Austin Pet’s Alive Shelter of the month

Austin Pet’s Alive Shelter of the month

Episode #37: “Shelter of the Month” Austin Pets Alive

By Elizabeth Lefelstein

In episode #37 of The Social Dog podcast, our host Cindie Carter brings on Katera Berent – Communications & Events Manager at Austin Pets Alive (APA) – in our first installment of our “Shelter of the Month” series.

Based in Austin Texas, the APA has become one of the nation’s leaders in the no-kill animal shelter movement – and has helped the city earn the title of the “largest no kill city in America.” Throughout the episode, Carter and Berent discuss what has helped the organization become as successful and impactful as it is. Starting from its inspiring origin story, to its innovative programs for both animals and animal welfare professionals.

Listen to the full podcast, here, or catch the recap below:

Origin Story

Austin Pets Alive started in 1997 as a small advocacy group simply trying to raise awareness about Austin, Texas’ homeless pet problem and alarming euthanasia rate in shelters. Which, at the time was nearly 90%.

Through the help of local veterinarians, city officials, and state legislature, the APA had transformed itself into a full scale animal rescue center and shelter by 2001. And by 2008, the organization increased the the city’s alive release rate (as opposed to euthanasia) to 47%. It The APA set an even more ambitious goal into motion: to increase the alive release rate at shelters to 90%.

Three short years later in 2011, the APA was able to double the city’s stats and hit its goal of a 90% alive release rate in shelters. Now in 2019, the alive release rate sits at 99%. The secret to their success is innovative programs it created from the ground up.

Read a detailed history of APA on their website.

Innovative Programs

Focus on high-risk animals

Austin Pets Alive hyper focuses on rescuing high risk animals from other shelters in the county, and bring them into their shelter for help. This included dogs that are/have:

  • Medical needs
  • Pregnant
  • Babies
  • Behavioral quirks
  • breed discrimination (e.g. pitbull mixes)

“The APA is a pioneer in the shelter and the animal welfare world,” Berent explained.

Types of help the APA offers:

The  most common reasons for pets getting euthanized at shelters is because of high medical costs or behavioral quirks. Through the help of volunteer marketers, the organization raises money to help pay for medical services and behavioral training for dogs up to  “average means.” Meaning what an average american household could afford. Examples of services include:



The APA also has a volunteer matchmaker service, between dog and potential owner, to make sure that both will be happy. They take into consideration things such as whether or not the family has kids, their home has hallways or stairs, and the preferred energy level of the dog. From these answers, the matchmakers can advise on which dog/owner pairings would be a strong fit.  There are 250 or so dogs onsite at any time, and the matchmakers know them all.


“Austin is very special. We’re very lucky to have the community that we do here. Folks that live here are so impassioned about animal. Animal is a top if mind topic for anyone in this Austin community” – Berent said.

Training and Conferences:

Austin Pets Alive partners with its sister organization, American Pets Alive to educate animal welfare professionals across the country on how to build resources to do the same thing they’re doing in Austin. They offer week long apprenticeships, as well as host an annual conference every  



“We love sharing this education, and we’ve seen it work at other shelters. We all believe in it so deeply that were excited to share with everyone else…Our Speakers leave you so inspired,” Berent said.


Read a more detailed overview of their programs for dogs and people on their website.


Interested in nominating your city’s local shelter for an upcoming “Shelter of the Month” episode? Contact us at today, with details on what makes the shelter so great.


Lastly, a thank you to our Affiliates:

The Dog Gurus

Better Bowl

Plantacea CBD


Everyone Has The Ability To Communicate With Animals-Even You with Dr Maia Kincaid

Everyone Has The Ability To Communicate With Animals-Even You with Dr Maia Kincaid

Everyone Has the Ability to Communicate with Animals – Even You!

