By: Mike Keily, Director of Adoption Centers and Programs MSPCA-Angell, NEFED Board Member
When the MSPCA-Angell affiliated with Northeast Animal Shelter last year, the two organizations came together with a common goal to help the largest number of animals possible, both locally and nationally. To do so, we spent the majority of 2021 refining Northeast Animal Shelter’s robust animal relocation program by creating partnerships with likeminded organizations. During that exploration Bissell Pet Foundation connected us with the Charleston Animal Society (CAS) which works collaboratively with South Carolina organizations to increase life-saving, much like MSPCA and NEAS are doing by combining forces. Our relationship with CAS started with relocation and last year alone, we were able to relocate 235 animals from SC area shelters that find themselves overcrowded and with limited resources, to Massachusetts where the number of adopters far outweighs available animals. As we continue to work together we’ve been able to fine tune the program to increase transports over time. Although we were having success with the transport of dogs, it became apparent that the layout of the MSPCA and NEAS adoption centers allow for a greater capacity for cat transport, so we’ve focused on increasing the number of cats we’re able to transport to Massachusetts at one time. In fact, on February 24th we’ll be taking in our largest cat transport from SC Coalition to date – a total of about 70 cats from Berkeley Animal Center, a SC Coalition shelter overwhelmed by their increasing cat population.
As the partnership continues to grow, it’s become clear that the need in SC is a more complex issue that can’t be solved by relocation alone. Like many areas across the country, the pandemic has created a staffing crisis in the veterinary field in SC, limiting the services that can be offered. In communities where veterinary care is already scarce, accessing these services has become increasingly difficult. In addition to a staffing crisis, we identified that one of the largest life-saving gaps for cats existed at Berkeley Animal Center where the live release rate for cats was at 51% in 2021. In discussing their needs, Berkeley was challenged by their local bylaws which prevented them from using TNR as a strategy. The ordinance tied their hands entirely when it came to providing assistance to feral cats. That meant that when feral cats were brought to their shelter they had no other option but to receive them and ultimately euthanize them as a result. Working together, Berkeley was able to put forth legislation for a two year pilot program to allow for TNR. Alongside their leadership team, we created a plan to assist in establishing a monthly feral cat spay/neuter clinic. MSPCA-Angell and NEAS will be sending shelter veterinary professionals on a monthly basis to work alongside staff from Berkeley Animal Center and Charleston Animal Society to assist with TNR efforts through a monthly free spay/neuter clinic. Providing Berkeley with additional veterinary staff will allow them to offer community cat services without interrupting their weekday surgery schedule, which focuses on the large number of adoptable animals they receive annually.
Funding to make this plan a reality is being provided by Best Friends Animal Society’s Shelter Mentor Program, which awarded the project a $150,000 grant.
This program highlights an important strategic goal that MSPCA and NEAS identified during our affiliation, to utilize our combined resources to not only help communities struggling with overpopulation of animals through relocation, but to provide long term, sustainable solutions to end animal homelessness. This can only happen when groups collaborate to combine resources and expertise to address the root causes that lead to overpopulation.