Wednesday, August 27, 2014

What can we learn from Annie?

Annie during my holiday photo shoot for Christmas 2012.
Annie's shelter and rescue history is a long one, but one that really shows how a dedicated community can achieve No Kill. With many shelters, Annie would not have been provided more than a week to wait for her forever family, let alone a few months, which eventually turned into a few years with one of the shelter's partner rescue organizations. Annie is a testament to the No Kill Equation and how following steps to achieve No Kill really does save lives.

A couple of weeks ago, I shared some information on how Austin became a No Kill city and how important that success is for the entire nation. Austin has become a symbol of hope for shelter pets everywhere and while I think it is so important to share the success that Austin Pets Alive has had over the past 6 years as they transformed the city of Austin, it is equally as important to share the successes of other counties and organizations. Georgetown Animal Outreach is one of those inspirational organizations and while they aren't in the main spotlight quite like Austin Pets Alive is, they work just as hard and their group of volunteers is one that I have come to love and admire.

Annie, a Dogo Argentino (a breed generally grouped into the Pit Bull category) mix entered our county facility, The Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter several years ago. Luckily for Annie, our county shelter is striving to be No Kill and Annie was given a chance to be shown for adoption. Unluckily for Annie, she just didn't adjust or show well in the shelter, as is the case with many wonderful dogs. While the staff at WCRAS loved her, the limited staff wasn't able to really dedicate the time Annie needed and finally, after spending months in the shelter with no interested adopters, she was given a break and rescued from her shelter kennel by the wonderful volunteers of Georgetown Animal Outreach. 

Annie getting a belly rub at one of our adoption events!
Much like Austin Pets Alive began, GAO is an organization that is run on the support of foster homes. This year alone, GAO has pulled 4 cats and 22 dogs from our city shelter, however, one of those dogs was pregnant when she was pulled and had a huge litter of 12 puppies, so let's say they pulled 34 dogs! In addition to their work physically rescuing dogs from the shelter, they have also taken in several owner surrenders before they were dropped off at the shelter, ultimately keeping another pregnant mom from having a litter at the shelter. 

Annie was fortunate enough to be one of the dogs that GAO had a space for and quickly became a volunteer favorite with her charming tiny bark and her incredibly sweet personality. I initially met Annie while I was hosting an adoption event in Round Rock, TX. She reminded me so much of my own sweet Holly, I of course came to love her as much as the GAO volunteers did. 

While everyone wanted to see Annie in her forever home, we all knew she was safe and loved with GAO. Annie had everything she needed while she waited for that perfect family and finally, just a couple of weeks ago, her dreams came true and Annie was adopted into a wonderful family with another pup that looks like her long lost cousin! From the photos her family has shared, it seems that Annie is right at home and we are all thrilled to see her there!

With rescue partnerships, volunteer involvement, foster programs and a shelter director that truly cares, The Williamson County Regional Shelter has makes a difference in the lives of thousands of animals and their new families every year! 

Stephanie Conrad
Pet Studio Art | Owner | Artist

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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

No Kill is Love... and so much more!

Saying hello to Nathan as we
arrived for the screening!
This weekend was full of great pet-related fun. The Austin Pet Expo on Saturday was a blast, but the true highlight of my weekend was catching up with my friend and leader of the No Kill movement, Nathan Winograd at the Austin screening of his new documentary, Redemption. 

For those of you that may be unfamiliar with the concept of what true No Kill really is, I encourage you to take a few minutes to visit the No Kill Advocacy Center's website to learn a little more and do some research of your own. I was first introduced to the concept of No Kill in 2008, just a few years after we moved to Austin. Like all individuals that have been involved in animal welfare, this idea intrigued me and it wasn't long before I reached out and met some of the leaders of the Austin animal welfare world. I attended my first No Kill Conference in 2010, where Nathan Winograd was scheduled to speak. Unfortunately, the night before the conference, he lost his beloved dog, Top Top and was unable to make the conference (of course, everyone in attendance was more than sympathetic). Missing Nathan, however, allowed Austin to get a little more insight and spend a few more minutes listening to our Austin officials and animal advocates speak about our progress and ways that our community could truly end the killing.

