Restructuring at PetSmart Charities Presents Opportunities
Recent news that PetSmart Charities (PSC) had laid off its entire staff of 37 employees has left people wondering what will come next. A significant contributor to animal shelters and rescue organizations, PSC reports that it has contributed $165 million to nonprofits and programs benefiting animals. While the headline seems shocking, and has resulted in much hand-wringing - especially from the agencies that have been recipients of funds - this restructuring presents opportunities for improvement that should not be overlooked.
One of the PSC programs that presents many opportunities for improvement is the Rescue Waggin, which claims it "picks up selected dogs and puppies from partner shelters in areas where there are more dogs and puppies than can be placed through adoption." It then transports them hundreds, or sometimes even thousands of miles where they usually end up available for adoption at a PetSmart store. This all sounds great on the surface. But, many who have looked more deeply into the national pet transport system have serious concerns about the squandering of resources, the displacement of pets in the areas receiving the transported animals, and a failure of the shelters shipping the pets to implement more proactive ways of promoting adoptions locally.
One Case Study
One group of 50 dogs made its way from San Antonio, Texas to an adoption event at a PetSmart store in Eagan, Minnesota. The dogs came from San Antonio Animal Care Services (SAACS). Prior to being sent, SAACS had vaccinated and spayed or neutered all of the dogs. They then made arrangements to have one of the Rescue Waggin partners drive the dogs to Minnesota, and paid them a substantial sum for this service.
Fees being paid to the transporters by the shelters sending pets is not uncommon. Some go so far as to set transport quotas, thereby providing a strong incentive for the transporting agency to pack every load as full as possible.
This specific group of 50 dogs was supervised on the ride by just two people, meaning the dogs would need to travel in crates, and would have no opportunity to get out of the crates during the day and a half long trip. Note: Minnesota state law (as well as many laws in other states) requires that dogs being transported in cages be provided opportunity for free choice exercise at least every 8 hours. And, federal law requires animals being transported interstate comply with all of the laws of all of the states through which they pass throughout the entire trip. In other words, this transport was very likely in violation of state and federal laws.
Once the dogs arrived in Minnesota, they were taken immediately to a PetSmart adoption event where they were "cleaned up" and made available for adoption. Several of the dogs were adopted. Nearly half were not. Some were too stressed from the transport that they could not even be shown to the public.
When the day was over, the remaining dogs were brought to a high kill shelter in the area, because the transporter had no physical location in the state for housing dogs.
The Money Pit
Many people are surprised that the shelters that send pets on these kinds of transports not only spay or neuter and vaccinate them first, they also pay the transporter, who, in effect, gets the pets for free, often gets paid to transport them, and then usually gets to keep the adoption fee (often as much as $250 per dog) if they are adopted at the other end of the ride. On top of that, many of these transporters also raise money through donations to help cover their other expenses during the trip, and are also sometimes the recipients of grants from PetSmart Charities or other foundations. That is a lot of money, potentially, paid to a transporter who has no time or expense invested in the animals they are moving. And it is a system that is easily abused.
The Better Alternative
Rather than spending valuable resources on transporting pets, a growing number of animal advocates are recommending the funds be allocated to implementing the No Kill Equation in the community that is struggling to get pets adopted. If there is one thing we have learned in recent years it is that nearly any community can adopt its way out of killing, so long as they use effective marketing to engage the people to adopt. Rather than shipping animals out of state, they can use the money to solve the local problem in a more systemic way.
PetSmart Charities has said they will give the 37 employees they laid off the opportunity to apply for 34 new positions with different roles and responsibilities. Hopefully, fixing this broken transport system will be a big part of the transition that is taking place.