Starlight Pet Talk

Spotlight on Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter: Transforming Lives in Texas

April 30, 2024 Amy Castro, MA, CSP Season 2 Episode 16
Spotlight on Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter: Transforming Lives in Texas
Starlight Pet Talk
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Starlight Pet Talk
Spotlight on Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter: Transforming Lives in Texas
Apr 30, 2024 Season 2 Episode 16
Amy Castro, MA, CSP

Join us for an enlightening episode of Starlight Pet Talk as we shine a spotlight on the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter in Georgetown, Texas. In this episode, we sit down with Community Programs Coordinator April Pfeiffer,  to discuss the challenges and triumphs encountered by this shelter.

April discusses the pivotal role of fostering, volunteering, and donating in supporting the shelter's mission. By fostering animals, volunteering time, or contributing financially, individuals can directly impact the lives of animals in need and bolster the shelter's efforts.

Key Takeaways
- WCRAS faces challenges due to the high number of animals they care for, but they have various programs in place to find homes for these animals.
- Fostering, volunteering, and donating are important ways to support the shelter's work and help animals in need.
- The shelter emphasizes the importance of finding the right match for each animal and provides resources and support to adopters and fosters.

Shoutouts in this episode:
Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter
Rehome by Adoptapet.com

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Show Notes Transcript

Join us for an enlightening episode of Starlight Pet Talk as we shine a spotlight on the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter in Georgetown, Texas. In this episode, we sit down with Community Programs Coordinator April Pfeiffer,  to discuss the challenges and triumphs encountered by this shelter.

April discusses the pivotal role of fostering, volunteering, and donating in supporting the shelter's mission. By fostering animals, volunteering time, or contributing financially, individuals can directly impact the lives of animals in need and bolster the shelter's efforts.

Key Takeaways
- WCRAS faces challenges due to the high number of animals they care for, but they have various programs in place to find homes for these animals.
- Fostering, volunteering, and donating are important ways to support the shelter's work and help animals in need.
- The shelter emphasizes the importance of finding the right match for each animal and provides resources and support to adopters and fosters.

Shoutouts in this episode:
Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter
Rehome by Adoptapet.com

Send us a Text Message.

Support the Show.

Help us make the show better by taking our quick listener survey: https://survey.zohopublic.com/zs/AUCstt

Support the show: https://www.buymeacoffee.com/starlightpettalk

FOLLOW!
▷ Official Site: https://www.starlighpettalk.com

▶ Facebook: / starlightoutreachandrescue

▶ YouTube: -https://bit.ly/starlightsubscribe

▶ TikTok: ...

Amy Castro (00:00.27)
Today is National Adopt -A -Shelter Pet Day in the U .S. But what if every day was a celebration of love, compassion, and second chances for our furry friends? Well, at Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter in Georgetown, Texas, it is. Today, we're spotlighting this wonderful shelter because it is truly a beacon of hope where extraordinary things are happening every day. I hope you're ready to witness the magic. Stay tuned. You're listening to Starlight Pet Talk.

A podcast for pet parents who want the best pet care advice from cat experts, dog trainers, veterinarians, and other top pet professionals who will help you live your very best life with your pets.

Amy Castro (00:44.366)
Welcome to Starlight Pet Talk. I'm your host, Amy Castro. And as you probably know, if you follow the show for a while, I'm also the president of Starlight Outreach and Rescue. But what some people might not know is that for 10 years before I started the rescue, I was heavily involved in my local municipal animal shelter. And I've been to several around our community. But one that I have always admired is the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter, because for whatever reason, and we're going to dive into that today,

They're just doing a lot of things right. And I'm just very impressed by the things that they do. So my guest today is April Pfeiffer, and she is the Community Programs Coordinator at Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter, which is in Georgetown, Texas. And she's been in this position for going on four years now, after starting her work with the shelter as a volunteer back in 2011. See, that's how you get pulled in, right? You start volunteering and then you get all involved.

April's favorite part about working at the shelter is that each day is different. Well, that comes after her favorites getting adopted and we do have our favorites sometimes, but that's redundant as a shelter staffer. So April, thank you so much for being here with me today and making the time to tell us about what you do and to tell us more about the shelter. Yeah, thank you for inviting me. I'm happy to be here. So, you know, one of the reasons that we're doing this episode is because National Adopt -A -Shelter Pet Day is coming up.

