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.
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With soft sand, plenty of beach bars and the best ceviche, there's arguably only one beach worth going to in Texas—South Padre Island.
You might know this beach as a college student's spring break hotspot, but really, it's the Rio Grande Valley's most secret gem. From someone who has been going to "the island" every year since before I could walk, here's a guide to the best SPI has to offer.
First thing's first, don't underestimate how hot South Texas is. Be ready with plenty of sunscreen. If you thought Austin was hot, you're in for a treat as high humidity will make the Valley feel scorching. Luckily, the water offers some reprieve from the sun's rays—still, be sure to bring sunscreen and a hat.
Driving in: From Austin, you can expect almost a six hour drive. Your navigation will take you either around San Antonio (which is a plus for most people) or through San Antonio, funneling to U.S. 77 until you reach Valley grounds in Harlingen.
- From there, it might be smarter to take the toll roads, which border the Port of Brownsville and will save you going through small towns like Los Fresnos that can get backed up with traffic.
- But if you do decide to hightail it through Los Fresnos, be wary of how fast you are going and the speed limit. Cops are especially on the prowl in those areas, catching out of towners unfamiliar with the speed limit changes.
Still, no matter which route you take, you'll go through Port Isabel before crossing the 2-mile bridge to South Padre. During peak times, such as early afternoon, expect to sit in traffic. Better times to travel are in the early morning.
Flying in: For the people that read a six-hour drive with wide eyes, there is a nearby airport in Brownville, a 40-minute drive from SPI, as well as the Valley International Airport in Harlingen, a 1-hour drive away. Be ready to spend $250-$400 a person.
Sights and sounds
Getting to the RGV, you'll be welcomed with palm trees well before you've made it to the beach. And just before crossing the bridge from Port Isabel to South Padre, you'll see a sign that may be blinking, indicating to watch out for pelicans.
As you drive over that bridge, your passengers will want to get their phones out and take the classic video of the the water, boats and parasailers in the bay. It's the best way to let everyone know you're on vacation!
And don't forget to roll down your window to take in the salty smell of the gulf of Mexico.
Resorts: For beach access and the fun amenities that come with that, places like The Pearl, The Palm and The Saphire are where you'll get a resort-style feel.
Affordable: You can still find a Holiday Inn, Ramada and La Quinta along the beach bars.
Airbnb is always an option where you can rent out condos, but you'll want to make sure to book in advance as options may be limited in peak summer.
There are at least 25 access points to the beach, which is on the east edge of the island. Some you can only get to if you're a hotel guest. Here are the most popular ways to reach the sand.
Walking to the beach: Between the bars and hotels, you'll find free access points where you get to just park and walk right onto the beach. You're likely to still find umbrellas and chairs you can rent out.
Beach bar access: Some of the most popular places for beach entry are those that come with a nearby bar. But don't worry, all ages are welcome. You'll want to check these bars' social media pages in the evenings if you're looking for live music.
- Where you're almost certain to not struggle for parking is one of the hottest spots on the beach: Clayton's Beach Bar and Grill. At Clayton's, you're able to get your drink on, get a bite to eat and have access to the beach and volleyball courts.
- A smaller, but just as cool alternative is Wanna Wanna Beach Bar and Grill. With the same amenities as Clayton's, you can't go to Wanna Wanna without trying a turbo, a pina colada with a rum floater—you can get these just about anywhere on the beach, but they just taste better beachside.
Driving on the beach: If you want to try your four-wheel drive on the sand, you can! Access points #5 and #6 allow you to pay a small fee to take your vehicle out there. Click here to see how you might prepare your vehicle for the sand. If you choose to go with this option, you'll want to make sure to pack appropriately as there are no rentals or bars nearby.
If you're trying to make the most of your South Padre getaway, we have you covered with things for the whole family as well as the nightlife scene.
- Watch the fireworks: Catch a fireworks display at the island all summer long. Catch them displayed on the bay in front of Louie's Backyard on Tuesdays and near Clayton Beach Bar on Fridays and Saturdays.
- Beach Park and Isla Grande: The former Schlitterbahn is now a beach park that opened in 2021. The 25-acre waterpark has water slides, a zipline and beach access. (Day passes are $38.99 for children and $10 more for adults)
- Sea Turtle, Inc.: Learn about sea turtles and sea life conservation at the largest state-of-the-art sea turtle hospital. You'll be able to get up close and personal with the turtles! ($4 for children, $10 for adults)
- Gravity Park: For the adrenaline junkies, this park has the tallest reverse bungee in the world ($25), a skycoaster ($25), go-karts ($15-$20), mini-golf ($8-10), a 60-foot ferris wheel ($8), and a climbing wall ($8).
- Sandcastle exhibit: Right next to Gravity Park is a small sandcastle exhibit that is free and about a 5-minute walk to see all the exhibits made entirely from sand by professionals. (Free w/ donations accepted)
- Get in on the water sports: A couple of rental places like Coconut Jacks SPI offer jet skis for rental as well as equipment for parasailing.
- Rent a pontoon boat: Tritoon Charters allows you to rent a pontoon boat for the day perfect for the whole family. The charter offers private snorkeling, shell hunting, up close dolphin and turtle encounters, tubing and sight seeing.
- Party like a local: Escape the beachside and head to the west edge of the island for live music and dancing. Tourists love to flood Louie's Backyard, but there are other bars along the bay worth going to such as Longboard, Laguna Bobs and Tequila Sunset.
You can't leave the island before eating ceviche and fried shrimp. And you can't go wrong by eating at the already mentioned beach bars and bay bars. But here are some other notable places to visit:
- Breakfast: Yummies Bistro and Grapevine Cafe are both places to get your breakfast tacos in the morning.
- Lunch: Cafe on the Beach are good midday options to catch a quick bite without sacrificing quality.
- Dinner: F&B is about as upscale as it gets if you can snag a reservation—Elon Musk has been spotted here. They also offer Sunday brunch.
The pilot of a small plane is now in the hospital after crashing into Lady Bird Lake Thursday afternoon.
The plane, which was being operated by a Texas Parks and Wildlife Game Warden, only had the pilot in it when it crashed just west of I-35 in the lake around 2 p.m. Nearby paddleboarders are seen taking the unidentified pilot to Austin-Travis County EMS in a video.
The pilot was then transported to Dell Seton Medical Center with potentially serious injuries.
UPDATE: #ATCEMSSPARTAN drone video showing the aircraft submerged just below the surface. pic.twitter.com/wexI9MqpQS
— ATCEMS (@ATCEMS) June 16, 2022
Texas Parks and Wildlife said the plane, a 2009 Cessna T206, was on a test flight after routine maintenance when the pilot reported mechanical issues and then crashed.
As of Thursday afternoon, it is not known when the plane will be removed from Lady Bird Lake.
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