By: Ballie Ward

On a recent episode of the Social Dog podcast, we were joined by animal communication expert Dr. Maia Kincaid, a pioneer in the field of telepathic animal & nature communication. Maia came onto the show with an exciting claim: that everyone in the world, regardless of who they are, has the ability to communicate with animals.

Not only can we all communicate with animals, but it’s actually quite an easy process. Maia clarified that telepathic communication with animals doesn’t require any special powers or genetic trait. In fact, Maia has over two decades of experience working with students and clients worldwide teaching them about this very thing!

Before I jump in to teach you how you can communicate with your own furry friends, it’s important to define what Telepathic Animal Communication actually is.

It’s actually quite simple – Telepathic Animal Communication is communication with an animal that doesn’t require verbal or physical communication. In fact, you don’t even have to be there in person with them.

Similar to talking to someone on the phone, Maia teaches people how to communicate and receive feedback with animals with nothing more than the heart, mind, body, and spirit.

What can you talk to animals about? Well, the options are pretty limitless. Just as humans share opinions, feelings, and chat about their day, animals can be quite similar. Your pets may be able to ask you about an activity they particularly enjoy (like running outside!), tell you about something that’s upsetting them, ask about their food, or provide general feelings or wishes on day to day life.

Or, they may even give suggestions about how you can be a better pet parent. Really, the choice is yours – and theirs. It’s whatever you find of interest or importance.

While you’re conversations with your pets won’t happen verbally, there are still clear signs that will let you know what they’re thinking and feeling. You’ll receive the information through your own senses – for instance, you may hear them talking in your head, or have a sudden and clear feeling that you know what is true for them. It’s also possible you might see images of something they’re thinking or feeling. For instance, if your dog is in pain, you may receive a clear image of where on their body they’re experiencing pain.

The benefits of learning how to communicate with your pets are pretty limitless as well. Besides the obvious benefit of being able to have a dialogue with your pets, it also allows you to better care for them by tapping into their wants and needs and being aware of their concerns or frustrations. Similarly, they can provide their own feedback to you in ways that allow you to better enjoy your own life!

So how do you actually go about initiating communication with your animals? In Maia’s classes, she lets the animals lead – because, as she says, the most important part of talking to your pets is not the talking, but the listening.

Before trying to dive right in and ask your furry friends what they’re feeling, Maia recommends creating a space for yourself where you can clear your mind and take a few breaths, similar to a short meditation. That way your mind isn’t cluttered by outside distractions. Then, when you’re ready, you respectfully address the animal you’d like to talk to and begin the conversation.

If you’re not sure where to even begin with the process, don’t worry – Maia offers a number of trainings (online and in-person) where she’ll teach you how to do this starting in the very first class! She can also communicate with your animals on your behalf if you’re struggling to get in touch with them and you’d like to learn more about what they’re feeling. To learn more about Maia’s services, visit the Sedona International School for Animal & Nature Communication site.

What would you ask your dog if you learned how to communicate with them? Or, better yet, what do you think they would ask you?

Keep up with the Social Dog podcast to learn even more about your pooch as we interview animal experts and advocates who share valuable insight on our furry friends. Heres a link to this episode, if you want to grab your ear buds.

Honor, Integrity and Sportsmanship, The cornerstone of the Westminster Dog Show with Christa Cook  Doh Handler

Honor, Integrity and Sportsmanship, The cornerstone of the Westminster Dog Show with Christa Cook Doh Handler

By:Elizabeth Lefelstein

Have you ever wondered what it would be be like to be a professional dog handler in the famous, Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show? Here on the Social Dog Podcast, we have too.

Which is why, we are so excited to announce we’ve brought on a very special guest, Christa Cook for this week’s episode. For those who missed this year’s sporting events, she is the handler who took Colton the Schipperke to first place victory in this year’s highly competitive, Non-Sporting Group category. (A first for the breed!) 

Throughout the episode, Carter and Cook dig into dog handling topics such as Cook’s unique experience at this year’s show, her lifestyle as a dog handler, and offers advice to others that aspire toward a similar profession.

