Shelter Pet Transport: Yea, Nay or Grey?

(Stock photo via Pexels)

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.

Next paragraph:

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.

4 thoughts on “Shelter Pet Transport: Yea, Nay or Grey?

  1. It would have been smart to test the 8 dogs coming up from GA than to find out after infecting an entire shelter. How did that logic elude them? And I agree that $56K would have gone a lot further had it been spent to address the over population issue rather than ship the “problem” off to someone else. Now they’re out all that money and have nothing to show for it. Guess it’s time for that fund raiser they didn’t want.

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  2. I agree with you and anne davis on all accounts. Something not mentioned is that the receiving shelters, who may be located in a community that has a low shelter population due to high spay/neuter, don’t want to “fix” the problem because they would lose their source of animals. There was a debate a few years ago about the future of animal shelters and someone asked the question: where will the puppies come from? If some shelters have primarily become adoption agencies, then that question is not surprising. “Yes – there are still plenty of opportunities for relocation programs to help move dogs and puppies from where there are too many to where there are not enough, but as responsible large-scale relocation programs like the PetSmart Charities Relocation Waggin help infuse source shelters with resources and know-how, we are seeing source shelters as temporary, as they too soon see the inventory entering their shelters change.” Inventory? Too soon? Have transport programs become the new way for shelters to garner publicity and donations? At the expense of communities that are struggling with overcrowding? Transport programs should be a short term solution, not an ongoing source of animals for adoption.

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    1. I feel like the issue of “where will we get pets from” is not one we will need to face anytime soon. And also not one to really worry about. Should that time come then responsible breeders will be a thing. But i can’t see that really being an issue for a long time, if ever

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      1. In some communities this is actually a reality. The shelters transporting animals in are either doing it because there are not a lot of animals entering their shelters from the community, or they are getting donations from the public for saving animals from high-kill shelters. Sometimes to the detriment of the animals from their own community. Either way, transport programs do not solve the underlying problems within the communities that are sending animals out, and I’m not sure the shelters transporting animals in are in a big hurry for the supply line to dry up, therefore they are most likely not doing anything to solve those underlying problems. And by the way, my quote was from someone very high up in one of the largest animal welfare organizations in the country.

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