Dog Transfers into Colorado shows we can be a No Kill State
I will look at cats in another post. Cats deserve more attention according to our PACFA statistics. We are not saving cats at the rate we are saving dogs. But statistics get more complicated with more variables, so I started with dogs for this conversation. For the cat rescuers out there, we need to look at that too and improve our cat save rates. Look for that and bug me if I don’t get it together soon. The PACFA statistics from Colorado have revealed some interesting facts about the state of our shelter/rescue system in Colorado. Every PACFA registered shelter and rescue is mandated to record their intake and outflow numbers. PACFA releases the combined statistics of all these and allows us to see a year by year, or shelter by shelter save and kill rate. This is a powerful tool and we are lucky to have it in Colorado. This year, we could have saved every healthy or treatable Colorado dog. In addition, we could have saved another 10,000 from out-of-state. I think we should consider how we transport in and in what numbers to ensure we are not wasting resources bringing dogs into the state just to kill them or kill others to make space. Using resources correctly can save more lives. Let’s look at what we found.
How do we save every homeless dog in Colorado?
First, it should be noted that killing a homeless pet costs money. The estimated cost from a multistate study a few years ago shows that killing a homeless pets costs approximately $106.00 ($66 for impoundment and $40 for killing and disposal). So Colorado probably spent more than $700,000 killing 7000 homeless dogs in 2013. Last year we transported almost 17,000 dogs in from out-of-state. The same statistics show we killed some 7,000 dogs in our system. So logic would dictate, we killed dogs that were transported in, or dogs that were already here looking for a home. Or some of both. Either way, we spend vast resources to transport dogs and then killed them or other dogs in process. Every day, I see shelters and rescues post in state dogs that need a home. We need to insure we get them first before looking outside our communities.
Transporting is an Important Life Saving Tool for Shelters and Rescues
Make no mistake: I am not against transporting. Transporting homeless pets is a critical tool we should use to save lives. We should transport when we need to get a homeless pet away from a situation where they are going to be killed if we do not transport them. I would also make an exception for mission specific organizations. A breed rescue is not normally going to take a homeless pet that is not specific to their mission. I understand a Chihuahua rescue passing on a Rottweiler. But even these rescues should start close to home and work their way out before leaving their area for the homeless pets they do serve.
Why look at Transporting?
Transport gets more expensive the farther you have to go. That’s why I encourage rescuers to look in their own backyard if they have space. There are homeless pets 1000 miles away that need help, and there are pets 10 miles away that need help. We should look in our immediate community first, then 100 miles, then 1000 miles. We can save more lives if we start close to home per dollar spent and per volunteer hour used. And we should go further out when we have saved every homeless pet in our community when we have space and no homeless pet in our community is in danger. If we consider the cost in money, time and resources, we can rightly assume we can save more lives by staying close to home before looking outside our city, county or state before transferring in. I am not sure there is a way to validate this cost to the penny, but we can estimate costs when transporters go out of their way to get an animal from another state. I have written about Houston’s BARC sending so many pets to Colorado before. This is not just about Houston. We needed an example and there is better data from Houston specifically than any other single community out-of-state. This is about transporting from far away and costs involved regardless of the origination. Whether Colorado organizations are paying these costs, or the other states, the argument is the same. The money can be used to save more lives locally (in Colorado or at the point of origination) than through long haul transports. I believe this is a conservative estimate in time and money. It does not include a lot of things that should probably include. The numbers should astound you even with this cautious model. Transports come from many different places, but we know that over 2000 came from Houston in 2013. Houston is 1000 miles away from Denver. So every pet that come from them costs a fair amount of money to transport, even if that pet came with a group.
The Cost of Transporting
The average cost per pet to the organization transporting those 2000+ pets is $220 according to the rescue that shipped them. So that means they spent about half a million dollars to get 2000 pets to Colorado. To be fair, these animals are said to be vetted before they come so some of that money is used to ensure they are spayed/neutered and vaccinated. That would have to be done at the source or in Colorado regardless so I included it. Let’s assume only ¼ of the cost is for transport. That means $125,000 was used just to get these 2000 from point A to point B. We also assume we have volunteers taking time from their lives to do this. 1000 miles from Houston and back is about 30 hours (http://binged.it/1mb0tNd). Assuming 2000+ animals takes at least 50 trips (40 Animals per trip), which would be 1500 hours per person annually for the trips. Assuming there were 2 people when transporting multiple pets, I would guess it was over 3000 hours of volunteer time for transport ONLY. 3000 hours annually is equal to one and one half full-time jobs at 40 hours per week for a year. Just for the driving. This is a conservative estimate on hours. Many transports are of a single animal (and usually less than 40 a trip). Considering there are phone calls, emails, scheduling and all the things that go with transport to make sure there is someone at the other end the day you transport, and that they have available space, adequate resources once the animal is there, and desire to take them in it might very add another 2000 hours (1 hour per animal – that’s again conservative). So each animal is taking about 2 1/2 hours of volunteer time. or 5000 for just the Houston trips. So of the 17,000 dogs Colorado took in from other states from all organizations, we can assume these organizations spent a lot of time an effort to get those animals here in hopes of giving them a loving family. Average TOTAL cost of each animal: $220 Estimated volunteer time: 2 1/2 volunteer hours per animal Total estimated TOTAL cost for transporting animals to Colorado in 2013: 17,000 X $220 = $3,740,000 Total Volunteer time used for transported animals: 17,000 X 2.5 hrs. = 42,500 hours To put this in perspective, the cost to various organizations for transporting just dogs to Colorado in 2013 was a higher budget of a great Colorado shelter that saved 93% of ALL of the more than 2000 dogs entering its shelter. And, that would assume they get 21 full-time volunteers in addition to that money. What would you do with $3.7 dollars and 21 volunteers?
Yes, We Can Save Every Dog and Still Help Neighbors
So we should continue to transport. That’s not the point of this. First, we should be saving every healthy treatable dog that enters our system throughout the state. There is no reason to transport 17,000 dogs to Colorado when we are killing 7,000. Some, if not most, of these 7,000 dogs should be saved, and when there are no healthy, treatable dogs in Colorado, we should be letting organizations send needful pets from other states. Right now, we should be able to help our neighbors with 10,000 transfers in without killing a single local homeless dog. I think that should be our goal. Save every homeless dog here, show other communities how we are succeeding at this and help them achieve it themselves while transferring as many as 10,000 dogs to Colorado from out-of-state. Next, let’s look at how we are going to save our local cats.