Before No Kill was introduced to our city council (and yes, it was initially met with resistance from the majority of the council members) Austin was killing around 60% of all animals that entered our city shelter (at the time called Town Lake Animal Center). With the support of one council member, Mike Martinez, information regarding No Kill finally started reaching the individuals that were able to make the needed changes within our city shelter. On March 11, 2010, the city council unanimously passed a plan to work with the Animal Advisory Commission and implemented the necessary programs to become a No Kill City. Within a year, Austin had achieved No Kill status and officially became the largest No Kill City in America, saving over 90% of the animals entering our shelter system*. 

Dropping off donations at Austin
Pets Alive for their annual No Kill
Conference earlier this year.
Another amazing leader in the Austin No Kill efforts is Ellen Jefferson. She may be soft spoken, but she is a woman that understands what it means to fight for a cause. While Mike Martinez was working hard within the government, Ellen and her team with Austin Pets Alive were literally saving lives one at a time by rescuing puppies from the kill list at Town Lake Animal Center and putting them up for adoption. Austin Pets Alive started as a small group of foster families and has now grown to an organization that has saved over 25,000 animals and raised awareness for Austin's homeless pets to a national level. In 2012, Austin City Council passed a motion to allow Austin Pets Alive to operate out of the Town Lake Animal Center facility. Just months before APA took over the older facility, Austin Animal Center, a new beautiful city shelter, had opened it's doors. These two organizations are now the staple of our city's efforts to save the pets that are unfortunate enough (or should I say fortunate enough because we save them!) to enter the shelter system. 

I am always struck at how anyone can look at Austin's progress and think that No Kill doesn't work. This weekend, however, at the Redemption Screening, I was reminded that I live in a bubble of success. I live in the midst of those life-saving efforts. My friends are all pet-loving rescue fanatics that are just as invested in saving lives as much, if not more, than I am. There is a whole nation of individuals who may not yet know about No Kill or who don't truly understand it, which is why I am thrilled to see Redemption making it's way across the country!

Mugsy, a pup pulled from the
Austin City Shelter and saved by
Austin Pets Alive.
One city in particular that the documentary focused on was San Francisco. Ironically, San Francisco may be my favorite place to visit, yet the city has failed those that I love the most, their pets. San Francisco was the first No Kill city in America and for nearly 20 years, the city was the safest place in America for homeless pets. Unfortunately, San Francisco no longer upholds those same standards and has taken a drastic fall from leader in the No Kill movement to an example for those that oppose No Kill programs. 

While San Francisco may not be the model city that it once was, their many years of success proved that with work, No Kill is more than an idea and now hundreds of cities and counties in America are now saving 90% or more of their homeless pets. 

After the documentary, we were lucky enough to have a Q & A session with an amazing panel of No Kill leaders, including Nathan Winograd, Ryan Clinton, Ellen Jefferson, Mike Martinez and Larry Tucker.

Mike Martinez, the next Mayor of Austin as we lovingly refer to him (and he is in the running, so if you are an Austin local, be sure to vote for an inspirational, pet loving, former firefighter) began the discussion with a simple statement: "It wasn't easy, but no matter who you are or where you are from, it [No Kill] can be done!"
Nathan Winograd, Mike Martinez, Larry Tucker,
Ellen Jefferson & Ryan Clinton take the stage for a
Q & A after the screening of Redemption.
After a quiet start (as with all big rooms of individuals that are invited to ask questions) the questions started rolling in. A few of those questions really stood out to me and I think the issues that the general audience (a.k.a. the community of individuals that are working to make changes within their own municipalities) brought up are important and reflect the concerns that most individuals have as they start their own efforts to make changes. 