And it just got me to thinking about Williamson County and the fact that it does such amazing things. So what does National Adopt -a -Shelter Pet Day mean to you? You know, as far as like, do you guys do anything special for that? I know you do a lot of special stuff, but just the fact that we have a National Adopt -a -Shelter Pet Day. Well, I would say that, you know, we tend to focus on shelter pets, obviously every single day of the year. And so.

We enjoy those national days that shine the spotlight and we encourage the community to take advantage of that extra focus to take the opportunity to consider adopting from a shelter in order to add to their families. Yeah, I think just having these, there's a reason there's a day for everything. Number one, it's because whatever that subject might be is near and dear to the person or the group's heart that started it, but you're absolutely right. It really just gives another

Amy Castro (03:04.686)
point of emphasis or another thing to stick in people's mind that it's like, oh, that's coming up. So I should probably do something about that. So can you tell us a little bit more about Williamson County and how many animals do you generally see come through the facility and things like that? Just to kind of give us a, cause I don't really even to be perfectly honest, have an idea of what the true scope of the shelter is. I mean, I just see what I see on social media. Sure. Of course. So we're located in Georgetown, Texas, which is just a little bit north of Austin.

And we have a very strong support system here in our area for giving animals the opportunities that they deserve for loving happy homes. And Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter has been a leader in this regard for quite a while now. We struggle every single day because like everywhere else in the country, we are overwhelmed with dogs.

So for us, we are built and we are designed to care for 110 dogs on a daily basis at the ideal level, right? That's the maximum number that we can care for and give all the enrichment, get them out every single day, you know, the whole nine yards, the, I suppose Cadillac care level that 110 is our maximum.

We started our day today with 233 dogs in the shelter. Whoa. Yes. That's a little different. It's a lot different. And so of course that means that we are not able to provide that Cadillac level of service to each and every one of the animals here at the shelter. And having that excess of dogs in our care means that we have to take service away from the cats too, or.

from any of the other kinds of little creatures who may come to us in need of help like rabbits or gerbils or you know, what have you. All of that said, we are super lucky, super grateful for our volunteers and our fosters because it is their help that makes us able to get through each and every day despite being so critically beyond our capacity. We typically see around 7 ,000

Amy Castro (05:28.27)
animals come through our doors each year. So we're considered about a medium size shelter and we are located in an area that is rapidly growing. So our shelter will continue to be overwhelmed until such time as the growth stops and we have been able to expand to such an extent that we can handle the population in a better way. Yeah. Well, and I

I just have to hone in on that number for just a second. 7 ,000 animals and that's considered medium. I mean, that to me is just like a poke in the eye of how big of a problem we have in this country. Well, and especially in the state of Texas. I mean, I know the state of Texas has a particularly, not only is it a big state, it's got particularly big problems when it comes to stray, abandoned and surrendered pets, but 7 ,000 and then being that much over the ideal like.

you know, capacity, that's incredible. So that kind of leads me to my next question. One of the things I was gonna ask was, you know, what are some of the challenges that you and you think other shelters face in finding homes? But it's not just the homes, it's the challenge of all, you know, where are all these animals coming from? I guess would be the first question. And then why does the capacity get to be so much, you know, what's the challenge in getting them back out, either getting them back to their owners if they're strays or getting them adopted? Yeah.

You know, that's kind of an enormous question, right? Like, where do you even start? There are so many different avenues by which an animal might come to our shelter. Obviously, owners who are no longer able to care for their animals and they turn them over to our care. We're glad that we are able to be that safe haven, though we do hope that they will work to find those new homes themselves, since they are the ones who

best know their pets and will be able to best find a great match. So, you know, a lot of people I think right now are suffering from the economy along with, I would say, not friendly rental atmosphere for having pets. We have a lot of places out there right now who call themselves pet friendly. And I recently attended a webinar.

