It is an understatement to say that Central Texas has been devastated by fires this week.  At this moment, a fire in Bastrop County (east of Austin) has consumed nearly 30,000 acres and 500 homes, and remains zero percent contained by heroic firefighters from all across the region.  A fire destroyed dozens of homes in the Northwest Austin neighborhood of Steiner Ranch. Multiple fires are reported north of Austin and in Dripping Springs (south of Austin).  It seems like fire is everywhere around us at the moment; there are literally scorched areas all along the highway as close as a quarter mile from my house.

Under these circumstances, anyone could be forgiven for staying home or even escaping town.

But the folks at Austin Pets Alive ain’t just anyone.  No, when the little-non-profit-that-could (and the one largely responsible for making Austin, Texas, the nation’s largest “No Kill” community) got a call at 9pm on Sunday night that animals at the fire-threatened Bastrop Animal Shelter were at risk, they went to work.

Pleas went out on Facebook and by e-mail, and within half an hour on a holiday weekend’s Sunday evening, the shelter was packed with hundreds of volunteers.  When more sane folks were fleeing the Bastrop fire, Austin Pets Alive organized a 9-car caravan of volunteers and employees to drive into Bastrop to rescue over 60 large dogs from the shelter— great dogs all, but some sick and elderly.

What transpired for the next several hours was simply remarkable.  One by one, terrified dogs were loaded into vans and SUVs and driven to Austin, where a community of volunteers and employees were waiting to help them.  Once they arrived at Austin Pets Alive, each dog got a caretaker to walk them through the vaccination, medical evaluation, intake, and (for some) fostering process.  The dogs quickly learned that this was not a place where humans let you down; this was a place where humans lifted you up.  This was a place of smiles, laughter, courage, leadership, and most of all, love and compassion for every animal.

That unforgivably “irresponsible public” that most animal shelters complain about came out in droves to help these animals.  For the next 24 hours, people from all over the city lined up in the parking lot with donations of everything a sheltered animal could want— toys, beds, kitty litter, food (and more food), and cash for medical care as well.  Austin Pets Alive asked the public for help, and the public delivered.  In fact, nearly 100 dogs and cats were adopted from the facility— including most of the Bastrop shelter evacuees— within 24 hours of APA receiving that 9pm phone call Sunday night.

The work, of course, is not over.  Austin Pets Alive is right now on its way to the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter, which is itself a compassionate and caring high-save-rate open-admission shelter being inundated with animals from fire-effected areas north of Austin.  APA is saving both cats and dogs from the WilCo shelter to make room for evacuees and strays.  The Austin Humane Society, we understand, is continuing to help fire victims in Bastrop, and Town Lake Animal Center too is becoming filled to the brim.  Pets Alive (New York) has offered to take as many as 100 animals from the region to make room for more evacuated and loose animals, and we’re currently trying to line up transportation to save those lives.

There will be animals that die in these fires; no doubt about it.  Dogs, cats, wildlife, and farm animals will perish, and homes are and will continue to be lost.  This is catastrophic.

But with the love and compassion of the Austin animal-welfare community (and far beyond), hundreds and hundreds of lives will be saved that otherwise wouldn’t.  For that, they deserve enormous admiration.  Please volunteer, foster, adopt, or volunteer with Austin Pets Alive or another of the amazing non-profits working in our community.  And please consider making a contribution to Austin Pets Alive in order to help them combat the ever-growing expenses of saving and caring for this many animals.  Thank you, in advance, for your own compassion and generosity.

30 Responses

  1. Tina Smith September 6, 2011

    Thank you for sharing what amazing people there are in Austin. Austin Pets Alive is a definite group of angels for the animals. The people’s efforts to rescue these pets through this devastation is admirable and warms my heart. I am grateful there are people like that in the world.

  2. Kim Carnochan September 6, 2011

    WOW…thank you sharing this very inspirational story!! I just cannot believe that there has not been MORE national coverage on what is going on in Texas. This is truly a national emergency…..for animals and people.
    I am so happy to see and read that people came out to help so many of these deserving animals and that it is ONGOING!!! Bravo to you all! What is going on in Texas is a true disaster of monumental proportions…..
    Thank you again for letting us know there are still a few good humans out there!

  3. lisa howell September 6, 2011

    This is amazing and inspiring…Austin is a city to be proud of!!

  4. emma leigh September 6, 2011

    I love this! Thank you for sharing such beautiful and positive news in the face of these tragic fires.

  5. Alva September 6, 2011

    Thanks for the inside look of the rescue; I’ve followed long-distance from north Texas since I first heard Sunday evening. The one thing I noted in your post here is that the animals were afraid; I saw the photos you posted earlier of the rescue and thought then how remarkably calm most looked. But reading ‘the rest of the story’ here explains that. They felt safe with the rescue volunteers – in spite of what they were going through! What a blessing to see the difference the APA volunteers are making in the lives of the innocent paws! I continue to share the links and needs of all involved in helping the victims of these horrific wildfires:

  6. Jenn E September 6, 2011

    Thanks for sharing this inspiring piece. It does my heart some good to know that there are kind and compassionate people out there willing to lend a hand (or paw) to those who desperately need it :)

  7. Lila Schott September 6, 2011

    Thank you for writing this! Its been hard hearing about all the fire and devastation that the fires have brought, but this put a smile on my face. Austin pets alive you guys are my heroes!