A citizen of the small town of New Braunfels, Tx, bravely stood up to ask about influencing her shelter director to give insight into those animals that are at risk of being killed. Her personal efforts with her new local organization, No Kill New Braunfels, had not proved effective and her concerns for the animals were growing. Happily, Ryan Clinton was present and if there is anyone that has advice regarding influencing a government, it is Ryan. When Austin's No Kill efforts first began, Ryan (a lawyer by day, animal rescuer by night - or evening?) was a voice to the government and regularly attended council meetings to express his concerns, ideas and was a 'behind the scenes' (his words) leader in Austin. His advice, although he admits there is no truly easy answer, is to get the public involved in creative ways. When Austin Pets Alive first began, they took large ads out in local newspapers and magazines. APA encouraged the community members to speak at city council meetings and voice their concerns. He gave a reminder that the public is what influences the government and for changes to be made at the shelter, going over the shelter director to the community leaders is a very effective way of bringing about those changes. Having others beside you expressing the same concerns will bring about even more change. As Ryan finished his response, Mike Martinez quickly jumped in and offered to personally call the New Braunfels officials to offer his insight, to which the entire audience applauded. 

Sherman, another silly pooch
rescued by Austin Pets Alive.
On the topic of government, another audience member directed a question to Mike Martinez and Larry Tucker (of the Austin Animal Advisory Commission), "Regarding making those changes within the shelter, should we focus on changing minds or just getting rid of the shelter director/leaders altogether." Larry offered his insight and noted that the city of Austin, while we did eventually fire the former shelter director and hire our current, No Kill supporting director, Abigail Smith, they also focused on simple changes. Some of these changes included a rewrite of the Animal Control's mission statement, another was changing the term 'Animal Control' to 'Animal Care'. Simple changes made a huge difference and were easier to implement within the government because they were no or low-cost to the city. Mike offered his experience as a council member and shared some of the changes he personally worked to influence, such as closing the night drop box at the shelter. Despite concerns from the council that the city would soon start seeing more stray animals, the council agreed and the shelter is better because of it. Mike also shared that he offered to take the blame if certain changes didn't work, which seemed to be a relief to other council members, and opened the discussion up regarding animal issues. Within the council, Mike stopped taking 'No' for an answer and pressed harder for those issues that were truly important for the animals within the Austin shelter system and because of his perseverance, those animals now have laws and policies in place to keep them protected.

As the panel discussion ended, Nathan Winograd left us with a simple, but thought-provoking statement; "Take heart in your city and use San Francisco as an example. Don't ever forget that you are the voice for your government and they should reflect your values as a community." 

Stephanie Conrad
Pet Studio Art | Owner | Artist

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A huge Thank You to Nathan Winograd for all of the amazing work and efforts he has put not only into raising awareness for shelter pets but for offering resources to end the killing. Together, we really can become a No Kill Nation - even better, a No Kill World.

For those of you that were unable to attend the screening, you can see more info on the Redemption documentary and find a screening near you right here: Redemption Screenings!

Or, if there is not a screening near you, I highly recommend purchasing Nathan's book, Redemption. The book offers even more insight into the sheltering system and is a wonderful tool to use in your own fight to end the killing: Buy Redemption!

*I believe it is worth noting that another question came from an audience member regarding the 90% rule. She asked if "that number should be modified as our knowledge of animal behavior and our progress as a No Kill city moves forward." Nathan stated that he wished he had "put it into place as a guideline rather than a goal" because of course we should always strive to do better for those animals that are in the last 10%, even going as far as suggesting solutions such as sanctuaries for dogs with behavior issues that may take longer to rehabilitate than a shelter can provide.

Monday, July 21, 2014

San Antonio Pets Alive

Walker, an adorable pittie / lab mix
waiting for his perfect home!
One of the best things about having a sister is randomly deciding to have a girl's weekend. This past weekend, we took a quick trip to San Antonio, which was perfect since I have been wanting to stop in to visit San Antonio Pets Alive's new Paul Jolly Adoption Center. So, as my sister and I parted ways (her to Houston, myself to Austin) I headed up Highway 281 to the Paul Jolly Adoption Facility to say hello to all the pets waiting for their forever homes!