Amy Castro (07:46.894)
that pointed out that pet friendly does not necessarily equate to pet inclusive. And that is so true. We have lots of places out there that call themselves pet friendly, but if you have a dog who weighs say over 30 pounds or 50 pounds or whatever arbitrary number they've assigned, then they're really not friendly. They're exclusive instead of inclusive. And so, you know, people who fall on hard times and have to say sell their house or.

whatever, having a lot of difficulties, finding new housing, new affordable housing for themselves and their pets. And that gives them no option. And it's really very sad. Our hearts break for those families because their hearts are breaking too. It's really just a very sad situation for those folks. We do try to provide resources. Go ahead. That's exactly what I was gonna ask next is, are there things that you do

You know, cause I know as a small rescue, like we do about 300 animals a year and it's, it's by design. Like you said, it's about capacity and we've gone over our capacity before and it falls, you know, I got cages of kittens on my dining room table kind of thing. And it's like, I can't, I can't live like that. But you know, the issue of the, the owner surrenders and the resources. I was at an event this weekend and a young woman came up to me and said, well, I tried to adopt from you guys one time.

but I was denied and I'm like, okay, this is gonna be an awkward conversation. And what it was is, cause we do check the rules at apartment complexes and things like that because there have been times where people are like, no, there's no pet restrictions, there's no this, no that. And I don't want that puppy to come back when it's a year old because your landlord kind of discovered it. But this particular complex, their rule was that the animal...

Absolutely had to be spayed or neutered. Well, this woman's trying to adopt a 12 -week -old kitten We don't spay and neuter that young and it's like, okay But you'll have a certificate basically saying you're gonna get a free one We've got the date set, you know Because we do it at five months or whatever four months or whatever the cutoff it you know that we use and they just wouldn't accept that so it's it's crazy, but as far as the resources go What kind of things do you have to offer, you know alternatives to surrendering?

Amy Castro (10:03.47)
So we have all sorts of different ways that we can help people with, instead of having to turn the animal over to our care, either rehoming or helping them to find ways to be able to keep the pet with them where they're already happy and loved. And so we have an organization that...

will assist with things like pet deposits or training if training is one of the barriers that is presenting itself to a family. We have a variety of things like that. We also partner with rehome .com that allows a family to post their pet as available for adoption without having to bring it here to us. And that gives them that same online presence that a shelter pet will have.

so that lots of people who are out searching for a pet to adopt can find that pet. And we've actually just this week added a tab on our website that's displaying the pets in our community who are available for adoption from their families as opposed to from the shelter. So we give them that leg up of also being displayed on our website so that they can try to find those homes.

for their pets instead of them having to turn them over to our care. That's great. Yeah, I think people don't realize whether it's something that sneaks up on somebody like a sudden job loss or a sudden housing change, or it's something that's been in the making or in the works for a while and they just didn't want to think about having to place their pet. But we get a lot of people that will reach out and it's like, I mean, I kid you not, we'll get a call on a Thursday and say,

I have to have it gone by Saturday because I'm moving across country or I'm getting evicted from my apartment. And it's like, I think what people think is that it's going to be easy. Cause I see people post on social media. It's like, Oh, if I can't find somebody tomorrow, by tomorrow, I'm going to take him to the shelter. Well, around here, many, many city shelters and county shelters have stopped completely taking in owner's surrenders. And, and part of it, I think is this.

Amy Castro (12:17.39)
the idea that, well, it's your pet, you need to be responsible for it, or we're at capacity because we're picking up strays and we were required to do that in the community. I don't know if you're finding that up there or not, or if that's an issue as well, that maybe you're getting more overwhelmed because you don't turn away owner surrenders and others do, or is it not like that up in the Austin area? So.

I would say that we're certainly overwhelmed by the request. We are not saying no to people turning their pets over to our care at all right now. However, we do ask them to make an appointment with us in order to do so, so that we can sort of manage that flow of intake a little bit better. So we have them schedule an appointment and we encourage them to try to find a new home for their pet in the meantime.

and or we will also provide resources. So if they say to us, you know, well, this dog just keeps digging out from under the fence or he won't stop jumping on people when he come, when they come to visit and we just can't handle that. You know, in the meantime, here are some resources that you can use to try to train your pet so that maybe those behaviors disappear. And we do find often that people will.

find new homes for their pets themselves, or they will work through those problems. When they understand that it's not as simple as just bringing the pet to us, they can't just simply take the animal to us because we don't have the space. And then we also incentivize them by helping with the fees that are associated with turning their pets over to our care. So, you know, there is a fee associated with that.

but we give them discounts. If they have posted their pet to rehome .com, if they have posted their pet to a variety of rehoming Facebook groups, what are the different steps that they've taken in order to try to accomplish this goal themselves instead of turning the pet over to our care? And when they've been able to do that and they can prove that to us, then we will reduce that fee. And that's an incentive for them to make the appointment with us.