Can’t find your earphones? No problem. Read on for the full recap!

Background on the Westminster Dog Show

Many of the dedicated listeners of the Social Dog Podcast are familiar with this famous, annual sporting event that took place last month. Even then, we want to share few quick facts to help flex what an honor it is for Cook to have made it to this level in her career:

  • The show is the second oldest continuous sporting event in the U.S., behind the Kentucky Derby.
  • The show has taken place in New York City’s beautiful Madison Square Garden for 143 years.
  • The show brings in 2,800 dogs across the country to compete within the seven groups, as well as the overall “Best in Show” title.
    Cook’s Talks About Her experience at this years showCook and her four-legged teammate, Colton the Schipperke, won first place in the highly competitive “Non-Sporting Group” category one the first day of the two day show. But on the following day, shocked spectators when he was was ruled ineligible for the title, “Best in Show”. As it turns out, it was a matter of conflict of interest – as the top judge, Peter Green, is a longtime partner has co-owned dogs with one of Colton’s co-owners. “Any other judge, any other day, any other event, there wouldn’t be this disconnect.” Cook explains. “This [type of conflict] happens at dog shows frequently, because of the close connections between so many people.”

    The unique factor here, is that it’s never happened at such a prestigious event – which is where we at the Social Dog Podcast give her so much credit for her good sportsmanship and passion for the sport.

    (We later discovered via Instagram that Colton won multiple dog shows proceeding the Westminster Dog Show, which makes us feel better. You can follow him at   smalldark_andhandsome!)

Cook Talks about her life a professional dog handler

Cook had a humble beginning to her career, making $5 an hour as a dog walker in her hometown at age 17. And now, 17 years later at a peak her career, she handles a stable full of dogs. Last year alone, she handled dogs in 190 competitions, all over the country. Though the traveling can be difficult at times, Cook loves what she does.

Another surprising challenge of the job is the outfits. Cook explains that the dog show world is still old school – meaning a suit and tie for men and a skirt and jacket for women. “My non-doggie friends always [teasingly] ask me where I get my suits, and complain about my shoes”, she says with a laugh. “There’s very few designer options.”

“It takes the right kind of person to really love this,” Cook explains, “You don’t do this for the money or the prestige”. (Or the outfits, from the sound of things.)

Tips for those just getting started:

  • Go to dog shows to meet other handlers and learn everything you can!
  • Offer your time, that’s how all the handlers she knows have gotten their start!
  • The AKC site is a good resource, as well as Canine Chronicle events tab

Here’s a link to the podcast if you found your ear buds!


Animal Welfare Institute Needs Our Help With Alicia Prygoski

Animal Welfare Institute Needs Our Help With Alicia Prygoski

In the 38th episode of the Social Dog podcast, Alicia Prygoski, joins Cindie and Marilyn. Prygoski is a fellow animal lover, former environmental lobbyist from Michigan, and she holds a law degree from Western Michigan University Cooley Law School. Prygoski parlayed her lobbying experience and love of animals into a career advocating the better treatment of animals. She has worked for the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), a small policy-based organization, for four years.

What Does the Animal Welfare Institute Do?

Founded in 1961, AWI’s mission is to end the human-inflicted suffering of animals. AWI seeks to protect all animals, including:

  • companion animals
  • wildlife
  • marine mammals
  • lab animals
  • farm animals
  • and more

Although Prygoski’s compassion extends to all animals, her work with AWI focuses on farm animals.

Prygoski Brings Awareness to Central Issues Affecting the Welfare of Farm Animals

As AWI’s Farm Animal Policy Associate, the goal of Prygoski’s work centers on bettering the welfare of farm animals. Her areas of focus are:

  • farm animal welfare legislation
  • barn fire prevention
  • food policy
  • generally improving the living conditions of farm animals

Each area of focus has helped Prygoski to identify and bring awareness to central issues affecting farm animals today. She discussed several of those issues with us on the podcast.