Walking into the facility, I truly expected to experience the facility from the viewpoint of a visitor, not a volunteer. In most cases, within the city shelters or rescues I visit, the staff is hesitant to let an unknown blogger/artist/photographer take dogs out. Not because they believe I will hurt or mis-handle the pets, but because they don't know my agenda and want to hide their dirty little secrets (at least, that's my theory). To my complete surprise, San Antonio Pets Alive welcomed me with open arms!

Perhaps it's because they have no secrets to hide like most shelters or perhaps they are just an extremely friendly bunch of people - which of course they were - either way, from the moment I walked in to the moment I left, I felt welcomed and appreciated!

The first person to greet me was a woman named Becki, who was obviously calling the shots for the facility for the day. I introduced myself, explained my affiliation with Austin Pets Alive, both as a business supporter as well as an emergency volunteer, which immediately brought up the topics of No Kill and how SAPA is making a difference in their community. 

Canelo, Sharpei/Lab mi
Becki then gave me a quick tour of the facility and handed me a leash, letting me choose from the 30 - 50 or so dogs that needed some playtime. As I walked through the rows of kennels, stopping to say hello to the many adorable pups, I chose to take a sweet Sharpei/Lab mix named Canelo out for some playtime. We spent about half an hour outside enjoying the sunshine (and of course the shade from the wonderful canopies they have setup over the play yards) and lots of rubs and kisses. 

While out in the play yard, another volunteer, Andrea, showed up for her shift and stopped by the fence for a quick chat. She was just as excited to have an out of town volunteer joining in and just as sweet and welcoming as Becki. She even offered me some extra smelly treats that she knew Canelo loved! After our playtime, Canelo was wiped out and I even noticed a couple stop to chat with him through his kennel doors later in the day before I left.

Of course, a trip to any shelter would not be complete without playtime with a pittie mix, so of course, I had to meet at least one more dog. Walker, a black pittie/lab mix charmed his way onto my leash and we headed outside to play. By this time, all of the play yards were full of romping pups, so Walker and I spent some time in a cute little area near the back deck where he perched himself on a large rock for a cute photo session and of course lots of sweet pittie kisses! 

Again, while out with Walker, another volunteer, Linda, stopped to say hello. She was out walking an adorable little Rat Terrier mix. We had a sweet conversation about the amazing work SAPA is doing all while watching the dogs happily enjoy their time outside getting special attention. 

While I adore the dogs, I love cats and any trip would not be complete without a stop in to visit the kitties! A room full of sweet little kittens was all I needed to complete my visit, so in I went and sat on the floor where I could get some playtime in. Getting some sweet little kitty kisses was the perfect way to end my volunteer time at SAPA. From the big dogs, to the puppy area to the sweet little cat room, everything about SAPA shows just how compassionate and committed this group of staff and volunteers really are.

In 2012, when San Antonio Pets Alive first began it's journey to end the systematic killing of the animals entering their city shelter, the cities animals cheered - okay fine, they may not have actually cheered but I guarantee they would have cheered if they knew what was happening! At the time, the city shelter was killing around 67% of the animals entering their doors. Rather than adopting programs to help end the killing, the city simply ended the lives of nearly 20,000 animals per year. Let that sink in - 20,000 lives ended. Dead. Gone. 

By January of 2012, San Antonio Pets Alive was officially up and running under the guidance of some of the wonderful volunteers that were instrumental in helping Austin Pets Alive change the landscape of shelter life in Austin, TX. Obviously, things started moving quickly and by the end of 2012, the live outcome for the city run shelter had nearly doubled to 61%! The turnaround was obvious - from 67% dead to 61% safe and on their way or already thriving in their new lives!

By the beginning of 2013 San Antonio Pets Alive had personally saved 5500 animals through their adoption programs - meaning that the shelter itself was involved in making an effort to end the killing. A model that worked in Austin, TX was making progress in San Antonio. The community was becoming involved, volunteers began to eagerly participate in events and daily visits to help their community's homeless pets. By September of 2013, San Antonio Pets Alive had saved their first 10,000 animals!