Amy Castro (14:29.55)
and try to accomplish these goals on their own. So when we see that they're actively trying, we want to help them out. We want to acknowledge that, you know, we understand that sometimes you don't have a choice. Sometimes this is the best option. And while we don't want to be the one who does that, because it's better if you do, we will be here to support you if you need us. So that's how we approach that here.

I think that it's just a never ending challenge. Whether we're in this time in the history of animal welfare or even 10 years ago, the challenge was still there. It's just that we've learned to evolve and work with the opportunities that are out there in order to try to help the people help themselves and help their pets.

Right. And I think that's important. I mean, it's easy to just say, nope, we don't do that. But then, you know, there's ramifications of that, not only for that person, but I mean, you know, if that person truly is getting evicted and they are, you know, they can't take their pet and you can't, and you're not going to take it, where do you think it's going to go? You know, there are people that will let them, you know, let them go or give them to just a random person. It may not be the best situation. So I think we could probably all do a little bit better.

job, even even just being able to provide those resources, you know, provide a list of rescues, provide a list of websites, whatever it might be. So beyond obviously owner surrenders is a piece of it. How bad is the stray population up in your community? Because I'm assuming a lot of your dogs and cats come that way as well. Yes, we have, you know, definitely a challenge with that right now as well. And, you know, I also think that's another one of those scenarios where.

there's a variety of things happening all at the same time. You know, we're all, animal welfare right now, I believe, is sort of in the perfect storm of challenges that is causing so much of our overpopulation problem. And one of those being the lack of spay neuter resources for those few years during the pandemic that we're now seeing the result of a lot of.

Amy Castro (16:45.582)
one year old dogs showing up at the shelter with no training whatsoever because so many oops litters were happening because people weren't able to get their pets fixed. You know, that's not because they didn't care. It's because they didn't have any access. And right now also we, you know, have a shortage of veterinary resources, not just, not just a financial difficulty, but just simple availability at all. And so,

You have that going on. We do have shelters around our area who are not accepting pets. And so, you know, we do see a little bit of difficulties with people trying to bring pets to us who are not from within our jurisdiction, whether those be owned pets or pets that have been found out in the community. And so, you know, like I say, it's it's kind of the perfect storm for animal welfare right now. Right.

Yeah, that's another thing that I think they've cracked down a lot around, you know, in the Houston area where I am. It's not that the jurisdictions didn't exist before, but now it's literally like, you can't just show up at the shelter and show your driver's license and say you live here. Like, they want to pick it up physically from your address, that kind of thing. Or if you say you found it in the grocery store parking lot.

go back there and we will physically come and pick it up there. Because people do lie, you know, oh, I live in, you know, I live in Friendswood as an example, or Alvin or whatever the city is. And it's like, oh, well, you know, can we see your driver's license? Oh, you know, or what street do you live on? Um, um, I mean, I've, because I volunteered at a shelter, I mean, I've literally been the person asking those questions and it's definitely a challenge. You know, it's this balance of trying to.

maintain a manageable population and it's really hard to do that when it's just coming at you from a million different directions. So owner surrenders, you know, picking up strays, any other sources of animals coming in or I mean, that's pretty, this is pretty much the standard. Yeah, we don't have the capacity in dogs anyway, to be able to have anything else like a transfer in. Although for cats, the situation is quite dramatically different. You know, we often have

Amy Castro (18:59.31)
very few cats right now. We have not very many cats. Kitten season seems to have been put on pause or it's on a delay or something, you know, whatever it is, we're all celebrating. It's starting to limp in. Yeah. Yeah. But, you know, so every now and again, we may bring cats in from other areas when they ask us for help, when we have the space for it. But yeah, I think it's, it's people who need to turn their pets over to our care.

or it is lost pets who are needing to find their homes. And well, I guess there's also seizures, you know, cruelty cases or things of that nature. Yeah. So we know where they're coming from. I know you guys do a lot of unique things, but I'm sure there are still challenges in getting pets adopted. So let's talk about some of the challenges that you face in getting pets out the door, assuming they don't find their home. And then, you know, what are some programs that you have or?

specific things that you're doing that helps to increase the adoption rates? Yeah, so you know we have lots of dogs here like all the other shelters in the country do right now. 233 this morning. Our length of stay is relatively long. However, we really truly believe in treating each animal as an individual and giving that care that each animal needs to them so that they are able to.

stay here until we are able to find that home that is the right match for them. We have a variety of programs to encourage people to foster or to adopt. We started our Doggie Day Out program last year in, I think it was February of 2023, and that was an immediate hit. Everybody absolutely loves Doggie Day Out. And that is...

a program where we just allow the public to come in, starting when we open our doors to the public at noon each and every day, they can pick from a list of dogs who have been pre -approved to go on a doggy day out, and they take that dog out for the day. And it's a win in every single aspect because the dog gets out. It gives them a lot of exposure.

