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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Visiting the adoption center! 

Walker, an adorable pittie mix.

Getting some sweet kisses from Walker.

The Dog Adoption Hallway.