St. Hubert's Animal Welfare Center WayStation Program Featured in Animal Sheltering Magazine

(TRANSPORTING)
ACROSS THE DIVIDE


Karina King, director of operations at the Dakin Humane Society in Massachusetts, has what you might call “a good problem.” In late October 2016, between the nonprofit’s two locations in Springfield and Leverett, she has only one dog available for adoption. Usually that number is closer to 10, she says, but even so—her shelter is one of the largest animal welfare agencies in New England. “I could adopt out probably four times as many dogs and puppies as we do,” says King. The “problem” is that New Englanders are both eager to adopt homeless animals and great at spaying and neutering their pets. Dakin runs a Humane Alliance spay/neuter clinic that has altered roughly 70,000 animals over the past seven years. “We have people who are looking to do the right thing and adopt, and we want to support them in that, not drive them to backyard breeders or pet shops,” says King, noting that there are still pet stores in the state that sell puppies from breeding mills. But the shelter often has to turn families away because of a lack of available dogs who meet their criteria. Yet King receives daily emails and voicemails from shelters across the country “where they are desperate, desperate for help,” she says. “We can help them. We can save those animals’ lives by doing a transport.” Cary Smith of The HSUS helps offload dogs rescued from an Arkansas puppy mill in 2016. The dogs were transported to Maryland and picked up by area shelters. 

State by state, animal professionals give and take the right way source and destination state, but dogs typically go from Southern to New England states, stopping at St. Hubert’s and then being distributed in a “hub-and-spoke” model. In 2016, the center’s goal was to facilitate transport of more than 3,000 dogs from all over the country and 1,200 cats from within New Jersey. "Social causes don’t end at state lines,” says Cammisa. For every dog received, St. Hubert’s reinvests a minimum of $25 in the source shelter’s low-cost spay/neuter program. For Cammisa, the transport program isn’t just about helping individual animals. It’s about sharing knowledge and tools to help address the root causes of overpopulation in individual communities, like sponsoring staff trips to The HSUS’s annual Animal Care Expo, helping with vetting costs or connecting shelters with nonprofit resources like Humane Alliance, which teaches organizations how to operate successful high-volume spay/neuter clinics. 

“This is a partnership. It is not enough to just move dogs,” she says. “If we were just taking dogs and not investing back in these folks, what are we really doing? If we’re not helping them solve overpopulation, what are we really doing?” Taming the process
In the past, however, the reciprocal solution has been ripe for slip-ups and even scams,  sometimes driving more restrictive pet import regulations in common destination states like Maine, Connecticut and Massachusetts. Liam Hughes, director of Maine’s animal welfare program within its Department of Agriculture, explains that Hurricane Katrina in 2005—and the animals left behind—was Blurred lines. By now, you know transporting pets across county or state (or international) lines—to places where Chihuahuas are in high demand and low supply or from warm-weather states where kittens abound yearround— can be a great way to bring needy animals to expectant adopters. So long as shelters and rescues transport  responsibly— ensuring the safety and well-being of animals and following state and federal animal transport laws—moving shelter animals from one region to another can be win-win problem sharing and solving.

Currently, Dakin works with groups in Texas and New Jersey to transport animals into Massachusetts. King is careful to point out that source and destination
shelter partnerships are mutually beneficial—the “pull” of people who want to adopt and the shelters that want to support their communities’ desire to rescue pets, and the “push” of shelters with too many animals and too few adopters and resources. “I’ve had a conversation with people at other shelters in New England that don’t import, and they’re like, ‘Our responsibility is our community’s animals,’ and I completely agree with that,” she says, and she won’t schedule transports if her shelter receives an unusually large influx of local animals. It’s just that those shelters are “defining ‘my community’ as ‘my city’ or ‘my county,’ but I don’t feel that that’s how I define my community. ... These sending shelters [that] don’t have live-release options for the healthy, friendly family dogs that they have—they’re my community as well." 

Heather Cammisa, president of St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center in New Jersey, emphatically agrees. After working with the nowdefunct PetSmart Charities transport program Rescue Waggin’, St. Hubert’s received PetSmart Charities and Petco Foundation grants to support its own transport programs, including a Jersey-only “feline pipeline,” she says with a laugh. Since August 2016, the center has acted as a transport coordinator and way station for 23 source shelters to 27 destination shelters and counting, including Dakin. 

“This is a partnership. It is not enough to just move dogs. If we were just taking dogs and notinvesting back in these folks, what are we really doing? If we’re not helping them solve  overpopulation, what are we really doing?” —Heather Cammisa, St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center

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