In 2017 when the Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA (CASPCA) began to consider regularly transporting pets in from other areas, they started by looking at the data. “I knew I wanted to reach shelters where the transports would have a real impact – shelters that wanted to increase their lifesaving but needed help,” says Angie Gunter, CASPCA’s Executive Director. “We researched Live Release Rates across the state of Virginia and compared shelters that were geographically close to us. We reached out to Buckingham County Animal Control. The Animal Control Officers and the lead volunteer were enthusiastic, so we started transporting from them and still are!”
About an hour outside Charlottesville, Buckingham County, Virginia is a rural community with less than 20,000 residents. With few potential adopters and lacking resources, the shelter typically is able to adopt out less than 5% of the pets they take in.
“I believe the partnership has been beneficial for both the Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA and Buckingham County,” says Gunter. “It has allowed us to bring in a wider variety of animals, save lives and helped us develop protocols for our transport program. There’s always room for improvement and doing frequent transports with one group helps work out the kinks. Buckingham County has increased their Live Release Rate, developed transport partnerships with other groups, and they know that they’re not in this alone.”
Thinking of creating a similar program, but don’t know where to start? “Do some research and talk to people to determine what shelters are in need,” Gunter says. “Find out what kind of impact you can have to help the shelters become self-sustaining. Maybe they get in a lot of small dogs, but are able to adopt them out, so what they really need help with are cats. If you’re able to help with the population that they are at risk of having to euthanize, try your best. Find out what their goals are and help them out so they can reach their goals. Be open and honest. Set up clear expectations. Maybe you can’t help with cats but you’re able to take heartworm positive adult dogs.”
CASPCA transferred in over 1,700 pets from their partners in 2019 (including over 100 from Buckingham County) and are gearing up for even more lifesaving in 2020. “I think that organizations that are in a position to help other shelters should,” says Gunter. “It is for the benefit of us all and the animals we care about. Be strategic and start local. Work in your area to create a lifesaving community. You’ll be surprised how quickly transport becomes a normal part of shelter activities, and how even taking a small number of animals out of another shelter can make a big difference.”
Interested in learning more about transport? View our webcast series, chat with others on Maddie’s Pet Forum, or apply for an apprenticeship. You can also check out the Best Friends dashboard and Shelter Animals Count to dig deeper into data.