Dr. Ellen Jefferson graduated vet school in 1997, starting her career in private practice. Upon starting working in Austin, she became dissatisfied with the 85% euthanasia rate in the city of Austin. Thinking this was an overpopulation problem, she launched large scale efforts to get the owned and unowned pets of Austin spayed and neutered.
She volunteered this service to the city shelter in the 90’s, and went on to found the hugely successful Emancipet, a non-profit organization who’s mission was providing free spay and neuter surgery for dogs and cats in Austin. Lower income people, students, and saving-savvy alike flocked to Emancipet’s spay days to benefit from very low cost sterilization surgery. Since then, Emancipet has expanded to not only include the original free spay and neuters, but also discounted wellness exams, vaccines, and medication. Local shelters contract with Emancipet to provide adopters with free and discounted services, and Emancipet encourages a culture of accessible education and awareness to areas and people who did not have access to it before.
In 2008, Dr. Jefferson was not seeing the drastic and deeply desired change she had hoped Emancipet would ignite and joined forces with an existing advocacy group, Austin Pets Alive! She became Executive Director and changed APA! from being an advocacy organization to a rescue organization and started saving lives, pronto. She transformed Airstream trailers into fully functioning medical clinics and adoption centers, and hosted sick and contagious animals in her own personal quarantine ward – in a guest bathroom in her own home, until she had built APA! up into an army of thousands. Five and a half years later, her team of volunteers, donors, supporters, fosters, animal care givers, and a small administrative staff have a facility and the capacity to save and adopt out around six thousand animals a year, and are just weeks away from celebrating their fourth year of no-kill.
After joining APA! and adopting the no-kill mission, she paved the way to Austin becoming the largest no-kill city in the nation. By relying on grassroots movements, innovative programs, and, eventually, the help of city leaders, Austin Pets Alive! saw unprecedented growth and success, bringing Austin up to no-kill status in just a few short years. Dr. Jefferson incorporated the elements needed to achieve no-kill, something she never ceases to emphasize is possible for any shelter that wants it: an approach that attacks the problem using a combination of creative administrative and medical techniques, deep-rooted community efforts, and an emphasis on local government support.
Never satisfied when there’s more work to be done, Dr. Jefferson joined efforts with the city of San Antonio in 2012, implementing a similar plan and helping raise the city’s live outcome from 30% to 80% in just 12 months. Ellen Jefferson continues her efforts to bring national attention to Austin Pets Alive! and the no-kill mission, hoping that someday we can boast that the whole United States is no-kill.
The American Pets Alive Conference is the brain child of Dr. Ellen Jefferson, Ryan Clinton, and Gretchen Meyer, and is seen as an opportunity to show the world that no-kill is possible anywhere by highlighting the success of no-kill in a major modern city, as proved daily by Austin Pets Alive. Please join Dr. Jefferson and Ryan Clinton as well as many other local and national leaders in no-kill at the 2015 American Pets Alive No-Kill Conference next month. Register now: http://www.americanpetsalive.org/conference/register/