Friday, June 06, 2014

Southern Dogs Flow North to Freedom

Going from rural Georgia to Connecticut.

Darwin the Jack Russell terrier of pedigree unknown came from North Carolina.

Darwin the Italian Greyhound came from West Virginia.

Both dogs were adopted in our family within the last year, and both came north to Washington in rescue vans from high-kill rural shelters. 

Both dogs have been perfect.  Marley and Darwin are both as sweet, calm, and loving as any dogs I have ever known, and I have known a few.

Writing in The New York Times, J. Courtney Sullivan explores the phenomenon of rural southern rescue dogs coming north to the cities.

In the last decade, hundreds of thousands of dogs have been transported north from overcrowded facilities in the rural South. Much of the infrastructure for getting them from one state to another was put in place in 2005, when Hurricane Katrina left more than 250,000 pets stranded.

An estimated three to four million cats and dogs are euthanized in American shelters each year. People don’t love their pets any more or less because they live in one geographic region or another. But kill rates spike in high poverty areas with limited access to affordable veterinary services for spaying and neutering. In the rural South, unsterilized dogs are often allowed to roam outdoors. Many counties have weak or unenforced leash laws. Shelters in such areas are overrun, with kill rates ranging from 50 to 95 percent. Even where adoptions are encouraged, low population density makes them rare.

Many of the dogs that are routinely euthanized in Southern states — healthy Labs, hounds, shepherds and others, including puppies of various breeds — are in high demand in the Northeast, where low-cost spay and neuter services are the norm, kill rates are down, and there are exponentially more potential adopters....

People in Southern states are using Facebook and Petfinder to post pictures of homeless dogs. They find local volunteers who agree to temporarily foster the animals, and make connections with groups like Badass Brooklyn Animal Rescue. Despite having little funding and no formal shelter space, the group has found homes for 1,200 Southern dogs since 2011.

It relies on a patchwork of transporters to get the dogs from A to B — from a few volunteers with a minivan to the Tennessee-based company P.E.T.S., which makes weekly pickups in seven Southern states and drop-offs in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New England and New York. P.E.T.S. has relocated more than 50,000 dogs in 10 years.

The benefits of transport go beyond the Southern dogs whose lives are saved. It’s also good for Northern shelters. Being full of desirable animals makes shelters competitive with pet stores that get their inventory from puppy mills, where dogs are often mistreated, overbred and forced to spend their lives in cages without adequate access to food, water or veterinary care. This increases foot traffic and the likelihood that people will adopt pets, rather than buy them.

The bottom line: the rise of rescue vans scooping up the more adoptable dogs and bringing them out of the rural south has been a win-win for all except those left behind. Sadly, that's still a lot of dogs.
Until spay and neuter practices become a matter of course for all pet owners, the majority of dogs in Southern shelters will be euthanized. Every day, rescuers must decide which ones to save and which to leave behind, limited by funds, space in a vehicle, and a best guess as to the number of willing adopters on the other side.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

Maddies Fund, plus a University community, has made a big impact on kill rates in my county . . . . see

As in many places, 'pit bulls' are the biggest challenge. They also dominate Craigslist, and no one wants to ship them north. Poor critters.