In January of 2014, the numbers were obvious as the save rate had risen to an all time high of 71%, a number that continued to rise over the next few months and today, the save rate for San Antonio - 77%. The city of San Antonio is well on it's way to becoming No Kill, something that makes me proud to be a Texan native and supporter of the organizations that are making No Kill possible! 

Stephanie Conrad
Pet Studio Art | Owner | Artist

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Want to donate to SAPA? Visit their website right here:

Visiting the adoption center! 

Walker, an adorable pittie mix.

Getting some sweet kisses from Walker.

The Dog Adoption Hallway. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

New Foster Kittens!! Eeeek!!

Its always exciting to bring home new foster kittens and this group is especially exciting since they are the first visitors to my new 1200 square foot art studio! 

You can see where my priorities lie - I haven't even moved all of my equipment in or hooked up my water lines, but we have already made a commitment to the Williamson County Regional Shelter to help save as many lives as we can. These next few months are especially exciting for the shelter as they are one of 50 shelters involved in the ASPCA 100K challenge, a challenge where our shelter in particular is striving to save 2000 lives in 3 months!

I'm going to be holding a kitten naming contest on my Facebook page today!

Enjoy the new photos of my little ones! I am sure there will be plenty more in the coming weeks!

Stephanie Conrad
Pet Studio Art | Owner | Artist

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Monday, April 7, 2014

Houston Pet Expo

Shorti Rossi of Shorty's Rescue
and Pit Boss on Animal Planet.

This weekend was a new and fun experience for Pet Studio Art. We did our first out of town event in Houston (where I grew up) and had an absolute blast! Not only were we able to see friends like Shorty Rossi with Shorty's Rescue and Anne from Corridor Rescue, but we met so many new friends, got to play with many adorable pets (snakes included) and overall had a great time selling our tote bags and other products to a new market of clients!

Here are some of my favorite photos from the day!

Stephanie Conrad
Pet Studio Art | Owner | Artist

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Saturday, March 1, 2014

Pugs, Pugs and More Pugs!!

Oscar, an adorable pug!
This month, I will be featuring Pug Rescue Austin, an adorably squishy rescue right here in Austin, TX! This sweet rescue focuses on Pugs, Puggles, Chugs and all Pug look-a-like mixes!

I will have 5 original paintings available for sale with 100% of the profits going to Pug Rescue Austin and 30% of the sale from each other item will be going to Pug Rescue Austin.

Pug Rescue Austin is a volunteer based organization with no paid staff. They rely solely on donations from fundraiser such as this one to provide medical care for the pugs they rescue. Pug Rescue Austin also promotes positive pet ownership through education on the unique needs of Pugs. Not only do they save healthy, happy pugs, but PRA is the first to scoop up an unhealthy, neglected Pug who may need extensive medical care.

You can visit their website to learn more about their adorable program.

Stephanie Conrad
Pet Studio Art | Owner | Artist

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Monday, February 10, 2014

Special Totes for APA

For the last 3 months, I have been slowly (but steadily) stocking up on tote bags for my friends at Austin Pets Alive to donate to their annual American Pets Alive No Kill Conference. What an amazing organization! 

American Pets Alive Conference
Feb 22 - 24, 2014 in Austin, TX

Not only was I able to provide these much needed totes at no cost to the conference. If you are an Austin local, or if you want to hop on a plane for a weekend trip to my fabulous city, this conference is full of wonderful information on how to save lives in your own community.

You can only get these limited edition tote bags at the conference! Of course, if you can't make it and want a tote, you can always order one from my online store:

Stephanie Conrad
Pet Studio Art | Owner | Artist

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Happily, I was able to visit with a few of the awesome APA pups when I dropped off the tote bags!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Second Annual Fundraiser for VIllalobos

We are so excited to announce our second annual fundraiser for Villalobos Rescue Center. We will be featuring VRC pups all month long during February and have about 20 paintings available for sale featuring their amazing pups! 

Dogs like Meadow (featured in her New Orleans best) and Dude, a beautiful Dogo Argentino who was surrendered to his local shelter after jumping off a 2nd story balcony and breaking his legs. Villalobos pulled him from the shelter and gave him all the TLC and medical care he needed to become a happy, healthy dog. 

