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Following the purchase of a converted 34-foot-long van, Addicus' Legacy Dog Rescue's pups headed to their forever homes in style during its maiden voyage last week.
The Austin-based group—which strives to save animals from high-kill shelters and find them forever homes—coordinates dog adoptions, either locally or by transporting them from Texas to waiting homes in New England.
"We call it 'The Rescue Bus,'" Addicus board member and intake coordinator Mariska Berkley said of the new van. "We send about 60 dogs a month to Connecticut, so we needed a bigger vehicle."
The new van will transport about 60 dogs per month to waiting adopters in Connecticut from Austin. (Mariska Berkley)
Although the van can transport about 60 dogs, its passenger list will only include 30 dogs to accommodate bathroom breaks every three to four hours, she said. Any more dogs and the stops wouldn't be a practical length of time, Berkley said. Two drivers and a behaviorist, Jan McDonald, will also be on board, with the behaviorist keeping the dogs as happy and content as possible.
"It's got to be rough on them," McDonald said of the transport process. "They've grown attached to the fosters they had in Texas and we're taking them away from that foster, putting them in a kennel and getting them on the road. That's automatically confusing and stressful for them."
The bi-monthly road trip from Austin to Glastonbury, Connecticut, is about 1,600 miles and takes two-and-a-half days northbound, or about 50 hours including stops. After dropping off the canine cargo, the human crew spends the night in New England before heading home the following morning.
Mariska Berkley, a member of the Addicus Legacy Dog Rescue board, coordinated the group's efforts to land a new transport van that's delivering the much-wanted pets to New England from Austin in style and comfort. (Mariska Berkley)
Addicus was founded a decade ago when school teacher Phillippa Scott decided to transport rescue dogs from Texas to Connecticut, saving the canines from being euthanized at a local shelter. The saved dogs come from facilities' euthanasia lists or have no chance of being adopted; local vets are used to get the dogs healthy before they are put up for adoption, Berkley said.
"We had a lot of dogs ready to go to their adopters but we didn't necessarily have the space on transport to take them," Scott said.
The nonprofit organization is funded mostly through donations, Berkley said.
"The only options we had were either a cargo trailer, an 18-wheeler or one of those Hertz vans or little box vans, and they are not outfitted for comfort by any means," Berkley said, adding that the transport vehicles had to be modified with air conditioning.
The limousine was initially built for people and has two air conditioning systems along with a ventilation system, Berkley said. It was previously used by a dog breeder in Oklahoma, who converted the vehicle to haul dogs so she could take them to show. Berkley said she spied the van for sale on Facebook Marketplace and traveled to Oklahoma to bring it back.
"There is an overflow of dogs in the Texas area—we have a lot of backyard breeders and we have a lot of rural shelters that don't get any help," said Berkley who has worked with the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
The demand for adoption is greater in New England than in Texas, and there's less supply of dogs to adopt, she said. COVID-19 has also caused an "exponential" increase in the number of dog adoptions, she said.
On its first trip northward, Addicus partnered with Lucky Lab Rescue and transported its dogs in the new vehicle as well.
Finding a right-sized vehicle to cart rescue animals across the country has long plagued Addicus, Berkley said. The new vehicle fills this need, she said.
"We are trying to revolutionize the way these dogs are being transported within the rescue groups," Berkley said.
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With more research done on the COVID-19 Delta variant, Austin Public Health is upping its goal of 70% vaccinated to at least 80% due to the extreme virality of the strain.
As more Delta cases are identified—up to 29 cases are confirmed in Travis County—health officials are urging the unvaccinated to get their shots to contain the spread and relieve hospitals from reaching full capacity.
Austin-Travis County surpassed the Stage 5 threshold on Friday and has reached a seven-day average of 61 hospital admissions. However, Austin health leaders have yet to make an official shift as the Delta variant calls for new guidance, APH Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes said at a joint Travis County Commissioners Court meeting on Tuesday morning.
The new guidance has yet to be released, but Walkes said it will take into account the viral load of Delta on both unvaccinated and vaccinated people.
Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed the Delta variant was as contagious as chickenpox, which has a herd immunity threshold of at least 90% vaccinated.
Although 63.42% of those eligible in Travis County are fully vaccinated, breakthrough cases—where vaccinated people are contracting COVID-19—are being identified. APH has identified 1,496 breakthrough cases of the roughly 800,000 vaccinated. Most breakthrough cases are showing less severe symptoms or are asymptomatic, according to APH.
