Final Draft


Proposal To Improve & Fund Efficient Animal Transport Programs

Driving Away From Shelter Overcrowding

Everyone knows to change the channel when the sad song by Sarah McLachlan begins to play. Images of dogs trapped in cages with solemn expressions written across their faces are circulated on a loop. This image is the harsh reality of what animal shelters consist of. Every year across the U.S., 3.9 million animals enter shelters nationwide. Out of this large number, 1.2 million of these animals are euthanized (Simmons). This is a concerning amount of lives that are taken simply because there is not enough room for them. Many of the shelters are overcrowded and unable to provide proper care for all of the animals. What if there was a solution that could be implemented in order to relieve the overcrowded shelters? Fortunately, there is a program that has proven to be a success throughout the nation. Animal transport is a nationally used program to bring dogs to shelters where there is less of a chance that they will be euthanized. Transporting animals is possible through donations and volunteers; resources that are considered to be somewhat limited. This proposal is centered around solving the issue of overcrowding in shelters throughout the greater LA area in Southern California by having the USDA support and fund the minimal costs involved in animal transport.

An Issue Much Larger Than California

Before evaluating the issue of animal overcrowding in Southern California, there needs to be recognition of the national scale of this issue. Many shelters across the U.S do not label the animals correctly which leads to a lesser chance of adoption, and higher euthanasia rates. In shelters across the nation, 90% of dogs get mislabeled as a different breed (Underwood). The more animals that are mislabeled, the more animals will get euthanized. In terms of what happens to the dogs after they enter shelters, 35% are adopted, 26% are returned to their owners and 31% are euthanized (Simmons). This is a large percentage of animals that are euthanized due to shelter overcrowding. The issue of overcrowding within shelters is not only specific to certain states, but to the nation as a whole. These statistics are the harsh results of the effects that overcrowding has on shelters.

Not So Sunny In Southern California

Throughout the greater LA area, there is a major issue concerning animal overcrowding. As a result of stray animals procreating throughout major cities, there is limited space in shelters in Southern California. Due to this constant influx of animals, shelters are over capacity and are not able to provide the necessary resources they need due to insufficient funding. Families give up their dogs simply because they have no time, or because the dog is unwanted. The director of Animal Control explains how owners “never tell us the truth, that they just don’t want it anymore” (Rivera). As a result, shelters in the LA area are overburndened with more animals than they can handle.

In 2014, 50% of 72,000 animals were killed by euthanasia in shelters across LA. Shockingly, this number was down by 64% compared to a few years ago (Sewell).

In San Bernardino County in Southern California, there are a couple of shelters that serve the surrounding cities. One of them is known as Devore Shelter (“Devore Animal Shelter”). This shelter is known to be a high-kill shelter. Throughout social media sites, people warn of the unacceptable conditions within the shelter. There are pages on Facebook dedicated to spread awareness to adopt certain animals, with some posts titled, “I will die in the shelter.” High euthanasia rates are the reason why animal transport is desperately needed. One woman posted a review on Yelp discussing her horrible experience when trying to adopt her dog through the Devore shelter. She mentions that the shelter rudely told her she had “until 5:00 pm or he was going to be killed” (N., Katie). After adopting this dog she realized that his temperament was labeled incorrectly as well. Ultimately, the mislabeling of animals will reduce every chance that they will have at adoption. The Devore Animal Shelter is one of many high-kill shelters that need to be shut down. Through a transport program, these animals can be saved and sent to no-kill shelters where they will get the proper care that they desperately need.

The numbers are too high, and these animals are only killed because there is not enough room to keep them. During the 2008 recession, many families had to give up their animals due to losing their houses, or as a result of financial difficulties. Due to the failing economy, many families had to let their animals go “because they had nowhere to take them” (Bartholomew). There needs to be a program that is ready to handle crises like the recession of 2008. Currently, there are too many animals to care for in local shelters and organizations throughout LA and the surrounding areas. Animals need to be transported to areas where shelters are less crowded, in order for them to have a chance at finding a forever home.

Transport programs are proven to be successful in LA, and across the U.S. Organizations work tirelessly to ensure than they can transport as many animals as they can to safety. Through donors, donations and volunteers they make their programs possible. Those individuals within the government organization, The United States Department of Agriculture, and who work in the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service should pay more attention to this issue. They should provide funding for these organizations that are working to solve the bigger issue at hand, which is overcrowding in animal shelters.

The Proposed Solution: Animal Transport In Southern California

In the state of California, the issue of overcrowding in animal shelters can be lessened through the transportation of healthy and trained dogs from high kill shelters to rescue organizations and no kill shelters that do not participate in euthanasia. Those who work in the United States Department of Agriculture should find efficient ways to fund organizations who implement transport programs in order to bring as many animals as they can to safer areas.

