Meet Vixen! © 2010 Allie Phillips

Since 2000, I have assisted in moving animals (primarily cats) out of shelters to adoption organizations or foster homes where they could live until finding an adoptive home. I have seen volunteers drive across a state, and sometimes across state lines, to get a cat or dog to a safer location. Moving cats and dogs out of shelters that have questionable practices (such as pound seizure or gas chamber euthanasia) is prominent in numerous locations. Most shelters that benefit from these transport programs are grateful for the help because often these shelters are in depressed areas with few resources and even fewer adoptive homes.

Since January 2009, I have been helping the St. Croix Animal Welfare Center (a U.S. territory in the Virgin Islands) to transport cats up the DC area to be adopted through King Street Cats, where I volunteer. On Saturday, we accepted our 20th Crucian cat, named Vixen (a gorgeous calico with that Oriental-shaped St. Croix face). I am often asked why animals should be transported to different locations when there is a pet overpopulation everywhere and not every shelter animal is being saved. It’s a good question. Locations like St. Croix do not have local resources or adoption partner organizations that can come in to alleviate the burden on the shelter. They are also on an island with limited adoptive homes. St. Croix receives over 3,000 cats and dogs yearly and it can be difficult for the wonderful shelter staff to work in an environment where there is so little hope. So St. Croix relies on their Pets from Paradise program where a willing traveler brings a cat or dog with them on the flight (either as a carry-on or in cargo). I was one of those travelers in January 2009 when I flew home with a cat named Whisper. This long-distance transport program is one way that St. Croix is working to reduce the euthanasia rate (in addition to a spay-neuter initiative) and insert some hope into the shelter. On the same day of Vixen’s arrival, King Street Cats also accepted a cat named Pandora that was transported from West Virginia; again, there were few resources in West Virginia to help Pandora. Yet we had a potential adopter already lined up for Pandora. Sure enough, she was adopted within a mere few hours of arriving at King Street Cats.

When I look at areas such as the greater DC area, where there are hundreds of animal organizations to help shelters and an abundance of adoptive homes, and then I look at areas that have no help and little hope, the business of animal transports makes sense. Although we may not be able to save them all (at least not yet), transport programs certainly make a difference in the life of that animal, like Vixen and Pandora. After all, they did not choose the location they were born in to.

If you have ever been involved in helping an animal transfer to a new location for purposes of being re-homed, please share your story!