Transporting shelter animals to other states has become a common practice. There are benefits, if it’s done right, but there are negatives to consider as well. Moving animals from an over capacity shelter frees up immediate space. Getting those animals to an area with low shelter populations can get them adopted and help the existing population get adopted by attracting people to those shelters.
Transport is largely unregulated and health problems arise regularly, with mixed results.
The Rhode Island SPCA imported eight dogs from a Georgia shelter on October 7 and mixed them in with their existing population. On October 9, the SPCA announced the imported dogs were infected with giardia and adoptions were paused for 10 – 14 days while the entire population was being treated.
Transport does not address the issues that led to the source shelter being over capacity.
Near the end of August, the over capacity Kauai Humane Society in Hawaii paid nearly $56,000 to charter a plane in order to fly 181 cats and 40 dogs to Seattle. Pre-approved adopters picked up 75 cats and 3 dogs at the airport. The remaining 143 pets were taken in by rescue groups. The Human Animal Support Services (HASS) website describes the flight this way:
The event was an unqualified success.
What it didn’t do, unfortunately, is permanently solve Kauai Humane Society’s capacity issue.
“Our population is higher than it was before the flight. For us, it was a needed solution, but not a long lasting one,” [executive director Nicole Schafer] says. “We are packed.”
It seems like the unqualified success has some qualifiers.
Thinking outside the box to save the lives of shelter pets is great. I always want to encourage that. But putting $56 grand in a box and lighting it on fire is not innovation. HASS reports that the shelter’s board quickly came up with the cash so that they didn’t have to fundraise from the public, which would have taken an unknown period of time. Having fast access to that kind of money is a benefit many shelters don’t have. I can’t help but wonder how many free spay and neuter surgeries could be offered for $56,000 – an effort that would help reduce the local population over time.
Transport does not help local shelter animals get adopted if the transported pets are adopted straight off the vehicle. And if those local shelter pets are being killed because they’ve “gone kennel crazy” or some other reason, it’s very difficult to justify importing pets from other states.
A panel discussion on the subject of transporting shelter pets is available on YouTube.