Let’s continue our discussion from my last blog on how transferring/transporting reduces the need for killing and raises shelters’ Live Release Rates (LRR), albeit artificially.
Shelter kill rates decline. And when this happens, LRR increases. Why? When you fall back on moving animals elsewhere as the norm, you manipulate the effectiveness of the shelter’s operations by reducing the need to kill. The effectiveness of any shelter should be based on how well the shelter handles its own animals, not on who the shelter knows that will take their animals. Transferring, and especially transporting, do not allow for maximum shelter operational efficiency.
For our purposes, transferring involves working with local or in-state groups and individuals to help the shelter with overpopulation and special needs. Working with rescue organizations is the type of team approach that will get us out of the current situation of too many animals. But it must be done the right and fair way. We need our shelters to assist the rescues that they transfer to with things like (a) funding assistance for the spay/neuter of transferred animals, (b) addressing the compassion fatigue created from the additional work to save the other shelter’s animals also, and (c) more targeted and accessible spay/neuter of owned animals and community cats, to name a few.
Transporting is the transfer of animals outside of the shelter’s state. The shelter acts as a clearinghouse here too. Transports should be a temporary way to help save animals in the here and now. This should not be an acceptable and normal outcome in any sheltering model. When spay/neuter reaches the needed level, transports would no longer be necessary. But too many shelters simply transport and do little-to-nothing locally to humanely reduce intake through spay/neuter.
We combined data from Shelter Animals Count and Petpoint to get a more representative view of shelter data. For the year 2022, transfers and transports averaged 11.9% of intake in US reporting from shelters and organizations, or about 119,000 animals based on an assumed one million combined US national intake. That is down from previous years because everyone now has so many animals that there are fewer places to send them (remember, intake was reduced under managed intake making this even worse.) In 2020 (Covid), the distribution of animals to others reached 17%, or 170,000 animals. In 2019 (pre-Covid), transports and transfers totaled 15.0%, or 150,000 animals. Both are based on the same assumptions. Worse yet, transfers and transports have become the #1 outcome in many shelters, over adoptions and return-to-owners. (Thank you Shelter Animals Count and Petpoint for providing access to data on their websites.)
We need our shelters to take the lead in change, not to settle for what we are doing today but instead steer us on a course that focuses on a rigorous and targeted plan to increase spay/neuter. Together, we need to turn down the intake faucet so all animals have the best opportunity for a loving home, without sending them elsewhere to get the care and homes they deserve.
Beth Frank is founder/president of Community Cats United, Inc, Fixfinder and Proactive Animal Sheltering. Beth has spent endless hours researching animal sheltering and analyzing shelter data from all over the US, including over 400 shelters. Click here to follow Proactive Animal Sheltering on Facebook.
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