Alexis Telfair-Garcia, social worker at Austin Pets Alive!

by | Nov 30, 2022

Alexis Telfair-Garcia–a social worker recently hired at the Austin, TX animal shelter, Austin Pets Alive! (APA!)—recalls growing up in a family that prized community service, perhaps telegraphing her pursuit of a career in social work. Hallmarks of that professional passage, she recounts, include earning a BA in forensic psychology, an extended stint at Big Brothers Big Sisters NYC, and, later, in Austin, a position in the state’s public defender’s office, where her job was seeking to overturn death penalty sentences. While holding that job for just two years, she found it grueling—emotionally and otherwise, including extensive travel—and was searching for opportunities “to find more joy in my work.” She learned APA! was looking to hire a social worker, a step by the shelter that was a new venture and, as such, amorphous—such that, after Telfair-Garcia expressed interest, she and APA! CEO Dr. Ellen Jefferson shaped the final version of the position, before Telfair-Garcia was hired. (She’s a longtime animal lover, receiving a dog for her 5th birthday, and now, her own family lives with three rescue dogs.) That hiring places Telfair-Garcia and APA! at the forefront of a new trend of animal shelters adding social workers to their staffs, reflecting those shelters’ awareness of the link between humans’ welfare and pets’ welfare. Telfair-Garcia figures there are just a handful of counterparts at shelters across the country, and has spoken with them, comparing notes. She observes the key challenges she has faced in her nearly three months at APA!, and outlines some of the new programs she’s developing, including an eight-week training program for teens, providing them skills that could yield jobs in the animal field. (,,


ALSO: I spoke briefly with Jen Heckner, of Dog Mom’s of Tampa Bay (DMTB), a group that holds monthly meet-ups across Tampa Bay—these gatherings, Heckner explains, are not only dog-friendly (pooches are welcome), but also typically canine-centric in their focus, location, or otherwise; there’s often a charitable or fundraising element to these events. Heckner went on to point out that she and four other volunteer “admins” plan these events, divvying them up by region: Heckner handles St. Petersburg, DMTB founder Zoe Lee oversees Pasco County, and so on. Heckner also describes the then-forthcoming Howliday Market, a rarer DMTV offering, slated for Dec. 3 at Ferg’s Sports Bar & Grill, in St. Petersburg, featuring some 50-plus vendors—again, all of them dog-oriented. (,

COMEDY CORNER: Zoltan Kaszas’ “Cats Part One” (DS edit) (

MUSIC: Rebekah Pulley’s “Talking Animals Theme,” ukulele instrumentals

NAME THAT ANIMAL TUNE:  Ukulele Theatre’s version of “Stray Cat Strut” Note: today’s array of ukulele music was in recognition of WMNF’s then-forthcoming “7th Annual Ukulele Festival: UKE IT OUT!” Dec. 7 at Cage Brewing in St. Petersburg


Listen Online Now:


| Open Player in New Window

Sign up for Updates

Get weekly updates about upcoming shows and events!

By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Talking Animals. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

Archives by Date

In Memoriam

Otis McGarr
(Nov. 1989 – Jan. 4, 2006)

John Taylor
(Sept. 29, 1961-Aug. 20, 2011)