Finding Forever Homes at End of Their Journey

The Louisiana SPCA has found a novel solution to overpopulation at its New Orleans shelter. It sends dogs and cats to partner shelters miles away, where they can often be more quickly adopted. Its service is part of a small but growing trend in U.S. shelters and rescue organizations to save animals’ lives and find them “forever homes.”

The Louisiana Transport Program moved 779 animals to shelters last year in its truck and specially outfitted long trailer. Among the cats, adult black and brown tabbies predominated, says Placement Coordinator Jordan Buccola, “and, of course, the older guys we receive as owner surrenders.”

The shelter has a high intake rate, and transporting animals opened up space. At the same time, many shelters in the North had more room to accept animals, Buccoa says. “Also, sometimes just a change of shelter location helps get these animals adopted faster. For example, we partner with a shelter in Minnesota that adopts large dogs at a high rate, while in our area those guys are the ones that stay here the longest.”

Elizabeth A. Berliner, DVM, ABVP (Canine/Feline Practice), the Janet L. Swanson Director of Shelter Medicine at Cornell, views transporting animals between sheltering organizations as a progressive approach to regional differences in companion animals.

“Without a doubt, such programs save lives,” Dr. Berliner says. “However, preventive medical care, humane handling and careful adherence to state laws and public health requirements are essential to ensuring good animal welfare. Good intentions must always be followed by good practice. A veterinarian should be actively engaged at both the source and receiving organizations to guarantee healthy, humane transport protocols.”

Dr. Berliner advises organizations interested in participating in animal transport to see the National Federation of Humane Societies’ Best Practices Guidelines for Companion Animal Transport at

When the Louisiana ASPCA transports pets, two drivers take turns monitoring the pets’ safety via a camera in the trailer. The air conditioner there runs on a generator, and they periodically check the temperature. They also stop every two hours to check on the pets in person and provide fresh water. The animals, who receive veterinary exams before traveling, are kept in individual crates held in place by loading straps. There are no breaks for walks because rest stops are close to highways, and it’s too risky with the possibility of animals getting loose, Buccoa says.

In March, the shelter sent 50 cats and dogs, including 32 from Natchez Pet Adoptions, on an 800-mile trip to Wayside Waifs, a private. no-kill shelter in Kansas City, Mo. The cost was about $4,000.

A variety of dogs and cats were onboard, says Casey Waugh, communications manager: 15 adult dogs, 27 puppies, six adult cats and two kittens. Wayside Waifs, with a population of 300, is able to take in animals and provide foster care and medical and behavioral help because it has a staff of 70-plus and 1,500 active volunteers.

In just 12 days, all 50 pets from Louisiana had found forever homes.