Grand Forks shelter sends dozens of pets to rescues around the region each year
At a little after 7 a.m. Wednesday, Blaze stepped through a door and took one last walk around the place he had known as home for the past few months. After a quick jaunt, animal care attendant Andrew Davidsmeyer scooped up Blaze and headed towar...
At a little after 7 a.m. Wednesday, Blaze stepped through a door and took one last walk around the place he had known as home for the past few months.
After a quick jaunt, animal care attendant Andrew Davidsmeyer scooped up Blaze and headed toward a pet carrier in a hallway of the Circle of Friends Humane Society in Grand Forks.
The gray and white cat was tucked head-first into the carrier and began to settle in for his journey to a cat rescue in Fargo.
At least two or three times a month, animals are taken by shelter employees or volunteers to rescue organizations outside of the Grand Forks area.
Leslie Rethemeier, the shelter’s foster and rescue coordinator, said the pets may find themselves being transported to Fargo, northwestern Minnesota cities and even as far as Minneapolis in order to find a new home through rescue organizations.
“If we have any pets we don’t have a foster home open that best suits them or they’re not doing well in the shelter environment, we try to get them into a rescue organization,” Rethemeier said.
So far this year, 22 pets have been transferred to rescues. In 2013, 39 pets were sent to rescues, while 2012 saw 61 pets. A total of 69 animals were transported to rescues in 2011.
To the rescue
Blaze was one of several animals Davidsmeyer was transporting that day. Other travel companions included a striped cat named Norman, a litter of black and white kittens and an older mixed-breed dog named Ryan.
The cats headed to a rescue, while Ryan was dropped off at North Dakota State University. The shelter has an agreement with NDSU and Globe University to provide health care for some of its pets. Through an experiential learning program, students provide medical care such as running blood tests and giving vaccinations.
“It’s really helpful,” Davidsmeyer said. “They come back twice as adoptable.”
Even with proper medical attention and care, Reithemeier said there are still pets that don’t fare well in a shelter environment or need extra attention, such as very young animals.
Some stay with volunteers as part of the shelter’s foster program, while others are taken in by rescue programs.
Each program is different, with most only taking dogs and some taking only certain breeds.
The journey to those organizations requires coordination between Circle of Friends and the rescue - and other groups specializing in moving pets.
In the case of Mona the Shiba Inu, the shelter worked with a group called Pilots N Paws. In 2011, Mona flew by plane to her to a Shiba Inu-only rescue group located in Moscow, Ohio.
“Everyone involved in Mona’s transport were either current transport volunteers or went through a process of having reference checks and training,” Rethemeier said. “At least 12 people made this happen for Mona, either by transporting, coordinating, overnighting her and more.”
While Mona took to the skies to find a home, most pets’ journeys usually start with a call out on social media for volunteers to drive them to rescues in the region.
Before hitting the road, each pet is given a temperament test and all necessary vaccinations.
“We try to know as many of the pet’s characteristics as we can prior to transporting so we have all the proper safety precautions in place,” Rethemeier said.
Once a driver is found, the pets are loaded up and set off to meet rescue workers. Sometimes there are several legs to the trip, Rethemeier said. Both employees and volunteers use their personal vehicles for transport.
Volunteers are given instructions on how to properly transport the animals. The length of each trip depends on distance, how many legs need to be covered and, of course, how many potty breaks need to be taken by pets.
Shelter staff hopes to alleviate some of the stress and extra tasks for the transport program by acquiring a van that can be used to take pets to vets and nearby rescue groups.
Volunteers will likely still be needed to transfer pets even after the van’s purchase. Though his vehicle is bigger than most, Davidsmeyer said he is excited for the van.
The shelter is accepting donations to pay for the van’s purchase.
“One time this year, we had to send two to three vehicles to deliver all the pets to NDSU,” Rethemeier said. “Hopefully with a van, we could just send one employee.”