No Austinite is complete without a fluffy friend! The fact is locals love all their pets; studies rank Austin as one of the most dog-friendly cities in the U.S.
In 2010, Austin City Council passed a No-Kill Implementation Plan that pledged to increase live outcomes by more than 90%. According to community relations officer Suzie Chase, APA! was able to bring the euthanasia rate from 87% to 5% or less.
The result of becoming a No-Kill city means shelters are often stretched thin—Austin Humane Society typically takes in 11,000 animals per year, APA! often takes in more than 10,000 cats and dogs per year, with intake hitting 982 in November—and they encounter new challenges on the daily.
Though the pandemic drove adoptions up as working from home became more prevalent, the demand to put animals in safe homes has bounced back with shelters sending out pleas for adopters and fosters in recent weeks. Here's how you can get started.
What are your options?
Whether you’re looking for a puppy, kitten, lap cat, running partner, or senior pet, you’ll be able to find it in a local shelter:
- APA!, which has two locations, partners with the AAC to rescue animals from euthanasia lists and focuses on the most at-risk animals.
- AHS is a limited intake facility, meaning it prioritizes getting healthy animals into homes. AHS often takes medical cases due to its robust medical program and partnership with VCA.
- Austin Animal Center is the city-funded shelter. AAC is an open intake facility, meaning it handles all stray cases, as well as most owner surrender cases and reunification.
Depending on what pet you’re looking for, you may have to be patient. According to Austin Humane Society Director of Shelter Operations Katelen Knef, healthy puppies and kittens are the quickest to leave. Animals become harder to place at the age of 6-7 and even more so when they come with ailments, behavioral or medical issues.
On a tour of APA! at 1156 W. Cesar Chavez, Austonia met a playful, three-month-old tailless black kitten named Bubblegum, who will be harder to place due to being incontinent as a result of his Manx syndrome, which results when the tailless gene shortens the spine too much. He will need particular care but can still thrive in the right home.
Fortunately, volunteers at the shelters focus on match-making, and aim to help animals find permanent placements. Chase likes to say that by adopting, rescuers are actually saving two animals because it opens up the space for new animals to come into their care.
If you’re a lover of all animals and have some extra room in your house and schedule, Chase said fosterers are one of the most valuable resources shelters have. APA! is currently urgently looking for temporary homes for 50 dogs while COVID has caused staff and volunteers to fluctuate.
Where do the animals come from?
Unfortunately, sometimes the volunteers’ guesses are just as good as yours. Only so much work can be done to retrace steps of where animals have been before. However, volunteers can usually tell you about how the animal was discovered, its disposition, compatibility with children and other household pets and medical needs they’ve found while the animal is in their care.AHS offers trial periods with animals and will take animal surrenders by appointment but hopes that they can make a perfect match. APA! has famously said it will take an animal back at any time but offers alternatives through its P.A.S.S. program.
What illnesses are common/should I ask about?
It’s important to be prepared for any ailments a pet comes with for financial or emotional reasons.
Before adopting a dog, know about:
- Parvovirus, a highly-contagious virus that affects dogs' gastrointestinal tracts and is spread by direct dog-to-dog contact and contact with contaminated feces, environments or people.
- Kennel cough, a viral infection in the respiratory system that is indicated by a runny nose, lethargy, sneezing, fever and decreased appetite.
- Diarrhea, which can indicate stress or parasites in dogs.
Before adopting a cat, know about:
- Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP), a viral disease caused by a feline coronavirus unrelated to human coronavirus. Though not believed to be contagious, FIP is almost always fast-progressing and fatal.
- Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), an infectious disease that affects the cat’s immune system. FIV is incurable but can be treated.
- Feline Leukemia (FelV), a potentially deadly virus spread through bodily fluids that only impacts cats.
- Ringworm, a fungal infection of the superficial layers of the skin, hair, and nails. Ringworm infections can occur in any mammal, including humans.
- Diarrhea, which can indicate a respiratory infection in cats.
We are not health professionals at Austonia—if you’re concerned about your animal’s wellbeing, call the shelter you adopted it from or call your veterinarian.
What services do shelters provide after the fact?