Factory Farming

Factory farms are notorious for housing farm animals in deplorable conditions. Because the primary goal of factory farms is to turn a maximum profit, they treat their animals like products rather than sentient beings.

Factory farms keep the animals in crates and cages, so small that even the most basic movements, such as stretching and turning around, are out of the question. Storing the crates and cages in crowded warehouses deprive the animals of sunlight, enrichment, and stimulation. Factory farm animals never know the joys of grazing in pastures, playing, or socializing with other animals.

Factory farms often achieve their financial goals by breeding animals to grow bigger and faster. Chickens raised for meat are bred to achieve market weight in just 47 days, often growig so large that their legs cannot support their body weight. According to Prygoski, 85% of the animals raised for food in the U.S. are raised in factory farms.

Transport and Export

The routine overcrowding of transport trucks puts the animals at risk of trampling and/or injuring each other. Transporting conditions frequently deprive the animals of food, water, and rest, while also exposing them to extreme heat and cold. Federal law should technically regulate the transport of animals; the Twenty-Eight Hour Law provides the framework to mitigate most of transport-related issues, but the law is not really enforced.

AWI has also worked to ensure the safe export of animals to and from other countries. International transport is one of the largest animal welfare concerns when examining the export practices of some countries. For example, in contrast with the approximately 100,000 farm animals the U.S. exports overseas per year, Australia sends millions of farm animals overseas every year. Large ships transport the animals, keeping them on board for several weeks at a time.

AWI has helped to implement some helpful policies. In 2011, AWI petitioned the USDA, requesting that they confirm farm animals’ fitness to travel be confirmed before departure. The USDA agreed to adopt fitness to travel requirements, and they implemented the policy in 2016.

Barn Fires

A single barn fire can kill hundreds of thousands of animals, but they draw very little attention when they occur. Animals confined to cages have little chance of escaping when a fire breaks out, all but ensuring certain death. AWI implemented a new tool on their website this year, which provides up-to-date information on each barn fire in 2019 so far. You can use the barn fire tracker to find relevant data, such as a fire’s location, date, animal death toll, and links to media reports linked to each tragedy.

In October 2018, AWI released the first-of-its-kind report documenting the more than 2.7 million farm animals that died because of barn fires from 2013 to 2017. Because of their potential for large death tolls for farm animals and widespread damage, Prygoski stressed that prevention is key. Some preventative measures farmers can take are:

  • Equipping barns with sprinkler systems
  • Installing smoke and fire detectors
  • Provide training for staff
  • Equip barns with fire extinguishers

AWI’s report makes many recommendations, but there are no laws or regulations in place to protect farm animals. The lack of laws and regulations in the U.S. is especially frustrating considering the millions of animals that have perished in barn fires over the last few years. Knowledge is power, however, so Prygoski and AWI are working to arm advocates with as much information as they can to inspire changes at local, state, and federal levels.

What Can You Do to Help?

Introducing legislation and taking preventative measures help to mitigate the impact of many of these issues. You can help bring awareness to the issues farm animals face by:

  • Volunteering at a farm animal sanctuary  will help you to realize the farm animals are individuals and see how much better the animals have it when they have more space to roam around.
  • Writing your elected officials  helps to let them know that farm animal welfare is important to their constituents.
  • Writing letters to the editor of your newspaper — is a powerful way for someone to voice their opinion in their local community while bringing awareness to farm animal welfare.
  • Checking labels on products, educating yourself about the different terms that appear on the labels, and looking up what the standards are — helps you gain awareness as a consumer and  avoid conventionally raised products.
  • Shopping at farmers’ markets — is a great place to learn about how the farm animals were raised and avoid purchasing conventionally raised products.
  • Listening to the Social Dog podcast — helps listeners realize the challenges and barriers animals in this arena face today

Visit the AWI website for more ways to help and sign up for action alerts to stay abreast of what AWI needs by action alerts on website.

