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News Community Shelter dogs finding homes in other states

Volunteers load the animals into the van to be transported to another state where they will be adopted into loving homes.

“If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principle difference between a dog and a man.” — Mark Twain


The Macon County Humane Society always has a dog ready for adoption. Unfortunately, some dogs have lived at the shelter for years without being adopted, according to Humane Society workers.

The organization is always looking for a way to get the dogs into a loving home. But getting locals to adopt all of the homeless dogs has proven to be an impossible challenge for the shelter over the years, for no other reason than there are just too many stray dogs in Macon County.

To alleviate the problem, the shelter implemented a new program to transfer some of these canines to shelters in other states, and so far the program has been very effective.

“We have a lot of dogs, good dogs, that need a good home,” said Macon County Humane Society co-manager Nichole Pettinga. “We have found shelters in places like Vermont that will get our dogs into those homes.”

Transporting pets from one state to another isn’t anything new, according to Pettinga, but it’s a program that has not found success until recently. “For some reason, whether it was lack of funding, or advertising or getting the word out, it just didn’t work,” she said.

Through various contacts in Morrisville, Vermont and Tampa Bay, Florida, she was able to get the shelter to try its luck again with a transport program. Once she had established the network, she explained that it was just a matter of receiving donations from the community to get the wheels rolling.

After the shelter began running advertisements throughout the area, it found a response in the form of donations, something for which Pettinga is grateful to the community. “So far we have enough to fund the next three months of transport. It’s been amazing.”

“We’ve done one trip to Vermont and one trip to Florida, and both were successful,” said shelter co-manager Todd Ortiz. “All the dogs from the Vermont trip were adopted within a couple of weeks. The places we’re sending them to are no-kill shelters, and they don’t have any animals because their laws are so strict, so the dogs get adopted super-fast.”

The transport program has already successfully transported more than 30 dogs to either Vermont or Florida with the help of community donations. Last Saturday, nine animals were sent to Vermont. Nearly half of the dogs exported from the shelter were dogs that had resided at the shelter for at least a year.

Unlike many communities in Vermont or Florida, where dog laws are strict, Macon County has few laws which affect “man’s best friend.” Leash laws, the number of animals allowed per household, and animal registration are all laws that exist in those states. As a result of scarce local animal regulation, the number of strays in Macon County is on the rise. “There’s so many things that keep dogs up there at normal, average numbers. Their shelters are never full,” she said.

“We live in an area with such an overpopulation problem that there has to be something like this [program] here,” said Pettinga. “It’s really important for us to keep this going. We’re trying to eliminate the amount of dogs that are sitting in the shelter for long periods of time.” Pettinga added that finding the dogs a loving home in another state saves their lives by preventing them from being euthanized. Euthanization is one of Macon County Animal Control’s main recourses for its strays.

The shelter has an agreement with Macon County Animal Control: Animal Control will have the dogs vaccinated, spayed and neutered if the shelter takes the dogs from them. “It helps our costs immensely,” Pettinga said, adding that the agreement also helps save the lives of dogs in animal control custody.

The transport program has given the shelter a more hopeful climate, according to Ortiz. “It’s increased our intake numbers here, but it’s also increasing our adoption numbers. We’re taking a lot of animals from animal control because they are on the list to be euthanized—so we’re saving their lives,” he said.

But shelter workers have found they must compete with other humane societies, in order to save the lives of their dogs. “We always wanted to do this in the past but the other shelters, who also use shelters in Vermont, would never give us the information because they’re set up in a program,” explained Ortiz. “They didn’t want to give us the information because it would take away from getting their dogs sent.”

Just getting the dogs to their farand- away homes has proved to be a labor of love, according to Pettinga. While most shelters are choosey about the dogs they take, she explained that the Macon shelter works diligently to evaluate each dog and make sure they meet the right criteria for their destined new shelter. However she stressed that some dogs who have lived in a shelter a long time can become conditioned to living in a shelter environment.

“So we work with them for a month or two before we send them out to make sure that they have come back to being a normal dog that can live in a house,” she said. The method of rehabilititating “institutionalized” dogs consists of taking them out and refreshing them on the basic commands of ‘sit, stay, walk easy’ on a leash.

The ultimate outcome is a dog’s conditioning for a home environment.

“So we work with them for a month or two before we send them out to make sure that they have come back to being a normal dog that can live in a house,” she said.

While the geography of Vermont is similar to that of North Carolina, the climate is much colder there, according to Pettinga. Most adoptive “parents” are surprised at how some dogs are not house broken, since many dogs in Macon County are outside dogs. “All the dogs up north are family pets, in fact, there are laws against keeping them outside.”

Getting each dog to its new home requires a considerable amount of planning on the shelter’s part, according to Pettinga. She said that tracking the weather as well as traffic, and then having the dogs ready for their new owners, takes time.

The trips to either shelter are nonstop treks, where the only stops made occur every seven hours, so that the dogs can go for a walk and relieve themselves.

All the work required to transport the dogs and the transport itself comes out to cost approximately $1,000, which includes the cost of gas, preparation, vaccination and certification and many other things. In essence, every time someone donates $100, they are saving a life, according to Pettinga.

Less than half of the shelter’s expenses are covered by the revenue generated at the shelter’s thrift store in town.

“This doesn’t just help individual dogs,” said Pettinga. “This helps the community. How many times have you looked out in your yard and saw a stray dog? Or seen one running along the road?”

The shelter welcomes donations as well as fundraising ideas. For more information on how to get involved, contact the Macon County Humane Society at (828)524-4588.


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