Amy Castro (21:21.198)
because usually the person taking that dog on its adventure for the day is very excited about taking photos, taking videos, posting on their social media accounts, helping us promote those animals themselves. Instead of just us doing that work, we've got the public doing that work for us now too. So that's an incredible resource for us. And...

It has resulted in quite a few extended fosters. So I'm sorry, I can't bring this dog back today. I'm gonna have to take it for the weekend or the next two weeks or even better. I'm not bringing this dog back at all. I'm gonna adopt. And you know, that's been amazing. We love these things. So that's been one program that's been an enormous success for us. We also introduced last year our best match program.

And that is where we identify dogs with the characteristics that we are asked for most often. So a dog who is dog friendly, a dog who is cat friendly, a dog who is kid friendly, and a dog who will be well suited for apartment living. And so on our website, we have listings of dogs who have been identified with such characteristics. So instead of just looking on our website and seeing the 233 dogs,

who are available for adoption right now, you can instead look at the list that is identified as a dog who is good with cats, because that's what your home requires. And then you can come to the shelter, ask to meet that list of dogs, and now you know you've got a starting point. It's not so overwhelming. You feel empowered. Because that's a lot of dogs to walk that.

Yeah, people walking down those rows of dogs and sometimes people used to look at me funny when I was volunteering at the shelter because people would come in and like, oh, I'm here to see dogs. And most of the time, you know, many people would just be like, okay, but, um, and take them back. And it was a relatively small shelter, but I would, I would, and then other people did too, but, um, you know, ask them questions about what they're looking for. So that when, at least when we're going back there, I can guide you to the animals that are most likely to fit your bill or.

Amy Castro (23:39.566)
steer you away from ones where it's like, yes, Bonnie, that would not be a great one for cats because, you know, whatever the reason was, you know, it's nice for potential adopters to be able to have that information. And I think it's brilliant that you guys are, you know, just narrowing the field because it makes it so much more manageable to really get to know a handful of dogs or really spend some time with them versus, like I said, just going up and down aisles of dogs and not even really.

getting a sense of who they are. Yeah, and one of the other things that we really love about best match is it's, you know, it provides an opportunity to, you know, instead of doing that walking up and down the aisles where it's so overwhelming for the people and the dogs, most of the time they're barking because they want to get out of their kennel and you're likely not going to take that dog out of its kennel.

or they're just like stranger, stranger, right? Instead of that, they can tell us, well, I saw, you know, Fluffy on your website. Your website says that Fluffy is cat friendly. So I'd like to meet Fluffy and we bring Fluffy out to one of our play yards to meet you instead of you walking up and down those kennels. And it's just a much better experience for everybody involved because.

that overwhelming kennel walk is taken out of the equation and instead you're meeting Fluffy in that play yard and getting to see a much more accurate representation of who Fluffy truly is. Cause Fluffy might've been growling at you from behind that kennel door if you would walk that kennel hall instead of meeting Fluffy out in the yard where she will greet you with a happy tail wag.

That's such a good point because it really allows that dog to shine and it allows that person to really focus on that one animal at a time, which I think is so important. And I think so many times too, whether it is the perp walk down the aisle or even sometimes the social media, somebody will see a picture of something. We've had several great Pyrenees come into our program and it's like...

Amy Castro (25:42.062)
You know, they're not a good fit for everybody. You know, huskies are not, I mean, there's a lot of dogs that are not a good fit for everybody because they have certain needs and you've got to be able to meet those needs. Otherwise you're going to be bringing that dog back to me. And so, you know, you may think it's pretty, but it's, it's, you know, you, it's really important that I think fit is such a huge, such a huge thing to assess before you let an animal just walk out the door. It's a, those are, those are some great programs and any other ones that come to mind. Well, we, we do have a transport program.

