Because we are a rescue, and the need is great.
Here are some facts: we are a state-reporting, 501c3 home based rescue that can legally have 50 dogs in our immediate care. We purchase kennel tags from Tazewell County for 40, and typically maintain an average population of 30 dogs.
We do not focus on local adoptions. Tazewell County does not have the population base to absorb all animals being bred here. The choices are kill the excess or export them. We choose export. This is a widely accepted practice, endorsed by all major humane associations, with officially recognized “best practices” and licensing requirements in the works. Tazewell ARC is considered a “Tier II” transport agency. We are affiliated with the ASPCA’s Animal Relocation and Transport program through MAP, or “Moving Animals Places.” We currently hold a five-star ranking through that system.
The National Federation of Humane Societies has this to say about animal relocation: “The National Federation of Humane Societies (NFHS) has identified animal transfer programs as one of the key strategies to achieving its 2020 Vision to find a home for every healthy and treatable animal on a nationwide basis by the year 2020.”
The ASPCA defines animal relocation this way: “saving lives by helping organizations relocate animals from areas of oversupply to places where there are few, if any, similar animals in shelters for adoption.”
The PetSmart Charities “Rescue Waggin” make this statement: “The Rescue Waggin’ program relocates homeless pets from shelters in overpopulated communities to adoption centers in areas where dogs and puppies are in high demand. And it works. Since the program started in 2004, we’ve saved more than 70,000 dogs.”
So. . .why are we telling you this, when all you asked is why do we have so many dogs here in the rescue?
Let us answer your question this way: how much sense would it make to organize a transport to New York or Chicago or Pennsylvania for just one dog at the time?
Transports that leave Tazewell County on a regular basis typically include 20-50 dogs. Before interstate travel, a minimum 14 day quarantine is protocol. Some destination agencies require a lengthier isolation time out of the shelter, such as 21 days. Puppies have to have two sets of shots at two week intervals, adult dogs have to have an initial parvo/distemper combo vaccine and then a booster two to four weeks later. For most destination agencies in the north, each dog has to be spayed or neutered, microchipped, heartworm tested, dewormed, and free from all external parasites. Skin conditions must be treated before transport. There can be no cough present, no discharge from eyes, nose, or ears. Preparing dogs for transport takes TIME. Where would people suggest we keep them while we’re getting them ready to travel?
Foster homes would be the obvious solution. But foster homes are few and far between. The pure logistics of getting a dog from foster home to vet, back to foster home, to vet again. . . if the foster is unable to drive the dog to these visits themselves, it becomes utterly impractical for a rescue to house animals off-site.
But there is another aspect as well. What about dogs we receive into the program who are ineligible for transport? This can be for any number of reasons—behavior, breed—maybe they tested heartworm positive. What should we do about them?
Again, we could kill them, or we could offer them sanctuary. We choose to offer them sanctuary.
At the time of this writing, ten of the dogs in our program are “special needs.” We have one heartworm positive dog, two pit mixes, two serious biters, and five dogs who suffer from crippling anxiety that would render them medically and behaviorally ineligible for transport even though they are perfectly pleasant dogs in familiar surroundings. Their only hope is local adoption, or the sanctuary we offer.
Advantages exist when it comes to maintaining a large population that the average observer might not consider. First, it gives us a wide selection for adopters or northern rescues to choose from. It also helps us qualify for a wider range of grants. But our favorite reason? With very few exceptions, the pack environment we offer here is, hands down, the best environment a rescue dog could hope for. Socialization is automatic. No one is ever bored. Behavioral issues get identified and corrected almost immediately. Grieving and depressed dogs are quickly distracted by all the activity. We have such a diverse range of temperaments and play styles that every dog can make friends here. And, there is zero risk on an ARC transport of cross-contamination from different exposures. All passengers on the van originate from the same place. Receiving rescues only have to deal with one exposure history, not a hodgepodge from twenty different shelters or foster homes.
Maintaining a large population works. We hope we’ve answered your questions about why ARC keeps so many dogs.