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Reiki For Dogs with Kathleen Prasad

Reiki For Dogs with Kathleen Prasad

  In our sixth episode of our Social Dog Show podcast, we spoke with Kathleen Prasad.

Kathleen’s is an Animal Reiki teacher internationally known for her pioneering work in the field of Animal Reiki. She founded Animal Reiki Source® (ARS) in 2004, which has grown from a small Animal Reiki private practice into a world-renowned teaching academy and the foremost center for Animal Reiki information.During the past decade, Kathleen’s work with ARS and SARA has grown remarkably and their programs have become more and more influential in both the U.S. and internationally. Thousands of animal lovers have trained through ARS in Reiki and SARA has over 400 members volunteering and teaching Reiki using Kathleen’s groundbreaking Let Animals Lead™ method in shelters and sanctuaries around the world.

In this Podcast, we talked to Kathleen about reiki for Dogs. Reiki is Japanese for “Spiritual energy”, meaning your inner being; your essence. The system of Reiki is a meditation system that helps us to uncover our inner beauty and inner light that we all have. Kathleen explains that she actually discovered Reiki on accident when her mother recommended it to her. She says that her first Reiki session was so peaceful and healing that she felt like it was the key to her own personal healing journey, but soon, her dog Dakota began laying across her feet, which he never did, causing her to realize that the Reiki sessions were helping him too! This was the beginning of her new career as a Reiki for animals teacher.

Over the years, as her passion grew, she has travelled all over the world spreading her knowledge to dog shelters and other dogs.               The reason she chose shelter dogs is because they need it most. When a shelter dog is very stressed, perhaps because they’ve been through trauma or abuse, it’s very difficult for them to express or show who they really are. The meditation practice of Animal Reiki helps those animals to relax and show their true selves, and allow their inner light to shine. This causes us to be able to be present with an animal instead of running from the situation when they’re stressed or down. Animal Reiki also lets us share kindness and compassion, because it helps us to let go of our anger, frustration, and fears. Since we radiate our feelings into our dogs, they can step in and help heal us while also healing them. As a result of this, in shelters, the caretakers also benefit from Animal Reiki! This also allows sheltered animals to be adopted more because their inner light shows instead of pain or fear. 
Keep in mind, you and your pets can do Reiki anytime, not just when your hurt, and not just when you’re happy. Kathleen also shares with us that, a number of years back, her young dog actually discovered a cancer that had taken place, and showed Kathleen by one day trying to dig on her chest, and when Kathleen felt where the dog had done it, she felt the tumor, and was able to have it removed before it could spread.

Kathleen graciously shared a brief ten minute amazing meditation to share with our pets.
It was fantastic.( I’ve personally tried it with a room of 23 dogs with my staff and had every dog relaxed. I tried it again by myself with 15 dogs, same jaw dropping results.I never tried this before, have no experience with reiki. I’m so impressed, I’ve implemented a policy at our dog daycare, we take ten minutes before nap time to practice this simple ten minute meditation and just be with the dogs. ) 

I was ready to talk more with Kathleen and get all the info I could before our time was up.  Kathleen soon explains that the most powerful healing that we can offer to our dog is our presence. When our dogs are sick, we often tend to panic, doing things such as calling vets and frantically searching for medication, which draws us away from just being with our pets. 
We decided to ask Kathleen to share one of her favorite Animal Reiki experiences, she told us of a story about when she went to the Devoted Barn in Michigan last spring, which has over 50 feral dogs. On the first day they went, the dogs were scared of the group of people. On the second day, however, after the group really let go and opened up to their Reiki, the dogs actually accepted them and went to sleep! The barn went quiet, which the owner said she had never heard before. This was proof that Animal Reiki worked, and was also one of the most amazing experiences Kathleen has had during he career.
Kathleen has in person courses this summer in California. She also has a class calendar and online meditations on her website:
Please leave comments ,questions or just a simple hello below. We would love to hear from you.
Lots of love and compassion,
If you missed this show, here is a quick link to it:



Albert Duoibes talks with us on Vetionx and Better Bowl a healthy alternative for our pets!