  8. Kelley Palyola September 6, 2011

    Thank you for writing Austin and most of the people that live in this city are an amazing awesome group of people lovingly I call “my community”.

  9. Ginger September 6, 2011

    A lady with Big Dog Rescue, Sarah Tirone, was one of the angels there working that night – she was part of the rescue of my wonderful GSD I adopted recently. I immediately sent in a donation for the extra care and food needed. God bless all you have done!

  10. Crystal September 6, 2011

    Please get the fire under control soon!

  11. vs September 6, 2011

    Wow. That was very moving. Thank you for writing such an inspirational piece and highlighting all the loving acts performed by APA and volunteers this weekend.

  12. Ken & Judy Krauss September 6, 2011

    ….Our Hearts Go Out To The Little Putties and of course their owners in these truly desperate times…..We support Austin Pets Alive and all Local & national Rescue Groups! Please donate to This Group if possible!

  13. Ken & Judy Krauss September 6, 2011

    ….Our Hearts Go Out To The Little Putties and of course their Owners. Please consider donating to this fine group or any other Pet Rescue Group! Save The cats!

  14. Joy Huitt September 7, 2011

    GOD BLESS you folks! It’s simply wonderful to hear stories like these. In times of catastrophe and disaster good folks WILL step up and they did. Thank you from pet lovers everywhere.

  15. anita daniel September 7, 2011

    God Bless for helping the animals <3 Is there and chipin page to donate or just how can we donate?

  16. anita daniel September 7, 2011

    Just clicked on the Austin Pet Alive link and there’s a place to Donate there, so everyone click and give<3 no amount is too small.

  17. April - Fix Charlotte September 7, 2011

    Thank you Ryan & Thank you Austin Pets Alive for showing the rest of the country how it should be done!

  18. Karen Hoffmeier September 7, 2011

    Thanks so much for all of your efforts.

  19. Marty H September 7, 2011

    Please forward this to the main stream media with permission to publish or broadcast. Not one has said a word about the plight of the animals in this disaster.

  20. jude September 7, 2011

    thanks to AUSTIN HUMANE SOCIETY, AUSTIN PETS ALIVE, WILLAMSON CTY SHELTER and ALL of the volunteers to have worked for days to take in and save the lives of animals in the austin area. it is not a one man show, contrary to this article. it is a coming together of hundres, if not thousands of people all working for the good of these pets. i spent monday volunteering for apa, but i in no way consider them to be the only game in town. and i hate that no one else gets much credit for doing anything in austin. don’t mean to sound mean just think the credit should be fair !!!

    • Ryan Clinton September 7, 2011

      It looks like you may not have read the article, Jude. It gives credit to other organizations. But since I was only at APA, I could not give a first-hand account of what happened elsewhere.

  21. Elizabeth September 7, 2011

    Wonderful group, wonderful people and wonderful write-up! Thank you.

  22. Elizabeth September 7, 2011
  23. Mary L. Kelly September 12, 2011

    Simply remarkable! Congratulations for your compassion!

  24. Karen Diener September 14, 2011

    What an awesome story!!! Thanks for sharing!!!

  25. John Conwell September 16, 2011

    The way that APA and other organizations were able to mobilize, set up communications and coordinate with Law Enforcement officials was amazing! And to have Pets Alive New York step up to take on animals… It just goes to show what dedication can accomplish. The Bastrop fires, Hurricane Irene and other events this past year show the need for an evacuation plan and capability for communities!

  26. Katie Kat September 16, 2011

    Thank God for Austin Pets Alive!!!

    (I just don’t understand why the current administration has not declared the fires in Texas a national emergency….????)

  27. Cee November 1, 2011

    Awesome job, APA! You are an inspiration to others.

    Kudos to Ryan on everything you’re doing to bring about a humane no kill ecology and ethos.

    Saw the terrific Oct. 31st article in the “Christian Science Monitor” that someone had shared:

    “Ryan Clinton wants to make animal shelters ‘no kill’ zones”

    Ryan Clinton helped make Austin, Texas, a ‘no kill’ zone for shelter animals. His next goal: The rest of the US.”

    “Cities are going to get to ‘no kill’ sooner rather than later… The idea is becoming the expected norm. And Ryan should be given a lot of credit for making that happen.” ~ Dr. Ellen Jefferson, executive director of Austin Pets Alive!

  28. Snowy February 8, 2013

    Thank you for sharing, this is an awesome story! And much much more thanks to all the volunteers who helped the animals.

  29. Jane Davison June 28, 2013

    I would like to give credit to Pets Alive for taking care of the animals and making sure that they go to homes. The adoptions have been simply wonderful this year and have gone a good job. Ellen Jefferson deservies a lot of credit for the job that she is doing in keeping the animals alive and making sure that they are taken care of. Thanks to her vet backaground that is simply wonderful. Good job to everyone there. Austin is doing a good job and I am proud of them for it.

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