Mud Bay partners with dozens of animal shelters in Oregon and Washington to help fulfill our mission of contributing to the health of dogs and cats. One of these partners, Seattle Humane, was one of the six shelters who took animals from Flight Mud Bay 200 on Memorial Day weekend.
To find out how some of the dogs and cats from Texas and Oklahoma are settling in, we spoke to Juli Ross. As Director of Animal Services, Juli oversees the animal care, intake and foster teams involved in this transfer and other animal transfers. She’s also been a member of Seattle Humane’s team for over six years, which made her uniquely positioned to talk about this animal transfer and other initiatives that Seattle Humane has been coordinating.
MB: For people who are curious about how these nationwide transfers happen, could you explain how you connect with other shelters and work together to help animals?
JR: Each transfer comes about in a different way- some happen every week and some are planned as help is requested. For our Memorial weekend transfer, it was coordinated by the Humane Society of the United States through their Shelter Ally Project. About five weeks before the transfer, the HSUS started to contact shelters in Washington to see if we’d like to take some animals from the Palm Valley Animal Center in Texas. We’ve worked with HSUS a few times for hurricane response, and we said yes.
We knew that Palm Valley had an incredibly high euthanasia rate, so we were eager to help. Initially, we offered to take 130 animals, but there were five other shelters (Blue Mountain Humane Society, Humane Society of Skagit Valley, Kitsap Humane Society, Humane Society for Southwest Washington, and Whatcom Humane Society) that agreed to take animals, too. So, in the end, we accepted 19 dogs and 26 cats.
The flight was supposed to occur on May 11th. But in certain areas of the country, they have high rates of distemper and other diseases. A few dogs developed upper respiratory infections, and so HSUS decided to delay the flight to make sure that the dogs didn’t have distemper. Also, Washington state requires that every animal has a health certificate before it comes into the state, so we needed to wait until all the animals were healthy. So, the animals were quarantined in the Tulsa Animal Welfare Shelter in Oklahoma until they were healthy enough to fly. And they arrived on May 25th.
MB: Are most of the animals ready to be adopted right now?
JR: Twenty-eight of the 45 dogs and cats Seattle Humane accepted are already adopted. Since a lot of the kittens who arrived were underage or small for their ages and some of the adult cats had upper respiratory infections, they went to foster homes until they were big and healthy enough to get their spay and neuter surgeries.
The dogs that came in from the flight didn’t have any behavior problems or any medical needs, so most were adopted within a few days. During their stay here, they enjoyed spending time in playgroups and charmed all of the staff. This was a really fun group of dogs! In fact, only one dog (Aimee) is still waiting to be adopted!
MB: It seems like Seattle Humane and a lot of other Puget-Sound-area animal shelters are really working to help animals outside of Washington State. I know that Seattle Humane accepts a lot of transfer animals. Could you talk about how these programs work?
JR: I’m very proud of our Lifesaver Rescue Program and the work we do to help animals both in our community and outside the state.
For a bit of context, the dogs and cats who used to come to Seattle Humane were primarily owner surrendered. Then, about a decade ago, Seattle Humane started transferring pets from other shelters into our facility when we had space. At the time, transfer programs weren’t as common, but Seattle Humane saw that there was a need that we could fulfill. We live in an amazing community where people opt to adopt for their next pet so we reached out to other shelters who had more pets than they had adopters. Back then, the eastern part of Washington got different types of animals than we did and we knew we could find homes for them on the west side of the state. We started transferring in puppies who could be adopted quickly, and our program has evolved a lot since then!
Now Seattle Humane receives approximately 70 percent of our animals through transfers. For the month of May, about 60 percent of those transfers came from out-of-state shelters. While we want to help everyone who needs it, we really try to support our in-state shelters as best we can. Being good neighbors to our local shelter partners is really important to us, and we can all accomplish more nationally if we help each other locally.
Our transfer program may have started as a way to fulfill our kennels and help out source shelters, but Seattle Humane has now become a coordinator to help pets from all over. If we are going out to another shelter to pick up pets for our program, we will also transport pets for others. For example, if we are going out to Yakima to pick up 25 pets for us, we may have room in the van for another 10-15 pets, and we will see if our friends PAWS, MEOW, or Auburn Valley want to take some too. This saves them a trip across the pass, and it helps us save more lives. We love being a hub for the area!
At Seattle Humane we also work hard to make sure that there’s a varied population of available pets for adopters. We want to have puppies and kittens, as well as adult dogs and cats. We want to have the pet you’re looking for. While some adopters may be open to adopting a pet with medical issues, some adopters just aren’t able to do that, and that’s just fine! We want to have pets for both single people and for families as well as pets for people in apartments and on farms. In order to do this, we supplement the population of pets we get from in-state with pets from shelters outside of Washington.
We learned a lot last year after our hurricane response effort to save pets in Texas and Puerto Rico. We couldn’t have had the same impact if it wasn’t for HSUS and our own supporters. So when HSUS asked us if we could help with Palm Valley, we leaped at the chance. We can’t fix the pet overpopulation problem by ourselves, so it’s been terrific to get to work with organizations like HSUS and Wings of Rescue to help us help animals. As an organization, we’re just trying to spread the love.***