New Transport Program Saves Dogs Lives, Boosts Adoption Rates and Provides Operational Assistance t

The Rescue Waggin’ is slowly chipping away at overcrowded animal shelters in the United States with a program that moves dogs from shelters with 60 to 90 percent euthanasia rates to those with a dearth of dogs. The program, which started in the Midwest in 2004, transports adoptable dogs that would otherwise be euthanized and provides funds to source shelters for operational expenses and spay/neuter programs to dig at the root of the problem. So far it has enabled the adoption of 5,215 dogs. The program is exclusively for dogs as there are no reported shortages of adoptable cats, said Carol Moulton, program manager.

        Shelter Statistics

  • 10 to 15 million companion animals are abandoned in the United States each year
  • 6 to 8 million of those enter shelters
  • 4 to 6 million are euthanized because they dont have a home

             (Source: HSUS and web sites - posted on PetSmart Charities site)

The Rescue Waggin’, which is funded by PetSmart Charities, was launched in source (overcrowded) and receiving (for adoptions) shelters in Wisconsin, Tennessee, Indiana and Kentucky, and California in July. Dogs in the Midwest are transported over state lines to reach receiving shelters - with an eight- to ten-hour drive limit – while the California program is an intrastate initiative, due to state size and varying needs.

“It’s like there are two Californias [sic],” Moulton explained. “There are the wealthy coastal areas and the rural [inland] areas that tend to lack resources.” The program utilizes two air-conditioned, heated and specially designed trucks to transport animals to balance the two, she added.

In addition to paying for animal transport, Rescue Waggin’ invests in source shelters in order to limit an organization’s need for the program, Moulton said. The goal, she explained, is to squelch overcrowding issues with spay/neuter clinics, education for pet owners, and facility improvements. “Our goal is to help them so that they stop needing our services,” Moulton said. She expects to announce several emeritus shelters, locations that have been used as source locations, that will be “honorably discharged” this month, she said.

Program Details

Shelters respond to invitations to participate in Rescue Waggin’ with applications that are sent by Humane Strategies, a non-profit company formed to manage the program. Applications are assessed on several criteria, including euthanasia rates, Moulton said, and there is currently a waiting list. Participating shelters are required to provide veterinary health certificates, behavior tests to ensure that dogs are family-friendly pets, and vaccination records, while receiving shelters agree to neuter dogs. PetSmart Charities pays for the required tests when needed, Moulton explained.

The beauty of the initiative is that it “alleviates the stress of overpopulation and ensures that animals have options, and it addresses the root causes of overpopulation,” said Victoria Wellens, executive director of the Wisconsin Humane Society, a receiving shelter that has worked with Rescue Waggin’ since February 2004. The shelter has a 48-hour adoption turnaround for dogs, and has received 4,000 animals in the last two years, Wellens said.

As several shelters transition out of the program, Rescue Waggin’ will be able to add more locations in California where an estimated 100,000 dogs are euthanized annually, Moulton said. “We saw a need and felt that this was a good way to fill it,” she added.