We use that to take some of our adoptable dogs and send them to other areas of the country where there may actually be wait lists to adopt a pet. So we send quite a few dogs on transport every month. That's been a huge benefit to our numbers, obviously. It helps to manage that overpopulation. We know that we started today with 233 dogs, but if we just hold out.

you know, another week or another two weeks, we're going to have, you know, a large number of dogs leave the shelter. And of course we're going to get more afterwards and we'll start the cycle all over again. But we know that that is coming down the pike. And so it's been a really big benefit to us as well. We also have a behavior coordinator on staff. So,

She works with some of our dogs with the more challenging behavior aspects so that we can work to find them those homes that are best suited for them because they are often the ones who really do need that very particular kind of place to live. You know, we have our volunteer programs are, you know, designed to keep the animals.

and the volunteers paired up in such a way that their knowledge levels match up with the animals challenges or lack thereof, I guess. So based on their, you know, like their understanding of behavior or their dog handling experience. Yeah. That's also a great idea because too many times like we're a small rescue. So it's very easy. Like if I've got a, and I even had this yesterday, I put out a.

Amy Castro (27:59.63)
I put out kind of a general plea to get this puppy out of my hallway. Just give me a break for a week until my, we're actually building a very small shelter building, but you know, the puppy needs more interaction. And it's interesting, you mentioned the idea of, you know, the Cadillac standard versus some of that, sometimes that stuff has to be let go, the extras when you're overpopulated. But you know, a couple of things there. Number one, you know, when you do have that foster support.

you know, and that's what I was hoping for this puppy is like, you know, get her to somebody that doesn't have six dogs and three cats in their house, two of whom are, two of whom are blind, you know, and that's just in my house, which is not that big. And so, you know, get her some extra attention. But I think it's that, that is important too, that when you, when you made that comment about the light at the end of the tunnel being the transport and it's like, you know, okay, so maybe they're not getting the super duper Cadillac version of care that you want to give them.

but it's short term because before, you know, in two weeks or whatever it might be, they're gonna be on a transport and then they're gonna be in their own home and getting all the attention. And we kinda, I kinda have that same mindset too. It's like, okay, it's not ideal that you're living in my hallway, but it's short term, you know, and we'll give you a break or we'll do this to change it up a little bit. But it's not like you're gonna spend your entire formative years living in my hallway, chewing on my baseboards.

Well, those are great. I mean, I hope that there are people from shelters and rescues that are listening to this and kind of get some ideas. I did want to ask you about fostering, you know, and how big of a is that a big thing for your program or? Yeah, it is. OK, so how do you how do you recruit fosters? Is it basically like they were volunteers and they also foster or do you have people that only foster and they don't come in the facility? I need to know your secret.

We have both. We have people who are volunteers, staff, you know, staff fosters. We try to discourage that, but our volunteers will foster. We have fosters out in the community who never come here for any reason other than to foster. You know, I think that it's just a matter of letting the community know what your needs are. And when you ask them for what you need, they often will step up and give you what you need.

Amy Castro (30:12.11)
So we are very active on our social media with letting people know when we have a need for fosters. We try to be as transparent as we can possibly be. So they know when we need their help. And we always need their help, but there's certainly times like today where the need is greater. And so, for example, I plan to, when we're done here, start crafting a social media post.

for asking for fosters and adopters because we started the day with 233 dogs. And that is what I will say to the community. We need your help. We need it right now. We have 233 dogs and we are designed and staffed to care for 110. So we need you now. So just being very upfront about it and letting them know that the need is there. We also, you know, we have a variety of ways to support fosters. We share.

supplies from our donations when they're available. We have a foster group, actually several different versions of foster groups on Facebook so that fosters feel like they can post when they have questions. We of course have staff members available who can answer questions.

But sometimes those foster groups, they're able to help with those foster concerns more quickly than a staff member might when it's not something that is really truly an emergency. So that's sort of a support system that I think that people feel helps them to be able to foster because they know that they have those sorts of outlets in order to find information. And we're always working to improve that. We recently...

split our dedicated volunteer and foster coordinator position into two different jobs. So now we have a dedicated foster coordinator and that's her sole focus. So now she will be sending out foster please via email on a more regular basis and following up with our fosters to ensure that they feel like they've got the support and.

Amy Castro (32:24.814)
everything it is that they need to be successful. That's a big piece of it. That's such a big piece of it because when you're fostering, you know, you're kind of it's some well and even like for us, our volunteers, because if somebody's come into, let's say, clean here at the rescue ranch, as we call it, you know, it's it's a one person job. I mean, yes, could two people do it? And yeah, it might get done in 30 minutes instead of an hour. But generally, it's one person that signs up when you're fostering. You're doing it at home. So it's important that you don't feel isolated and you feel like you have.

somebody that you can turn to if something comes up or if you've got a question because I know even within our volunteer corps, it's quite a wide range of experience for people and we want to help them grow that experience. But I put out a plea for bottle babies, bottle baby kittens as an example. And it's the same person that is the first one to step up. And it's like, well, first of all, you just weaned a bunch of bottle babies. How about you take a break and let's see if somebody else steps up because.

