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Fighting the Sheltering Crisis of 2021

Transport is on my mind once again as BISSELL Pet Foundation and our partners work tirelessly to keep pets moving safely across the country. Unfortunately, the animal welfare industry is painfully unbalanced when it comes to the lifesaving transports of homeless pets. We need to up our game.

Day after day, I see posts from shelters with highly adoptable dogs in danger of euthanasia. When we are forced to shift focus to support a natural disaster, any sustainability in our routine pet transport programs diminishes. The sheltering crisis of 2021 is not slowing down. We need to fix our focus on the ongoing transport of pets from our peer shelters who need us most.

My team worked with the Humane Society of Tulsa to move hundreds of pets from shelters in need before and after Hurricane Ida. Louisiana shelters were filled with homeless pets, and they needed room to take in pets, both owned and unowned, impacted by the storm. Groups from around the country stepped up to make magic happen.

Brandywine Valley SPCA, ASPCA, Greater Good, Wings of Rescue, Petco Love, and more jumped in to move homeless pets out of Louisiana to shelters and rescues all over the country. Ground and air transport took place daily as we all fought to avoid euthanizing homeless pets to make space. The volume of transfers was something to celebrate, but it was short-lived. There is still a significant need. As we anticipated, owner surrenders are now filling the spaces we emptied in the shelters.

While our focus was on Louisiana and Mississippi, shelters in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas slipped deeper into crisis. Even with Hurricane Ida and threats of new tropical storms, another disaster awaits us all; the homeless pets we put on hold are out of time. As my team shifts some of their attention to these shelters in need, we will be relying on the BPF National Shelter Alliance to look at national transport. This work aims to create a plan, identify missed opportunities, and provide feedback on a new website to support intrastate, regional and national transports. We will also explore breaking down barriers that complicate transport and create some level of sustainability.

In the meantime, we must work hard to move Louisiana shelter pets quickly through the adoption process to continue helping the worst-hit areas of the state. We need to recognize that other shelters are fighting for space and have been holding on to support their peers in Louisiana and Mississippi.

Our communities love to help, but we need to tell them why it is so urgent! It’s a great time to provide them with an update on the state of animal shelters across the country and the impact Hurricane Ida has had on these organizations near and far. Hold an adoption event, call out for fosters, let them know the work is not close to being done.

Just when it felt like we could all take a collective sigh of relief, the disaster zone drastically expanded. Let’s face it together.