Health officials are still asking residents to wear masks, although the city cannot mandate any masking orders due to an executive order by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
"Our challenge is going to be whether we're going to stand as a community and everyone who can get vaccinated, get vaccinated, and everyone wear a mask—that's what it's going to take," Walkes said.
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Save Austin Now police petition will reach November ballot after county clerk certifies 25,000 signatures
Save Austin Now is now 2-0 over Austin City Council after its petition to add more staffed police officers to the Austin Police Department was certified, garnering over the 20,000 votes needed to make it on an election ballot.
The petition calls for more police staffing per city resident, quicker response times and more training for city police officers in the wake of increasing violent crime rates nationwide and a year of limited APD staffing. The City Council will now decide whether to implement the ordinance outright or add it to the November election ballot; it will likely do the latter.
Over 25,000 of the 27,778 signatures racked up by the public safety petition were certified as valid, well over the 20,000-vote threshold required to be certified with the City Clerk. City Clerk Jannette Goodall placed the city's seal of approval on the petition on Tuesday morning.
The petition, by the same political group that got the camping ban reinstated through a petition in May, seeks to:
- Require minimum staffing of two officers per 1,000 residents
- Require a minimum standard of 35% community response time
- Add 40 hours of training
- Require city council members, Mayor Steve Adler and other city staff to enroll in the Citizens Police Academy
- Facilitate minority officer hiring through foreign language proficiency metrics
Austin's 160 patrol vacancies have dropped its staffing rate to 1.2 officers per 1,000 residents, according to the department. APD's response time has increased by about one minute and 50 seconds in a year.
The petition comes nearly a year after APD's budgets were slashed by city council following the summer's Black Lives Matter protests, which saw several demonstrators severely injured as millions called for justice in the police-related deaths of George Floyd and locally Mike Ramos, an unarmed Black man killed by APD officer Christopher Taylor, in April 2020.
Austin and the U.S. have experienced a widespread uptick in violent crime rates in 2021. The city has reached 49 homicides in 2021, higher than the total number of murders in all of 2020 and the 38 homicides in the city in 2019. Austin police officers have seen response times rise as the department suffers increased vacancies and fewer newcomers while cadet classes are being readjusted.
Opponents argue the ordinance would ramp up a policing budget while taking away from other departments including Fire, EMS, violence prevention, and mental health care. City Council Member Greg Casar, the Travis County Democratic Party and the Austin Justice Coalition have spoken out against the organization's latest public safety move, calling out the campaign as a "right-wing petition" that misleads those who sign.
🔥 PANTS ON FIRE: Republican-front group Save Austin Now is lying about their petition!
They say their measure is about police reform, when it's really about devastating our city budget - all for the benefit of the police union. Watch the video here ⬇️ #ATX pic.twitter.com/Z6QQSfhHfH
— Gregorio Casar (@GregCasar) August 2, 2021
The latest battle between city council and Save Austin Now will be decided by Austin residents in the Nov. 2 election.
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Austin City Limits fest and iHeartRadio Fest are the latest festivals to announce the removal of rapper DaBaby, who has come under fire for homophobic comments made during a recent festival.
The 29-year-old rapper, whose real name is Jonathan Lyndale Kirk, was dropped by Lollapalooza just hours before his set on Sunday, followed by the Governor's Ball in New York and Nevada's Day N Vegas after making unsolicited comments about men with HIV/AIDS at the Rolling Loud Festival in Miami. Rolling Stone Magazine confirmed with iHeartRadio organizers that DaBaby will no longer perform.
DaBaby will no longer be performing at Austin City Limits Music Festival — lineup update coming soon. pic.twitter.com/jAYfdJFxJf
— ACL Festival (@aclfestival) August 3, 2021
There is no word on who he will be replaced with yet, though rumors on ACL's subreddit, r/aclfestival, are saying they expect Tyler, The Creator, who performed at Lollapalooza. Kirk will be replaced at Day N Vegas by rapper Roddy Ricch.
Kirk later backtracked his offensive statements on his Instagram story, but again faced criticism for not exactly apologizing.
After facing a second round of backlash for his Instagram statements, the rapper posted on Instagram, saying:
In addition to being dropped from the festivals, DaBaby has been denounced by fellow celebrities like Dua Lipa, Madonna and Elton John.
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