How Animal Transports Save Lives

Posted on July 3, 2019

On June 29th, the New York Times ran an article entitled “Everyone Wants a Rescue Dog. Not Everyone Can Have One.” The article primarily focuses on transfers of animals from areas with pet overpopulation problems to communities like Arlington, where spay/neuter policies have resulted in a declining amount of stray animals.  

The article insinuates that instead of saving lives, the act of transporting animals could be harming them instead.  Unfortunately, the article’s author relies on a handful of one-off anecdotes to make sweeping generalizations about an entire program that has proven successful and saved millions of animal lives.   Though the author misses the mark, it’s understandable that someone unfamiliar with animal sheltering may not understand the benefit of animal transports.

First, animal transports are generally from communities with overcrowded shelters to areas without pet overpopulation problems, where those animals are more likely to find homes.  It serves an immediate need for source shelters – the one’s facing shelter capacity issues – because it saves lives while freeing up much needed kennel space for the other animals that will certainly be coming in.

For example, one of our partner transfer shelters receives over a thousand dogs a year, and sometimes in the summer months may take in over 20 dogs a day.  With only three full time and one part time employees on staff, this shelter simply does not have the resources to manage the crushing daily intake. Relying on local adoptions is not enough.  Transporting animals may come with some risks – as there are anytime one leaves their home or gets behind the wheel – but it’s the best option to save lives in these communities.  

Secondly, the author notes adoption fees implying that transferring-in animals provides a financial windfall to those shelters who receive them.  For AWLA and other reputable shelters, this is simply not true. Adoption fees do not cover the cost of spay/neuter, vaccines, microchips, housing, or additional medical and behavioral help an animal may need, which can sometimes be thousands of dollars.  We transfer-in animals not because it’s a financial benefit but, rather, in order to provide our community with a greater pool of adoptable pets while also fulfilling our mission.

Finally, the author suggests there should be a focus on stemming the flow of animals entering the shelter instead of on transports.  This is something that AWLA already does. We not only help underserved communities by taking in animals, but we also provide financial support so that our partner shelters can divert their limited resources to other lifesaving programs.  This past year we started a shelter give back program in which we provided over $10,000 in in-kind gifts to our partner shelters, including vaccines, enrichment supplies, gas cards, and even new kennels. We are also planning a local spay/neuter clinic in order to help reduce the pet overpopulation problem within these communities.  None of this would be possible, however, without the strong relationship, collaboration, and trust developed through our transfer program.  

In an ideal world, homeless animals would remain in their same community as long as it takes to find a home. But, we’re not there yet, and until we are, transports remain the most effective way to save lives in shelters that otherwise have no options.

Sam Wolbert, AWLA President & CEO