Dr. Ellen Jefferson - A Champion For Austin's Homeless Pets!
The American Dog Reports
Soft-spoken and self-effacing, Austin, Texas veterinarian Dr. Ellen Jefferson is a revolutionary leader in Austin's animal-welfare community. In fact, she is the single person most responsible for Austin's extraordinary push to join the ranks of America's "No Kill" cities (yet also the least likely to take any of the credit).
Her track record speaks for itself. In 1999, Dr. Jefferson founded Emancipet, a free and low-cost spay/neuter provider, despite heavy opposition from her own veterinary community. This year, the organization celebrated its 100,000th spay/neuter surgery.
And in 2008, Dr. Jefferson left Emancipet to take over Austin Pets Alive, a non-profit with a history of pushing for No Kill reforms in Austin. In just two years under her leadership, Austin Pets Alive, which rescues and adopts out animals from Austin's municipal shelter, has saved as many animals from the shelter as all other shelters and rescue groups in the Austin area combined. The organization has saved almost 6,000 dogs and cats since she came on board, including every single puppy set to die at the shelter, thousands of adult dogs and cats, and over 1,000 kittens.
Yearning for No Kill leadership, Austinites have embraced Dr. Jefferson and Austin Pets Alive. Ellen was voted "Best Activist" in the city's weekly newspaper, was selected as a finalist for Austin's Young Professional of the Year Award, and this year, she graced the cover of Austin Woman Magazine. Meanwhile, Austin Pets Alive now boasts over 1,400 volunteers, 600 cat and dog foster parents, and 1,300 individual donors. The organization also has 35 employees (it had none when she took over two years ago), and recently moved into an impressive, two-building complex in South Austin-a compound to match the organization's ambitions.
Interestingly, though, Ellen credits the organization's success not to any grand plan of hers, but instead to the concept of focusing on each animal as an individual. "It is as simple as saying 'yes' to working on a solution for that specific animal and seeing it through," she says. "It is an enormous amount of work, but it is still simple." Likewise, although she recognizes what it means to have helped save thousands of lives, she says that "[t]he things that make me the happiest are the small individual things like saving one life. It is the most exhilarating feeling in the world to just make one small action that results in a life being saved."
Despite her successes at Emancipet and Austin Pets Alive, Dr. Jefferson wants more for the city's lost and homeless pets. She says that she may "never be at a place where I can just relax and rest on my laurels." Her goal is to save every single healthy and treatable adoptable animal that makes its way to the city's shelter, which she believes is roughly 90% of all impounded animals (72% were saved during the shelter's last fiscal year). Despite the obvious obstacles, one would be a fool to bet against her.
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