Policy and Position Statement: Animal Relocation for Adoption

While shelter euthanasia rates have declined significantly over the last decade, shelters in some communities and regions still intake more adoptable dogs and cats than they can place locally.  Animal Relocation programs are a key component of a multi-faceted strategy to save lives. The ASPCA supports responsible relocation to save the lives of adoptable animals by moving them to shelters where there is higher adoption demand for them and/or greater resources available to address any medical or behavioral conditions they might have.  Relocation must be accomplished while complying with health, welfare and safety standards as well as the requirements of applicable federal, state, and local laws. To maximize impact, animal relocation should be used in conjunction with other programs that meet community-specific needs. These often include low cost spay/neuter, safety net services and community cat programs as alternatives to shelter intake, progressive adoption policies, access to basic veterinary care, effective public policy and community-engagement programs.

Relocation programs should adhere to the following principles: 

  • Animals must be examined by a veterinarian or trained staff member, must be in good health or able to be safely and humanely transported with any existing medical conditions, vaccinated, and treated for internal and external parasites. Animals crossing state lines must have a certificate of veterinary inspection (health certificate) issued by a veterinarian in accordance with state laws. 
  •  Transport vehicles, and the number and arrangement of animal enclosures within, must allow for ready visual observation of each animal and proper ventilation and climate control in the animal compartment. Temperature should be controlled by a thermostat and measured by a thermometer to enable continual monitoring by the drivers. Protocols should be in place to prompt frequent monitoring of animal welfare including environmental parameters during transport, with clear guidance for when and what intervention is necessary to address concerns that arise, including emergency removal of all animals from the vehicle.  Staff must be provided with training on policies and procedures, and training should be provided at regular intervals to ensure consistency.
  • Transport distances and duration, and the frequency and length of rest stops and overnight layovers must be done in such a way to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of drivers, assistants, and animals.

The preceding list is not exhaustive, and additional guidelines for safe and successful animal relocation programs have been published by The Association for Animal Welfare AdvancementAssociation of Shelter Veterinarians, and American Veterinary Medical Association.