March 5, 2018

To Save Their Lives, Homeless Animals Go the Distance

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By ASPCA President & CEO Matt Bershadker

An animal shelter isn’t a home for animals any more than it’s a home for the staff who work there. Shelters shouldn’t even be viewed as places homeless animals go as much as places they leave, even if only temporarily. That’s one of the big ideas behind animal relocation—a life-saving endeavor in which communities, animal shelters, animal advocates and transportation partners come together to move animals from overcrowded shelters to locations where they have improved chances of being adopted into safe and loving homes. 

Life is a Journey

Moving animals by car or by air—whether to places fairly close or hundreds of miles away—is often an expensive and complicated operation. But these efforts have become much more prevalent in the last five years. 

In 2017, the ASPCA moved over 28,400 animals across the country in three routes: the Nancy Silverman Rescue Ride (East Coast), the West Coast Animal Relocation Program (West Coast), and the newly announced WaterShed Animal Fund Rescue Ride (Midwest). And it’s not just dogs. Just over 6,800 of those animals were cats and roughly 100 were other animals.

During last year’s hurricanes and California wildfires, the ASPCA relocated more than 1,600 animals as part of our disaster response efforts.

Transporting… and Training

The work is about more than simply bringing dogs and cats from Point A to Point B. We often spend time mentoring and training shelters at both ends on a variety of crucial subjects including optimizing operations, elevating adoption procedures and events and maintaining important health and safety standards. We also provide grants to help challenged shelters improve physically and operationally.  

Moving animals out of crowded shelters also creates room and conserves critical resources for other local animals in need. 

Thinking Outside the Shelter

For too long we’ve been tackling animal homelessness by looking for solutions primarily within a shelter’s four walls. What we need are more “out of the shelter” solutions, including relocation, animal fostering and pet retention programs that help owners keep their pets so those animals don’t enter shelters in the first place.

All of these approaches require community support, so please ask your local shelter how you can assist with a transport, foster animals, donate money or contribute time and supplies. By committing yourself to vulnerable animals in your community, you can substantially help them find the real homes they need and deserve.