We'll provide you with the training, but sometimes people are afraid to do it if they don't have good support. So that's great that you've got that. Yeah. We have also mentors. So someone who is maybe a first -time bottle baby foster, they have...

those mentors that they can reach out to when they have questions or concerns. You know, we just do everything that we possibly can in order to be supportive of our foster families and, you know, also make sure they know that we appreciate them as well. I would say that no matter what someone's position is in their life at any given time, if they feel called to help the shelter, there is a way for them to do so.

Whether a person is at a place in life where they can adopt a new pet, foster a pet for us for whatever length of time they're able to help by fostering, or if they're not at a place in life right now where they can do those things, they can help in another way. They can volunteer here at the shelter, come walk a dog, come socialize a cat.

Amy Castro (34:29.518)
You can do laundry, you can wash dishes. There's all kinds of things that we can put you to work doing. And every single moment that a volunteer is giving to us is a moment that is added to the care of the animals because it frees up the staff or it's the volunteers directly doing that enrichment activity with that animal. So, you know, our volunteer program is also an enormous part of what makes us successful.

because if we had to do everything based solely on our staff, we wouldn't be able to accomplish half of what we accomplish. And so volunteering is a critical component. There's also donating. We are a municipal shelter that is funded by taxpayers. And that means that the taxpayers pay for the building, they pay for the lights, they pay for the pet food, things like that, the basic vaccinations, but they don't pay for.

a lot of the above and beyond stuff that we do, you know, getting animals, critical medical care, you know, having enrichment for them, you know, things like that, buying Kongs and milk bones and, you know, all kinds of things that the county and our partner cities, they don't pay for those things. It's our donors who help us make those things happen. And so that's also a huge part of it. And then there's, of course,

you know, attending our events. We have fundraising events throughout the year. We're always asking for help through donations for Jane's Fund, which is our medical care fund. We host a spring fundraiser that is dedicated to Jane's Fund, and we host a fundraiser in the fall. And that's always dedicated to some special project, and we identify what that's going to be fairly early on in the year. And then we raise money to be able to fund that.

in November and that's a good idea. Yeah. And so that event is our biggest fundraiser of the year. And it's always a huge success. Last year we knocked it out of the park by raising $153 ,000. And we hope to just keep seeing that grow into bigger and better things. So, you know, the point of all of this is that everybody has a way to support the shelter, whether it's. Yeah.

Amy Castro (36:49.454)
Adopting whether it's fostering whether it's volunteering or whether it's donating as a supporter either You know online or by attending one of our fundraisers If you're called to be a supporter of what we do as an animal shelter, you can help us Mm -hmm. Yeah, that's good And and I think you know one of the things that I try to encourage people to do and we've done this on several

episodes is that, you know, if you're not sure what the opportunities are, call, stop by, you know, whether it's a rescue, whether it's a shelter. Um, it doesn't all have to be, you know, I have a lot of cat fosters and it's like, for some reason, because I guess, because we have so many cats and we started off doing cats because cats are easy to stash in a bedroom or a bathroom or something like that is from a fostering standpoint.

is that we've drawn a lot of cat fosters. And so not everybody is physically able to manage walking a big dog or doing training or being able to foster a dog. So I think you're right. There's just a job for everybody. There's so many facets to running a successful organization that they'll find something for you to do that helps. And it all contributes towards.

It all contributes towards getting the animals adopted in the end, which is the goal. Right, exactly. Yeah. And I mean, we're game for whatever it is, whatever. We're going to try every idea that comes our way. I mean, we're constantly doing crazy things around here that doesn't necessarily make a lot of sense, but it will get people's attention and sort of reinvigorate their interest in what we're doing. A couple of years ago, we were so full but had no cats. We put dogs in our cat adoption area.

You know, we needed the space and it got people to pay some attention to us, you know, like just do all the things, whatever it is that is going to help you get attention for the animal. All of the dogs we put in that cat adoption area got adopted out of that cat adoption area, you know, so. But I think that's great. I mean, that's, you know, I was going to ask, you know, advice or keys to success. But I think and you can certainly add more. But I think that.

