Suit Filed To Stop City’s Plan To Move Austin’s Animal Shelter


On Monday, the City of Austin’s controversial plan to relocate Austin’s animal shelter from downtown to a lot in East Austin hit a major roadblock: the affected neighborhoods from both East and West Austin, along with advocacy group, sued the City in a Travis County District Court to block the move.

The lawsuit alleges that the City’s plan violates the Texas Open Meetings Act by failing to have a public, properly noticed, democratic process to determine the new shelter’s location. As evidence, the group pointed to an e-mail from Animal Advisory Commission Member Babette Ellis to Council Member Betty Dunkerley, asking her to “cement the [East Austin] site” as quickly as possible before “the community there” is ‘awakened’ to any issues.”

The City’s plan to move its animal shelter to an industrial site near Airport Road and East 7th Street has been met with consistent and heavy criticism from local animal-welfare advocates. Ryan Clinton, President of FixAustin, said, “Moving an animal shelter away from its primary adopters will lead to fewer visits, fewer adoptions, and more killing.” FixAustin has strongly urged the City to rebuild the shelter at its current Town Lake location.

The Central Texas Animal Alliance recently released a report condemning the City of Austin’s plan to close the downtown animal shelter and replace it with one on the City’s eastern edge. The report, written by national animal-shelter expert Nathan Winograd, concludes that “relocating Austin’s animal shelter would be a death sentence for dogs and cats who would otherwise find loving homes.”

According to the lawsuit, the Ellis e-mail and other documents reveal a pattern of deception by those attempting to move the shelter. Clinton said, “That e-mail is undemocratic and terribly offensive. I hope each City Council Member will denounce the obvious, concerted effort of some persons to avoid the democratic process in order to move our animal shelter.”

The lawsuit presents two main claims: first, that the City Council failed to post any proper notice to move the shelter from downtown; and second, that the City Council failed to post any proper notice to amend the Govalle/Johnson Terrace neighborhood plan that calls for affordable housing on the site where City staff wants to put the shelter.

In November 2006, Austin voters approved a $12 million bond to build a new animal shelter, but the bond ballot’s language did not specify whether the shelter would be rebuilt or moved. Local and national animal-welfare advocates say that moving the shelter away from downtown will lead to more animals being killed at the shelter each year. The City currently kills approximately 12,000 dogs and cats annually — more than half the pets it shelters.


Photo: City of Austin animal adoption site

8 Responses to “Suit Filed To Stop City’s Plan To Move Austin’s Animal Shelter”

  1. Lynne says:

    I’m SO TIRED of government (on local and federal levels) trying to operate in secret. This is antithetical to a true democracy.

  2. catmom5 says:

    Sure, the downtown site could probably be sold to some developer to make tons of money. A 50% + kill rate is nothing to brag about, so to move the shelter to where fewer animals would be adopted is INSANE!!! And the powers that be know that because they tried to push it through in secret. I hope that the “good guys” prevail in this situation!

  3. Sharon says:

    The local government in Austin does everything in secret. City government around here is a joke. I wish there was a way to impeach every member of the City Council and City Manager Toby Futrell. The mayor isn’t much better. He has done more for Katrina refugees than the people of Austin. All the Town Lake Animal Shelter does now is euthanize a ridiculously high number of animals every year without any improvement in services.

  4. Sharon says:

    When the council made the decision to move it to the East side of town it was when that part of town was poor and black. I’m surprised they haven’t changed their mind since gentrification of the East side has almost driven all the poor people and black people away. At the time they did it there was both race and class involved in their decision which tells you exactly what they think about animals.

  5. nora says:

    I AM JUMPING FOR JOY! This nasty little email being exposed shows how low the local Austin Tx. people who are in charge of such things really are and cannot be trusted and should be FIRED. We can only imagine how many other underhanded and lowdown shenanigans “BABETTE ELLIS and BETTY DUNKERLY have been involved in, in the past. These two witches are not suitable to make any future descions for the city of Austin! ALL HAIL NATHAN WINOGRAD! He is the innocent animals savior! And THANKYOU Ryan Clinton for your diligence and hard work. I have great love for you.

  6. Denise says:

    why don’t the good citizens of Austin VOTE THESE scumbags out of office.

  7. MaryP says:

    Go to FixAustin’s website,

    Sign the petition to stop the move to a poorly accessible location and add your comments to help refurbish Austin’s existing shelter, or rebuild a new shelter in a location selected by the animal advocates community in Austin.

  8. Nora and Rufus says:

    Yes, from what I know…if correct, the Shelter keeps the animals for three days and if no one claims them or a Rescue Group doesn’t respond for pure breeds and some mixes, then the animal is euthanized. If this is true, it is the end of the trail for many a good dog and cat and so sad it just makes me want to sob. My best friend for over 35 years does rescue and foster for the German Shepherd Rescue in Austin, Tx. They do all they can…….

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