Animal Transport Results in Deaths on the Road and Here at Home
Updated: Jun 8, 2019
Photo: Animal Humane Society (AHS) staff prepare to unload the dogs that survived from a "rescue" transport gone wrong.
I recently watched the news about 11 dogs that died en-route to the Animal Humane Society (AHS) in Golden Valley from a shelter in southern Alabama. The dogs that died were packed in a van with 39 other dogs, stacked into heat-trapping kennels for an 18-hour, high stress road trip. I watched with sadness, but no surprise.
I have been a vocal critic of the practice of transporting large numbers of animals into our community from thousands of miles away when savable pets continue to be killed in our local animal shelters. To those who have not followed this issue, it could come off as a simple tragedy: good people doing good work who have faced a serious tragedy. For those of us who know better, this situation is something much more troubling.
According to statistics from Minneapolis Animal Care and Control (MACC), they had only a 79% Live Release Rate (LRR) in 2017, which is an improvement over prior years. However, it clearly shows that important rescue work that should be done right in AHS' local community is being ignored for more dramatic rescue stories from shelters farther away. The continual mass importation of animals from out-of-state is costing the lives of local animals who are being displaced by those saved from other locations. These transports make great feel-good stories and generate publicity and donations. They are, however, more about marketing and fundraising than actual life-saving.
The worst part: they are done poorly, as is clearly demonstrated by this story, and particularly, the video of the van involved in transporting these dogs.
According to the video, they were stacked floor to ceiling and wall to wall in a dark van. Two volunteers accompanied the dogs, making it logistically impossible for these transports to comply with Minnesota’s cruelty laws.
Minnesota Statute 346.39 governs the transport of dogs and cats that are shipped in to, out of or through the state of Minnesota. Subd 3 reads, in part:
"Exercise for 20 to 30 minutes and water must be provided at least once every eight hours."
It also regulates temperature control, ventilation and other factors.
In looking at the numbers of animals, the way they were shipped and the ultimate result, it seems impossible that the Animal Humane Society was (or usually is) in compliance with these cruelty laws when engaged in these transports. On the face of it, it seems impossible they could be following the law.
After all, if they stopped every 8 hours to exercise the dogs, those stops would add a LOT of extra time to the trip. For this drive, they would need to stop and exercise the dogs at least 2 times. How much time would it take 2 people to exercise 50 dogs for 1/2 hour each? A LOT, even if each person could exercise multiple dogs at a time.
While en route, this van reportedly broke down and 11 dogs died. According to one of the volunteers, they lacked the resources to efficiently get the dogs out of the van when it broke down. So, 50 dogs sat in a dark, confined van on the freeway in Mississippi in the Sun. We don’t know for sure what killed them. Some of the most likely options include heat stroke and suffocation - a combination of the heat and lack of ventilation, exacerbated by being packed in too tightly.
If animal shelters are going to engage in these transports, while ignoring animals in need right here at home, is it too much to ask that they do it legally and humanely?