- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 9, 2005

WESTBROOK, Maine (AP) — Beauregard, a rambunctious southern gentleman with liquid brown eyes, big floppy ears and wrinkly brow, journeyed 750 miles from Virginia to Westbrook in the dead of winter, looking for a new home.

Trixie, a sweetheart from middle Tennessee, followed a similar route, landing in a shelter in Kennebunk to begin a new phase in her young life.

Southern Maine has become fertile ground for stray or unwanted dogs from the rural South, part of a growing trend in which adoptable dogs are transported over increasingly long distances in hopes of hooking them up with potential owners.

“This is a really fundamental change in sheltering,” said Steve Jacobsen, executive director of the Animal Welfare Society in Kennebunk, where Trixie awaited adoption.

By some accounts, long-haul relocations got their start 15 years ago when North Shore Animal League America of Port Washington, N.Y., the world’s largest no-kill pet adoption and rescue organization, started transporting puppies from Virginia, Tennessee and the Carolinas to meet high demand in the New York City area.

“North Shore had basically pioneered the program,” said Perry Fina, North Shore’s director, explaining how it was put in place to deal with a shortage of puppies after spaying and neutering programs reduced the number of litters available for adoption.

The Oregon Humane Society started its Second Chance Program in 2000 when it transferred more than 100 dogs from Hawaii. They were called “Aloha Dogs.” Since then, animals have been brought in from as far away as Mexico and Arizona.

“We don’t want an empty kennel,” spokeswoman Kathy Covey said. “If we have an open kennel, we want to make sure there’s a dog or a cat to fill it.”

The Oregon Humane Society last year expanded its relocations to include cats, but they make up a small percentage of the total. Officials at most shelters say they have a chronic oversupply of felines and cannot imagine ever having to look far afield for more.

There are no figures on how many dogs are euthanized for lack of homes, but the Humane Society of the United States estimates that about half of the 6 million to 8 million dogs and cats placed in shelters each year are put down. Many others are abandoned or killed before they ever get to a shelter.

To improve the odds, humane officials are honing their skills at matching animals from areas where there are too many dogs with places where they’re in demand.

Experts say dog shortages often reflect the success of aggressive spaying and neutering programs. Other contributing factors are strict leash laws and growing suburbanization, which discourage owners from letting their dogs run free.

Many of the long-haul dog adoptees in the Northeast and Midwest come from rural areas in the South, where fewer owners spay or neuter their dogs and shelters are nonexistent or lack the facilities to house inventories of stray or unwanted dogs.

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