Albert Duoibes talks with us on Vetionx and Better Bowl a healthy alternative for our pets!

In our fifth podcast of Social Dog Show, we interview Albert Duoibes, founder of Vetionx and Better Bowl meals. We enjoyed listening to Albert’s advice from VETiONX. In this interview, Albert talks about dog shampoos, dog food, diet, and homemade cooking, so you can get all the insights on how to keep your four legged furry friend happy and healthy.

GUEST: Albert Duoibes GUEST BIO: VETiONX® was founded in 2006 by Albert Duoibes. Albert was quoted in Animal Wellness magazine’s August/September 2010 issue: “We know animals suffer from many of the same degenerative diseases as we do. So we thought, why don’t we have the same support for animals?”

Just when you think you know what a healthy meal for a dog would be, Albert explains that most of the time, his customers come to him with concerns about their dog having certain joint or skin conditions, and that the first thing to do is look at the dog’s environment, food, and diet that they’re used to. Albert goes on to recommend raw diets, and also states that he has been working on a solution to give dogs the vitamins and nutrients found in vegetables without having to use heat cooking. Did you know, this is important because, being true carnivores, dogs lack the digestive enzymes required to break past plant cell walls and extract its nutrients. It is revealed that the main ingredient in Better Bowl is animal proteins, and that, instead of having the animal proteins directly in the patties, they separate them into dehydrated packets so that the owner can add them at his or her own will. Better Bowl offers a egg & veggie dehydrated raw meal patty

  • Better Ingredients: 16 raw, GMO-free, natural superfoods grown, blended, and packaged in the USA. No refined or artificial preservatives, sweeteners, or fillers. No animal byproducts, mystery “meat,” grains, corn, soy, yeast, or gluten. Egg & Veggie Dehydrated Raw Meal Patties are 100% natural!
  • Better Recipe: This limited ingredient diet (LID) is gentle on sensitive stomachs and dehydrated raw for natural preservation. Feel confident knowing your dog has a full range of the nutrients he needs – high quality protein, vitamins A-K, a wealth of minerals, omega 3 and antioxidants!
  • Better Flavor: Egg & Veggie Dehydrated Raw Meal Patties make a warm, instant-homemade, “just add water” meal you can serve your pup proudly.

The next main topic we spoke of is hydration. When dogs get older,  their bladders get smaller, causing them to more frequently need to go to the bathroom, but at the same time, their skin can get dry because they don’t get as much water from what they eat and drink due to them doing so less. Albert’s solution for his pet was to start giving your pet wet dog food. ( NO to canned wet dog food, due to preservatives, if its canned, its full of preservatives) and making sure that they are drinking enough water, and Albert says that it has worked like a charm. Hydration is very important for many things, including blood, skin, and, as a result, overall health, so it’s important be attentive to your dog’s hydration, especially once they start getting older.

Albert says: always, always moist wet food is a good choice for animals dealing with allergies! The amount of water helps with allergenic because the amount of water and the nutrients are distracted by the water and helps drive the nutrients to your pets system faster.

The next major topic we talked about, and a very interesting one for me, is anti pest bath products. Albert explains that cedar from cedar trees is actually a natural pest repellent, often being used by many animals in the wild, and that he and the people at Vetionx have based their sprays, soap bars, and shampoos on this fact by adding Texas red cedar oil with a touch of rosemary, making a healthy and natural flee and pest medication.Before we wrap up this blog, I’d like to inform you that there is a discount code for the Better Bowl so you can buy two get one free on all their pet foods and treats! Simply enter the code “Cindie” at

I would love to hear any comments or questions.
I would never recommend anything that I did not 100% believe in!  Lots of love, Cindie