A stigma has always loomed large over shelter or “pound” pets. Some people wrongly conclude the homeless animals are diseased, undesirable, unwanted, ill-mannered mongrels, who did something to land in their precarious predicament.
In recent years, national Don't Shop. Adopt! campaigns have battled the stereotype, and their message seems to be gaining ground. Still, some Baton Rougeans wonder whether it's worth the trip out towards the airport to find a family pet. Yet, hundreds of miles away, adopters in New York and Virginia anxiously await the arrival of quality pets from our municipal shelter.
Tomorrow, July 31, 85 dogs and puppies—nearly a quarter of the canine kennel population—will leave Companion Animal Alliance for the no-kill Pets Alive Sanctuary in Middletown, NY.
Last month, 29 East Baton Rouge shelter puppies were placed by the Norfolk SPCA. And, next Friday, Petz Plaza has volunteered to drive another group of puppies to Norfolk in their custom van.
The New York transport was initiated by ASPCA's Animal Relocation Manager Kristen Limbert. “The ASPCA is involved with shelters in Wisconsin, Maine, Vermont and other Northern states,” Limbert explains. “They tend to have fewer animals in shelters and running at large because they have stronger spay/neuter efforts and animal control laws.
“At the same time, people are coming to the shelters to look for pets,” says Limbert. “The shelters want to meet the market demand, so adopters won't go elsewhere.”
Virginia has a high demand specifically for Catahoulas, shepherds and blackmouth curs; meanwhile, households near in the Catskills seeking large breed puppies and small breed adult dogs, such as poodles, shih tzus and pug mixes.
“They don't have the numbers that we have, and they don't have as many puppies or smaller breeds,” adds Paula Shaw, CAA's programs and service manager. “Everybody thinks those are so adoptable here—and they are—but, there is more supply than demand.”
Limbert coordinates monthly transports from New Orleans to New Jersey; however, she reports the Baton Rouge project the biggest ASPCA-affiliated transport to leave the state of Louisiana.
Besides dictating the standards for humane transport, interstate and shelter regulations require the animals to be quarantined for two weeks prior to their trip, spayed/neutered and vaccinated. Since no adoption fees will be collected, the financial burden of providing all those services falls on CAA.
Luckily, Shaw says, “The whole community has been supportive on a lot of levels. Everybody wants to help—the CAA board and the community in general. It's been really amazing.” For example, while some of the expenses may eventually be reimbursed by grants, contributions from Friends of the Animals and an individual donor helped cover the cost of medical care and transportation. Petz Plaza groomers came to the shelter to improve the health and appearance of dogs with severely neglected coats and nails.
Baton Rouge Spay/Neuter owner Craig Alberty, DVM, his staff and vet students spayed and neutered 73 dogs in less than two weeks—at a discounted rate. The shelter's animal caretakers worked extra hours to ferry the dogs to and from the vet and monitor in quarantined dogs. Veteran and new volunteers took the initiative to foster the post-op pups, photograph each animal for identification and complete paperwork. Shelter vets worked overtime to complete interstate health certificates for each dog.
Make no mistake: The shelter's goal is not to provide an endless supply of adoptable animals for other regions. In fact, the ultimate objective is to coordinate aggressive spay/neuter programs to prevent unwanted animals from being born and ending up in the shelter. But, in the interim, the transports reduce the euthanasia rate and allow dogs to find homes with adopters who are desperately looking to save a life and add a new member to their families.
Even though each transport has the potential to be a money loser, its value as a lifesaver can't be under estimated. “Before we left Virginia after the last transport, I sat in the [transport] van—just thinking about each puppy,” Shaw says. “[Without this transport] each one or another puppy just like him—all 29 of them—would have been dead. It was long, hard trip. But, I would do it again. It's so worth it.”
Even though nearly a quarter of the kennels will be leaving for the Empire State tomorrow, CAA has plenty of animals for adoption. Click here to check them out.
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