On Sunday, dozens of dogs and cats from local animal shelters started a journey that organizers hope will ultimately end with them in new homes.
The Oktibbeha County Humane Society, in partnership with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Columbus-Lowndes Humane Society and the Clarksdale Animal Rescue Effort and Shelter, sent 74 animals on a Wings of Rescue flight to Delaware. The flight departed from Golden Triangle Regional Airport in the early afternoon Sunday for the Brandywine animal shelter in New Castle, Delaware.
Martha Thomas, director of development and community relations with OCHS, said the flight was the largest single transfer the shelter has ever undertaken. Sunday’s transfer flight included animals from 2 months to 4 years old.
“These pets are going to go and get a forever home,” she said. “But it also clears up a kennel so that another dog, when they come in, can move into that kennel. The Starkville animal shelter is an open admission shelter, so for residents of Starkville and Oktibbeha County, we take in animals whether we are ‘full’ or not. The transport program is really instrumental for us in moving animals and making sure the animals that come through our doors find a forever home.”
Transfers are not new to local animal shelters. Thomas said OCHS moves more animals out of its shelter through transfers than it does through adoptions. Shelters regularly use ground transfers, such as in vans. Thomas said Sunday’s flight should prove less stressful, as it moved the animals to Delaware in about two hours, compared to 14 or 15 hours on the road.
Jason Nickles, manager at the Columbus-Lowndes Humane Society, said transfer programs are important for overcrowded animal shelters. Transfers have helped CLHS improve its live rate, he said, which counts the percentage of animals who are put down due to space restrictions.
“Back in 2006 when I started in Columbus there was about a 60-percent live rate on dogs,” he said. “With Mississippi Mutts on the Move, since that’s been involved over the last four years, we’ve gone from that to last year, in 2017, we pushed an 85-percent live rate on dogs.
“It’s a huge benefit for shelters because not only are we saving animals’ lives, but it also gives us the opportunity to save animals with diseases like heart worm disease or mange,” he added. “Those little things that are easily treatable if you’re given space.”
Nickles also said he was happy to partner with other shelters to help get the animals transferred and hopefully into homes.
“It takes all of us working together and pooling our resources to make a difference in the area,” Nickles said. “That’s the whole key to making it work.”
Erin Robbins, with Wings of Rescue, said Sunday’s flight comes about a week before the Brandywine shelter is set to host a major adoption event.
“Last year when they had it, I watched the videos and it looked like Black Friday,” Robbins said. “People were lined up before they opened — the line wrapped around the building. So these pets will be in loving homes the moment the adoption event starts.”
Wings of Rescue is a 501(c)3 charity that flies animals from overcrowded shelters across the United States.
Robbins said the flights are costly — large transfers can cost more than $25,000 — and Wings of Rescue performs them as often as its funding allows. In two years, Wings of Rescue has transferred more than 18,000 animals across the country.
She also said that northern areas tend to see a greater demand for shelter animals than areas in Southern states due to stricter laws requiring that most shelter animals be spayed/neutered before adoption.