The Benefits of Animal Welfare Affiliations

Mike Keiley:
Director, Adoption Centers and Programs, MSPCA
Interim Executive Director, NEAS
NEFHS Board Member


The MSPCA is one of the oldest and most respected humane organizations in the country, as well as a thought leader in progressive animal welfare practices. While our goal to protect and serve the largest number of animals possible has remained unchanged since our founding in 1868, we are continually re-evaluating the ways in which our work is most impactful.

When the pandemic hit, it presented an opportunity for the MSPCA to sharpen its focus on who we wanted to become and how we could best help animals, not just through our shelter directly, but also in the community where the need is great. The organization was already in the midst of expanding its robust community outreach program and placing a larger emphasis on making veterinary care affordable and accessible to underserved communities. We had transformed our traditional shelter clinics beyond just public spay and neuter to include urgent needs-based, low cost outpatient care to help keep families together during difficult times. Simultaneously — like so many other animal welfare organizations in New England— we had also been struggling to identify a sustainable long-term plan to keep up with the demand for adoptable animals. We were uncertain what the future of animal sheltering would look like, but knew the MSPCA needed to first cement ourselves into the community before making any other changes.

Alternatively, Northeast Animal Shelter (NEAS) — a family founded and operated organization — was in a completely different position when the pandemic struck. Known as a pioneer of animal relocation in New England, NEAS built an entire shelter operation around transporting animals to Massachusetts from overpopulated shelters across the country… and COVID-19 ensured that the relocation program came to a halt.

In addition to halting operations, the board was in the midst of identifying successors as the founding family members reached retirement.  Struggling to maintain its life-saving efforts, and with little clarity about what the future may hold, NEAS recognized the underserved community in which it operated was more in need than ever, and shifted its focus and resources towards community outreach along the North Shore for the first time since inception.

And that’s when conversations began between the two organizations. Earlier this year, the MSPCA-Angell and Northeast Animal Shelter announced an affiliation that will allow the two organizations to work together, and use our complementary strengths, to help even more animals both locally and nationally.

By combining Northeast Animal Shelter’s robust animal relocation program with the MSPCA’s veterinary and adoption center resources, we will ultimately be able to connect thousands more animals with adopters, and provide affordable and accessible veterinary care to even more underserved communities to help keep people and pets together.

Throughout the first half of the year, we’ve worked to expand NEAS’s relocation program by forging new partnerships with sending organizations, primarily in the Southeast, and anchoring NEAS as the premiere destination shelter in New England for the nationally coordinated movement of animals. By maximizing NEAS’s state of the art isolation space and the MSPCA’s adoption center capacity the organizations will be able to increase transport frequency as well as their impact on homeless pets. This evolution provides a pathway for us to be heavily involved in relocation in a sustainable way long term, and continue to advance community outreach models and access to care in areas we weren’t able to previously. We’re still in the exploration phase of what the future will look like for NEAS and the MSPCA, and we recognize it will take time to fine tune and build a solid connection — seeing as both organizations have different fundamental focuses — but we’re excited about what the future holds.

It’s no secret that many animal welfare organizations in New England have been evaluating the benefits of merging, and we hope the affiliation between the MSPCA and NEAS can serve as an example that others can learn from. By sharing our triumphs and tribulations along the way, we hope our peers will gain the confidence to move in a similar direction.

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