Smaller Organizations In Southern California Making a Difference

Transport programs have already been implemented throughout the U.S. In fact, in Southern California there are several programs that offer amazing transport services for animals. Many programs have been successful through volunteers and generous donations by outside organizations. One of these programs is known as “Wings Of Rescue.” This organization is a non-profit that hires volunteer pilots to transport animals from areas that are overpopulated, to shelters that are able to take the animals in. This charity is based in LA and has flown 26,000 animals to safer areas. They have also done great work to help save animals affected by Hurricane Irma. “Wings Of Rescue” has their own group of volunteer pilots as well as a few chartered planes. They run mostly on donations, which can prove to be limited at times (Our Mission – Wings Of Rescue.”). On average, chartering a plane can be at minimum, about 1,000-2,000 dollars per hour (Aviation). According to an article about “Wings Of Rescue” the hangar and fuel costs of the plane have gotten up to 2,500-5,000 dollars (Lacitis). This depends on where the destination is, but often times the pilots will be flying for hours. With government funding, this organization could afford to charter more planes which would result in the rescue of more animals.

Another transporting organization known as “Rescue Express,” based in Santa Fe, CA is run on donations as well. They convert old school buses into transportation services for the animals. A bus can hold up to two-hundred animals at a time. They have saved over 12,000 lives since they first started (“Our Story”). This is yet another example of a successful program that is solely run on donations from organizations and the public. Through government funding, this program could have more buses and resources to help rescue animals from high-kill shelters.

Is Animal Transport Feasible to Implement In Shelters Within Southern California?

The implementation of this solution is not that difficult, and the costs would be minimal compared to the president’s budget as well as the budget that the USDA has for Animal Welfare. In 2015, the president’s budget was four trillion dollars. There were programs that were implemented to support animal welfare and some that did the exact opposite (Pacelle). In 2016, the USDA’s total budget within the Animal and Plant Health Inspection was 295 million dollars (“Budget”). Compared to the low costs of the transportation programs, including donations and volunteers, this will hardly be a burden on this department. This money could be used to fund:

  • Airplanes and other vehicles of  transport to bring the animals from state to state

-2,500-5,000 dollars for the price of gas and hangar expenses (Lacitis)

- to charter planes at minimum it costs between 1,000-2,000 dollars (Aviation)

These are the main means of funding because this is still in addition to donations. Many organizations have proven to be more than generous in terms of donating their money and time. In a study on the impact of deciding to accept transfer dogs, there was a survey that was distributed nationwide. One of the organizations who participated in the study reported that 47% of these transport programs are funded by donors (Simmons). Additionally, volunteers put in countless hours with organizations, whether they are flying three or four hours per trip to transport animals, or driving them across country. The volunteer hours depend on what the job is and how many times a week they work.

The process is already laid out for those who are looking to implement transfer programs within shelters or other organizations. Those organizations listed above are two of many successful transfer programs that can be used as examples to  replicate additional programs. Through contacting these organizations, one can get an idea on how to implement and create a successful transport program. The more transport programs there are, the more lives will be saved from high-kill shelters.  

Animal transport is feasible because the prices are not drastic, and there are still donors and volunteers who are willing to contribute their time and money to this cause. With the USDA’s large budget, funding can be available to these programs to provide more resources. The USDA should see this solution as solving many issues in one. With a transport program, there will be less animals on the street reproducing, and more animals in shelters that are not overcrowded. As a result, animals will have a better chance at being adopted. The USDA may think that overcrowding is the least of their worries, but if not addressed immediately, this issue can become much larger. This is why the USDA should take quick action and help to fund these transport programs.

Driving Toward Safety: An Overview

The issue of overcrowding in animal shelters is going to become a much larger problem  if not attended to now. Shelters will continue to be burdened with too many animals and will continue to euthanize them as more enter the shelter. The USDA should recognize that this solution of improving and implementing more transport programs will be beneficial in the long run. At first, the cost of transportation may appear to be a large expense. However, when looking at this solution as a whole, the USDA will realize that this is a small cost in order to make a necessary change. If they fund organizations and shelters to help implement this program, then less animals will be on the street. Through transport, animals can have better lives in more comfortable shelters with less crowding. This means that more animals will be able to come into shelters off the street, and have a higher chance of getting adopted into forever homes. Overall, transport programs are more than feasible and can be accomplished through additional government funding, as well as the generous donations and help of volunteers willing to make a difference.