Austin Animal Center

Photo Credit: Jenna VonHofe | Daily Texan Staff

Amber Rowland, behavioral program manager for the Austin Animal Center, guided visitors Thursday through the art exhibition “In the Company of Cats and Dogs,” on display at the Blanton Museum of Art through September 21.

Many of the photos and paintings showed the harmonious relationship between humans and their pets, and Rowland said many studies prove that animals have calming effects on people. Some of the early works highlighted the utilitarian relationships, such as hunting dogs and cats who caught house mice. Cats are portrayed less often and more negatively than dogs are, Rowland said.

“The exhibition explores human relationships with cats and dogs through the lens of not only art history, but psychology, sociology, history and other disciplines to provide a rich experience for visitors,” Blanton Museum marketing manager Stacey Ingram Kaleh said.

The exhibition includes works by Pablo Picasso, Francisco Goya and Edward Hopper, among others. It was put together by Francesca Consagra, a senior curator at the Blanton, and spans ancient Egypt to the present day, exploring themes of religion, mythology, aggression and domesticity.

“Artists are superb observers of life, and they have been depicting our relationships with cats and dogs for millennia,” Consagra said in a Q&A for UT “Know.”

Rowland, who has 18 years of experience working with animals, said some of the issues displayed in the exhibition, including animal hoarding, aggression, euthanasia and breed restrictions, she sees at the shelter every day.

“[The shelter] is ground zero,” Rowland said before the gallery talk.

Rowland has worked with the Austin Animal Center since 1991 and said the center sees up to 20,000 animal intakes every year — sometimes more than 100 a day. About 90 percent of the animals at the center are made available for adoption. They encourage volunteers, accept donations and invite people to come walk a dog anytime.

“If you’re a student who can’t have a dog right now, come get your doggy fix or your kitty fix,” Rowland said.

Rowland said she hopes the exhibition will attract people to the center and get them talking and thinking about pets.

“We were delighted when the Blanton came to us to collaborate on this project,” Rowland said. “They did a great job at putting together a really thought-provoking exhibit.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a variety of programs and activities, including a “Pooch Parade” through the UT campus on July 19, followed by film screenings and August appearances by noted psychologist Hal Herzog and “Canine Soldiers” documentary filmmaker Nancy Schiesari.

Adam Bennett, manager of Public Programs at the Blanton, said experts and professionals lead “Perspectives” gallery talks at the museum on select Thursdays. They are free to students and open to the public.

Correction: This article incorrectly stated the "Perspectives" talks take place every Thursday. They in fact take place only on select Thursdays.

Volunteer Cilla McMillen interacts with rescued cats at the Austin Animal Shelter Monday afternoon. 31 cats brought in from an animal hoarding incident have been treated and are now ready for adoption.

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

Fifty six hoarded animals were found in one Austin house last week, leaving two animal centers to scramble for funds and supplies to rehouse and recuperate the furry companions.

Austin Animal Services removed 31 cats, 18 rabbits and seven guinea pigs from the cramped home, which was in poor condition, said Austin Animal Center chief officer Abigail Smith. All of the cats and four of the rabbits are under the care of Austin Animal Center, and all of the guinea pigs and four rabbits are being treated by the Austin Humane Society.

The animals were separated because there were too many for one shelter to care for. Most of the animals are now healthy and ready for adoption, Smith said.

This is an example of a good deed gone bad, she said.

“There are different types of hoarding, but the kind we see most often is ‘the rescuer,’” Smith said. “This is a hoarder who truly believes he is rescuing animals. He wants to be seen as someone who is always adopting and kind to animals and he can’t see that he is actually harming them by putting them in an unhealthy environment.”

Smith said hoarding cases can result in neglect and, therefore, animal cruelty, which is considered a crime. The Austin Police Department is currently investigating this case, Smith said.

“The first part of the case was the court granting us permission to take the animals out of the home,” she said. “We have done our part, now so the rest of the investigation is up to APD.”

Austin Animal Center volunteer Cilla McMillen said many of the cats suffered from severe ear mite and flea infestations and had feces and urine stuck in their fur when they first arrived. Cleaning treatments and vaccinations have cured most of the cases, she said.

“All the cats were tested for feline leukemia and they were all negative, which is so fortunate,” McMillen said. “Often times you get cats from cases like this who aren’t so lucky.”

McMillen said despite the cruel conditions the cats experienced, they are all social and craving love and attention.

“They’re so nice,” McMillen said. “They weren’t in great shape when they got here, but now that we’ve cleaned them up, they’re so sweet. They just won’t leave you alone.”

The conditions of the rabbits and guinea pigs were similar to the cats upon arriving at the Austin Humane Society location, said Austin Humane Society public relations manager Lisa Starr.

“A lot of the bunnies were losing hair because of the flea infestations, but the treatments have fixed that,” Starr said.

All the rabbits have been spayed and neutered and are ready for adoption, and the guinea pigs will soon be as well, she said.

Christopher Contreras, Longhorn Pets Alive vice president and rhetoric and writing senior, said he is concerned that a good deed, such as pet adoption, can become dangerous.

“I totally don’t promote pet hoarding, but I really want people to adopt responsibly,” Contreras said. “When our organization works with Austin Pets Alive, we have a follow up system for a few months after the initial adoption in an attempt to prevent problems such as hoarding.”

Printed on, February 7, 2012 as:Ill animals found hoarded in Austin home