Amy Castro (38:58.798)
willingness to try anything that yes mindset is a lesson for any rescue any shelter worker Manager that is here is that be willing to try new things and you know, it doesn't work Don't do it again kind of thing right and if there are if there are parameters where you're not comfortable with certain things then try something else, but I think you guys are Constantly at least from me following you and from what you said you're constantly looking for opportunities to say yes, you're constantly looking for

you know, innovative ways to basically accomplish the same thing, which is get pets adopted. That's right. That's absolutely right. And yeah, yeah, it's a lesson for, you know, everybody. It was a lesson for me, too. You know, I had to learn to get to this place where I realized that finding that yes is really the answer, because there is a home out there for every animal in this country. There is. It's just a matter of finding the right one, making those matches.

And you know, we're not even shy about sharing, you know, with other shelters. We, you know, encourage people to go adopt from a sister shelter in another area of the state when we don't have cats, for instance, you know. Hey, we don't have any cats right now. Please go to Lampas's animal shelter and adopt. They've got lots of cats right now. Please go help them. You know, if a cat finds a home, that's a win.

If a dog finds a home, that's a win. And it doesn't have to be from us. We hope it's from us. But as long as we know that that life is now safe and sound in a loving home, then everybody can celebrate. Right, definitely. And just to wrap things up, because I did mention in the beginning that we've got Adopt -A -Shelter Pet Day, and every day is Adopt -A -Shelter Pet Day, but...

I would just be curious from, you know, as somebody who's worked as a volunteer and now, you know, working in your position as the program, community programs coordinator, what would be your selling point or advice to somebody that's considering adopting a shelter pet? Like, why would I adopt a shelter pet? What's so great about them? Oh, gosh. Well, you know, I mean, you could come to that question from a number of different angles. If you're maybe an older couple who.

Amy Castro (41:19.758)
doesn't want to deal with puppy antics. We've got so many dogs here who we know what their behaviors are. We know they're not going to chew up your slippers, you know, all those sorts of things. That's a great reason to adopt from a shelter. At the same time, if you're a younger family looking to adopt a puppy.

Maybe an older couple who still wants a puppy. I personally love puppies. Puppies are my favorite. Puppy breath is like, you know, it's the best smell in the whole world. You know, if a puppy is what you want, then you know, our puppies usually have been brought up in foster homes. They've got a great leg up on their potty training. We're gonna get everybody spayed or neutered for you before you adopt.

you're gonna get all of the age appropriate vaccinations, a microchip that we actually will register for you. So you don't even have to do that part. We're gonna do it for you. We're gonna send you off with a voucher towards a wellness exam with a variety of participating veterinary clinics. So you can get that little animal, you know, checked out right away. It's a bargain, you know? Yeah.

Adopting from a shelter is really the most economical way to bring a new furry family member in. But you know, a lot of these dogs here, they're just such happy, unique creatures. And I think that adopting a shelter pet is special. It's just special. And I don't know that I can explain that.

It's kind of something you have to experience for yourself to understand. Yeah, definitely. April, thank you so much for being here with me today. I'm so glad that we were able to pull this off and get together because I have admired your work and the work of everybody that's involved at Williamson County because it's just amazing when people come together what a municipal facility can do if you've got that can do yes attitude. Yeah. Yeah.

Amy Castro (43:26.51)
Thank you so much for having me. I really enjoyed it. And yeah, thank you. So, and for those of you who are listening, thank you for listening to another episode of Starlight Pet Talk and be sure to share this episode with your friends and family members who want to learn more about, you know, what it takes to be a successful shelter. And if you are up in the Austin, Georgetown area and you're looking to adopt a pet, make sure you check out Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter.

or look at the opportunities to volunteer and get involved. You know, that's one of the things I tell people. It's like, if you love pets and you care about animal welfare, then, you know, take an opportunity to get involved in some form or fashion because everything, every volunteer opportunity is leading to finding pets forever homes. Thanks for listening to Starlight Pet Talk.

Be sure to visit our website at www .starlightpettalk .com for more resources and be sure to follow this podcast on your favorite podcast app so you'll never miss a show. If you enjoyed and found value in today's episode, we'd appreciate a rating on Apple. Or if you'd simply tell a friend about the show, that would be great too. Don't forget to tune in next week and every week for a brand new episode of Starlight Pet Talk. And if you don't do anything else this week, give your pets a big hug from us.