AAC is an excellent resource for low-cost pet needs; AAC offers free spaying/neutering for dogs and cats through Emancipet, which includes microchipping, pain medication, a rabies vaccine for pets three months or older, DHPP for dogs and FVRCP for cats. AAC will provide a free microchip to all residents and offers classes on responsible pet care or rabies prevention.APA! offers lifetime coaching for animals with behavioral needs, including classes to learn how to control behavior, and compiled a list of trusted resources.
If I can't adopt, how can I help?
APA! has so many options to give, you’ll oftentimes be able to know exactly what you’re pledging money toward. APA! also takes item donations but be advised that shelters can’t usually use opened containers, scratching posts, carpeted cat trees, plastic bowls, scoops, or litter boxes, bed linens or couch cushions.
AHS accepts cash donations. AAC is government funded, though it always accepts donations in the form of cash, which goes toward rabies and microchip programs, animal enrichment, spay and neuter programs, and more. AAC also accepts item, fencing and doghouse donations.
A theory that’s been swirling around lately is that the web as we know it is on its way out and something called Web3 will take over.
It’s hard to know what Web3 is without first understanding the original versions. The first web is the 90s Internet where people had their own random websites that didn’t link together, making it decentralized. In Web2, we saw the rise of Google, Facebook and other major players who configured standard ways for people to share and receive information.
Ethereum co-founder Gavin Wood and other blockchain developers say a decentralized version of the Internet, Web3, is on the way. Web3 can be thought of as synonymous with cryptocurrency, meaning it is based on the blockchain. Platforms and apps built on Web3 won’t be owned by a central gatekeeper, but rather by users. Those in the Austin crypto community believe to see a growing presence of Web3 in Austin.
Pujaa Rajan, an engineer at financial software company Stripe and adviser for startups, describes herself as a “digital nomad.” She has traveled all over from Hawaii to New York and San Francisco, looking for the crypto community in each place.
Having been in Austin for the past month, Rajan organized a Web3 meetup this week at Cosmic Coffee + Beer Garden in South Austin open to folks working in crypto or the crypto-curious. About 30 people showed up. "Compared to a lot of other cities that I went to, it is a lot more open and community-oriented here, which is what Web3 is all about,” she said.
Pujaa Rajan, an engineer at financial software company Stripe, organized a Web3 meetup in Austin during a visit. (Andrea Guzman/Austonia)
ATX DAO member Roberto Talamas, who stopped by the event, talked about the crypto group’s expansion. Web3, in Talamas’ view, expands on the previous versions which allowed people to read, then read and write. Now, he says, people can read, write and own. To Talamas, blockchain technology has powered that ownership aspect, and it can be utilized through groups like a DAO, a group that pools together capital and goes on to make investments or take on blockchain-based projects.
“The ecosystem of work with (Web3) companies here in Austin is still relatively small,” Talamas said. “And that’s one of those things that we’re trying to deal with at ATX DAO is to do all the advocacy work needed to make Austin the best Web3 city.”
Part of that community, however, has gotten a bad rep for being “crypto bros.” Rajan acknowledged that Web3 involves both finance and technology, which are fields women have historically been excluded from. But, she says the decentralization aspect creates a clean slate and a new means to form groups. “I feel like we can kind of take back the power or create a world for ourselves,” Rajan said.
The meetup at Cosmic brought together crypto users to talk about the prospects of Web3. (Andrea Guzmán/Austonia)
Meetup attendee Jonathan Hillis also talked about the idea that Web3 creates an opportunity to start over and how this could be something that grows in Austin. Born and raised in the capital city, Hills has left his Bay Area Web2 Instacart job behind to live in a cabin outside Dripping Springs last year. He and his wife, along with a group of internet friends formed a DAO called Cabin, and he's now writing on the Web3 version of Medium, known as Mirror.
When it comes to the state of Web3, four cities stand out. “The dam broke in Covid,” Hillis said. “Everybody no longer had to live in the Bay Area for tech.”
San Francisco is still rooted in Web2 traits with Big Tech and software as a service venture. New York is financial technology. Miami is another major player. But with Austin, Hillis sees a lot of potential.
