50 Things To Do in Greater Austin, TX #8 Georgetown Animal Shelter

8. Get ready for Cute Overload at the Georgetown Animal Shelter!

You’ll have to forgive me if this post is a little heavy on the pics. What can I say? I’m an animal nut and there are just way too many photogenic feline and canine Angels at the City of Georgetown Animal Shelter! Whether you’re thinking of becoming a volunteer, looking for a new ‘forever’ friend, or you’re just curious about what goes on at an animal shelter, then you should stop in for a visit. But be warned…once you meet these adorable animals, you may have a hard time heading home without adopting one!fullsizerender_7 I’ve been volunteering at animal shelters for years and, honestly, some of the facilities can be pretty depressing. I am happy to say that the ‘Gtown’ Animal Shelter is the Best facility I’ve ever been to…and been involved with…for several reasons!

First off, the facility itself is bright and clean and no matter when you go, it never seems to have that ‘not so fresh’ smell. 😉 This is huge because the pleasant atmosphere makes you want to stick around and visit with the animals which, in turn, leads to more animals being adopted! Keeping a busy animal shelter clean and smelling good is no easy feat. In 2016, the shelter adopted out 900 animals and returned 500 lost animals back to their families. I’d call that busy!

The areas where the animals live are large and cheerful. The cats have lots of room to romp and play in their spacious enclosure…and they even have their own ‘Catio’ so they can take advantage of the many mild Texas days sniffing the air, watching the birds, sunbathing, and taking their requisite cat naps! In between snoozing sessions, they have lots of volunteer pals to play with. The shelter has a core group of about 50 volunteers with many more who, like myself, come in whenever they can spare some time. If you’re looking for a ‘cush’ volunteer job, socializing cats has got to be way up there on the list! You’ll have lots of fun, be showered with cuddles and purrs, and you’ll be helping shelter cats become more comfortable with humans so they can be ready for adoption into their ‘forever’ home!

If you’re more of a dog person, not to worry! Plenty of marvelous mutts are waiting for you here! The shelter has up to 14 adoptable dogs in their indoor/outdoor runs at all times. While I was there writing this story, I got to spend some quality time with Gracie, the sweet and cuddly little Chiweenie and Sam (aka Mr. Wiggles), the happy and energetic pit bull mix. They are both irresistible and as you can see from the photo below, Mr. Wiggles is also quite the bargain should you decide to adopt him! He’s a member of the ‘Lonely Hearts Club’. These are animals that have been at the shelter for more than 2 months and so their adoption fee is only $25! Normal adoption fees are $70 for dogs, cats, puppies, and kittens. The fee includes spay or neuter, vaccinations, microchip, a small bag of food and a vet voucher.

The dog area at the shelter is impressive not only because of those indoor/outdoor runs I mentioned (at many shelters, the dogs only get a small indoor enclosure) but also because of the generous size of the play yards. There are several and the dogs are thrilled when it’s their turn to get out in a yard and really stretch their legs! The volunteers can just hang out under the trees with the dogs in the yard or they can go for a walk…or both!

Long time volunteer Russ Ruff (yes, that’s really his name!) says, “I take the dogs first to the play yard to potty and run free off fullsizerenderleash for 10-15 minutes. I see if they like to play with toys, play chase, have lap time, etc. We also try them on the agility equipment to keep their brains engaged by doing new things.’ See more healthy and fun ways to ways engage your active dog here! ‘It gives us an opportunity to see the personality of the dogs, so when we show them to potential adopters we can tell them about their likes, habits, personality, etc. It gives us a feel for whether
a particular dog would be a good fit for them or not. After the play yard I take them on a 20-30 minute walk. That helps to me bond with the dogs, while reinforcing manners like sit, down and stay. The walk benefits both me and the dog just by being out together exploring the world. Then, after the walk, I take them to the training room for some ‘sofa’ time, again for bonding and just to give them a chance to lounge around on a nice soft sofa.”

shawn-and-jessieClearly, the volunteers here adore the animals and take excellent care of them. But, we must not forget the shelter staff who work tirelessly to ensure the welfare of these helpless (and Awesome!) creatures. Shawn Gunnin and Jessie Pierce, who run the front office and wear many other hats as well, including handling marketing, coordinating with rescue groups, running Petsmart Adoption Days, and on and on, tell me, “We run on a very small staff…There are 3 Animal Control Officer positions; currently only 2 of those positions are filled…by Kelly Thyssen and John Torrez.”

fullsizerender_8Incidentally, I had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with Kelly Thyssen and I want to give those Animal Control Officers all the ‘Props’ in the World for the job they have to do each day! These people are the epitome of patience and self control. Daily, they have to walk into situations where people have been abusing and neglecting animals, calmly try to help the animals and, at the same time, educate the people (who have been abusing and/or neglecting them) about proper animal care. If I tried to do their job for even a day, the streets of Georgetown would be littered with cans of ‘Whoop Ass‘!

Okay, Breathe In…And Out!

Anyway, back to our story…Shawn goes on to tell me, “We have 5 kennel techs (Shout Out-You guys obviously do an Amazing job!). The veterinarian who works with us, Dr. Lyle Warden, has 2 Animal Health Technicians, Monica Burns and Tonia Hermann, who help him with all the spay/neuters, vaccinations, and microchipping for adoptions as well as vaccination clinics, pulling teeth/dentals, managing contagious diseases, and more!”

“Jackie Carey recently retired after 21 years at the shelter. She was the Shelter Manager for the last 6 years and she dramatically improved shelter operations.  One of the biggest indicators is the achievement of No-Kill Status (10% or fewer).  In 2009-10, the shelter euthanized 34%.  In 2015-16, only 6.5% were euthanized.” Wow! With numbers like these and based on my own first hand experience at the shelter, I think this is where I’d hope to end up if I were a stray animal. Hopefully, they can continue to bring this number lower and lower until there is no more need for animal shelters at all. Wouldn’t that be nice?

The folks at the City of Georgetown Animal Shelter definitely deserve to be added to lists like this one…10 Amazing No-Kill Shelters in the US right away because they are wonderful and so is this shelter! Okay, I’ll stop gushing now. But, in closing, I’d just like to encourage you…if you think you’re strong enough to handle the extreme cuteness, feel free to drop by and visit them today. I promise you’ll be so glad you did!

Helpful Tip #1: If your pet gets lost, be sure to post their picture and description on your neighborhood’s NextDoor app! The folks at the shelter regularly check this app to try and locate owners of lost pets who end up at their door.

Helpful Tip #2: Check websites for all the shelters within a 60 mile or so radius. The shelter staff say it is amazing how far an animal can wander and still be found and reunited with their owners this way!

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