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Survey says: 80% support Pet Resource Center project

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Hays County Commissioners Court heard a presentation by Austin Pets Alive! that gave an overview of community engagement efforts at the regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday.

Hays County hired Austin Pets Alive! to help create a new Pet Resource Center in the county. The initial step was to conduct a Community Needs and Values survey that was available to county residents from September to October 2023.

Austin Pets Alive! Executive Advisor Lee Ann Shenefiel discussed the results of the survey in court.

“The goal was to measure initial support for a new shelter in Hays County, the types of services and resources that people said that they needed for their pets and to start better understanding the community’s experience around stray and lost pets in order to plan for programming recommendations,” Shenefiel said. “This effort included a Community Needs and Values Survey as well as five community meetings and several dozen tabling events through the community.”

The survey consultant advised that there would need to be 350 responses that mirrored the demographics of the county. Shenefiel said that goal was successfully reached, so the results should be a true reflection of the community’s needs. Of the respondents, 56% were white, 28% were Hispanic or Latino and 2% identified as Black or African American.

“Hays County loves dogs. Most of the respondents to the survey had at least one dog in their home,” Shenefiel said. “The majority of respondents support a new shelter. That number was about 80%. Sixty percent of responders supported some tax support for that shelter.”

Shenefiel said there were five community meetings in Nov. with an average of approximately 15 folks at each meeting.

“The goal of those meetings was to provide an overview of the project to date, talk about the launch of our virtual resource center [and] engage stakeholders in conversations. There was an opportunity at each of the meetings also to give input on what folks thought the goals of the pet resource project should be [and] what resources were needed,” Shenefiel said. “There was also an opportunity to recruit for volunteers.”

The results showed that Hays County residents are concerned with affordable access to pet care, particularly affordable emergency care. The community wants more access to spay, neuter and chip services, and they found that there was a positive correlation between income and access to services—the more income, the more access and vice versa.

“When asked if they would make use of resources from a pet resource center, only 13% said they would not,” Shenefiel said.

Data from the San Marcos Regional Animal Shelter shows that most dogs that are taken to the shelter do not leave.

“What we’re trying to unravel here is what factors separate dogs from their people, and why don’t their people find them again,” Shenefiel said “Twenty percent of respondents said they had lost pets. … Twenty percent of respondents that were successfully reunited did not do that through the shelter. It was some kind of community based resource.”

There was also a concern about stray dogs.

“Over half of the respondents said that they had seen at least five free roaming pets, so stray dogs and stray cats, within a few blocks from their home,” Shenefiel said.

There were concerns about the ability to access information online and in the community at large and the ability to access animal control after hours. The community thought that the county should provide more resources on how to identify a pet in need and what to do in that situation.

“The data shows that there’s a tremendous opportunity for the county to really invest in those community-based returnto- home efforts, so getting microchips, getting id tags out into the community, making sure that people know that that animal has a better chance of finding its way home” Shenefiel said. “There’s a real opportunity, I think, to change that narrative.”

Hays County Commissioner Michelle Cohen said that transportation is a big issue, so she thinks it would be important to develop better countywide transit simultaneously with the new Pet Resource Center.

Hays County Commissioner Walt Smith had concerns about having a central location within the county, which could lead to more drive time for community members who live further from the center. He also felt that there should be a push for community education on what it means to be a pet owner and how much it will cost.

San Marcos Record

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