100% of each original painting sale will be donated to VRC, while 30% from other items, such as greeting cards, tote bags and prints will be donated!

Visit our fundraiser at to shop away and enjoy some unique pit bull themed artwork!

Stephanie Conrad
Pet Studio Art | Owner | Artist

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Here are a few other items in our fundraiser:

Anya Print (To order: click here)
Puma Necklace (To order: Click Here)

Tigger Greeting Card Set (To Order: click here)

Duke Print (To Order: click here)

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 in a nutshell (well, a blog)

As we reach the last day of 2013, I finally have a minute to breathe and catch up on my blog. It has been an amazing 4th quarter to the year, but that comes with a lack of time and a lack of blog updates. I have had an amazing year, and that is due to the spectacular amount of support that I have received from each and every person that follows my business. 

To everyone, from my closest family and friends to the person who 'liked' my facebook page on a whim - I cannot Thank You enough for the beautiful support you have offered to me and my little growing business. 

As I look back on this year, I can't help but smile thinking that the start of my year was something special in itself. I had my first 3 public celebrity shout-outs - which is always amazingly fun and flattering! Kaley Cuoco was the first, followed by Crystal Hefner and a 3rd beautiful note from Beth and Howard Stern after I painted their sweet little Bulldog, Bianca, who they lost in 2012.

The year went on to some amazing fundraisers, which included a massive online fundraiser for Villalobos Pit Bull Rescue - which is featured on Animal Planet's Pit Bulls and Parolees. During our 30 day fundraiser, we were able to raise $2100 for the pups at Villalobos, not a small feat and certainly the largest donation check I have ever written to one rescue at one time. Running this fundraiser in April was the start of our featured rescue program, where we work together with one special rescue each month to promote their pets. (We do have to space them out a bit to get design-work done, but we run at least 6 of these fundraisers a year now!).

In October, I featured a huge blog project, which had tens of thousands of web hits and shares, where I met and fell in love with 100 random pit bull type dogs. This blog was special because it showcased the amazing spirit of dogs in general, while sharing how loving and special pit bull type dogs are. I have received dozens of responses to this blog, sharing fears of those 'bully breeds' and how my blog touched people and helped them open their eyes. 

We fostered 20 cats and kittens throughout the year, sadly we lost 4 kittens due to illness, but we saved the lives of 16 tiny little animals, something that is so completely priceless. 

The Pet Studio doubled our sales from 2012 - a feat that required work, but one that proved this was the right choice. Each time we double our sales, we nearly double the amount of donations we can send out, so seeing this business grow is amazing in so many ways!

I got in a public dispute with PETA, the world's largest animal related organization that has a negative record of helping animals. As I called them out on their lack of life-saving solutions for companion animals, they argued that these animals needed to die, which only resulted in more positive energy for No Kill, which I fully support. You can check out my twitter feed to read more about this non-debate and also Google true PETA stats - you will be shocked and saddened, yet motivated to help local rescues that truly care.

I photographed (literally) hundreds of cats and kittens at the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter, which resulted in increased adoptions for our shelter and emails from shelters across the country asking how they can improve their adoption photos! 

I joined the Texas Farmer's Market association in July, which resulted in space to share my work on a weekly basis right here in my own city (Austin, TX). The new clients, the new friends and all of the adorable pups I met at these markets are just amazing people and I appreciate each and every one of them!

Paintings by Pet Studio Art have traveled the country - this year, I had pieces hanging in 7 different states at shows and high-end fundraisers. Each of these pieces was specially designed and sent as a tribute to shelter dogs to help raise awareness about their beauty.

Most of all, this year has been a roller coaster that seems to get better and faster! I am having a blast, I am enjoying the travel, the new shows and of course all of the amazing people I am meeting along the way! I can't wait to see what 2014 brings and where we will be at this time next year!

Thank you again for all of the support!!

Stephanie Conrad
Pet Studio Art | Owner | Artist

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