shoot. Toby was thrilled to be out and we ended up spending time walking around to sniff everything in sight before starting our shoot. Once asked, Toby was quite the gentleman, sitting nicely for his photo and really enjoying my banana and peanut butter puppy treats!

These two dogs would love to find a forever home of their own. If you are interested, or please share if you have a friend that might be interested in adopting, visit Love-A-Bull's website to learn more! 

Stephanie Conrad
Pet Studio Art | Owner | Artist

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Sunday, September 18, 2016

Strutting to Save Them All!

The event was full of amazing Pugs
supporting their favorite charity,
Pug Rescue of Austin. 
Strut Your Mutt is an annual event hosted by Best Friends Animal Society to help raise funds and awareness for various rescues throughout the country. Happily, Austin is one of the many stops for this fantastic event!
True to the Austin motto of 'Keeping it Weird", the 2016 highest fundraising organization is Shadow Cats who, you guessed it, rescue CATS! The cats don't necessarily come out to strut their stuff, but a huge group of kitty lovers, along with hundreds of dogs and the people who love them show up to support local rescues, shop fun local vendors and enjoy a day by the lake!

This year was the first in several years that Pet Studio Art did not attend as a vendor, but I decided to stop by for an hour or so to show my support and meet as many sweet pups as I possibly could. The event was in a new location in East Austin, at the beautiful Walter E Long Park, which sit on a cute little lake and hosts a large grassy field with trails for hiking. When I arrived, the park was already full of dog lovers and their adorable pups prancing about, enjoying the slightly cooler (90ish degree) Central Texas weather.  

Annabelle Lee (right) is currently available for adoption
through Helping Hands Basset Rescue! 
I had the pleasure of meeting Helping Hands Basset Rescue, an organization that I have known for many years, as in my early 20s, I worked for one of the Veterinary Clinics where their rescue dogs were treated when they came down with an illness or injury. This wonderful rescue focuses on Hound dogs and offers up foster homes to those that end up in their care. When I asked what their immediate needs are within the rescue, they said they are always looking for more foster families and of course donations to help fund their rescue program. I instantly fell in love with a beautiful tri-colored Basset Hound named Annabelle Lee. This gorgeous girl (the darker of the two pictured here) was pulled from a rural Texas shelter just before her time was up. HHBR stepped in and with some love and medical care to remove a non-cancerous mass, she is now ready to find her forever family. Annabelle would love a home with another dog and preferably someone who is home more often than not as she tends to feel a little lonely without company. To donate to Annabelle's care, click here

Noah, available for adoption at
the Williamson County
Regional Animal Shelter. 
Of course, my personal favorite shelter, the Williamson County Regional Shelter, where I spent the majority of my volunteer hours was right up front and center, proudly showing off our shelter dogs and sharing our mission to save the homeless pets of Williamson County. Noah, featured here, came to the shelter after having a rough start to life. It was obvious that this boy needed more than we could offer him in a kennel, so the shelter reached out to our wonderful foster families.  Happily, one stepped right in for Noah and he is now receiving all the TLC he can handle! This sweet boy is thriving in his foster home and we cannot wait to see him adopted into his forever family soon! 

Events like Strut Your Mutt are always a great reminder to me that Austin is home to so many amazing pet parents, rescue supporters and animal welfare advocates. It is beautiful to see this community come together for the greater good and as always, I had so much fun meeting new pet parents and getting to know so many fabulous Austin dogs!

Stephanie Conrad
Pet Studio Art | Owner | Artist

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