“Austin is great at being a place for independent online creators of many types—musicians, but also artists,” Hillis said. “What excites me about Web3 is the opportunities for putting creators at more of the center of the value capture.”
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Once a bargain-hunter's paradise, Austin's reputation as a cheaper California seems to be dissipating. But does money have more value in Austin when compared to other U.S. metros?
For Carson Stanch, who moved to Austin from Brooklyn, New York, to be near family, Austin's lower cost of living was just an added bonus. According to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, a $100 bill is worth $98.20 in Austin when compared to the national average in 2020, while it's worth just $84.53 in New York.
Houston native Carson Stanch moved from Brooklyn, New York to Austin just before the pandemic. (Carson Stanch)
Stanch soon realized she was a trendsetter—or perhaps a fortune teller—as the pandemic hit a few months after her move. No longer willing to spend extra money on their more expensive apartments, Stanch said many of her friends and other New Yorkers left the city amid COVID lockdowns.
"It's so expensive to live there (and) all of the reasons why you live in New York, you couldn't really do anymore," Stanch said.
Garrett Watson, a senior policy analyst with the Tax Foundation who wrote a 2018 report on the value of $100 in U.S. metros, told Austonia the report factors in the costs of goods and services with residents' incomes and compares them to the national average. The result is price parity, a number that varies drastically across the country—for instance, a $100 bill won't get you near as far in Austin as it would in more rural parts of the Hill Country.
While a Ben Franklin note was worth $4 more in New York in 2020 when compared to 2018, a $100 bill decreased by $1.60 in value in Austin. Austin's cost of living also saw the 12th-highest increase among U.S. metros from the 2010 to 2020 census.
And as the pandemic's nationwide housing boom gained extra momentum in Austin, peaking at a median home price of $575,000 in June 2021, Watson said the value of $100 could have dropped even further.
"There's just been a chronic hunger for building houses on the coasts and in certain cities in the heartland," Watson said. "Especially this year, we're seeing more and more discussion about that in Austin, and so that is a big, big factor."
Price parity bleeds into other factors as well—in San Francisco, where the value of $100 sits at $82.63, residents are nearly 18% poorer than their higher incomes suggest. But with higher incomes than the U.S. average, they may find themselves more flush with cash when moving to a cheaper city like Austin.
Many out-of-towners have used that extra change to make housing offers much higher than the asking price, Redfin chief economist Daryl Fairweather told Fox7 Austin.
"All those migrants are bringing with them high-paying jobs who are used to much more expensive housing and they’re willing to pull out all the stops to win these homes and move to Austin," Fairweather said.
But Austin is catching up to those traditional hotspots: the area was predicted to be the most expensive metro outside of the Golden State by the end of 2021.
In just two years, Stanch said she's seen some signs.
"I feel like I look around certain areas of Austin (and) they do feel more similar to downtown Brooklyn," Stanch said. "Some businesses I see might tend to cater to folks who have a little more income."
I cannot believe there’s a Hermès (an Hermès?) store opening around the corner from where I live. Oy vey. The scrappy, cheap, charmingly dusty locals-only South Congress of yore is receding into the past so very quickly. 😭 pic.twitter.com/sUHxI4pX8F
— Cari Marshall (@CariMarshallTX) August 3, 2021
So why not move to, say, Florence, Alabama, where money is almost 20% more valuable?
Watson said the difference comes down to the value of amenities—something the study can't track.
"Part of the value in New York City is all the amenities that you're near, the value of Broadway, the value of being able to get food delivered to your door," Watson said. "So that may be reflected in people's willingness to pay higher prices... there's a lot of really great reasons why people may want to be in Austin from an identity perspective that you can't get in other parts of Texas."
In Austin, tech salaries rose 5% from 2020-2021 as big-name corporations like Oracle and Tesla—alongside Tesla's billionaire owner Elon Musk—flocked to the nation's new "boomtown." With an ever-increasing job market, eclectic culture and reputation as one of the world's best cities for move-ins, Austin's appeal might still offset its price.
But for Stanch and many others, there may still come a time when price wins over location.
"If I was to the point where homebuying was more important than being near friends and family, then I would move to get the home," Stanch said. "I think that's kind of part of my plan."