05/19/2011 03:53 pm ET | Updated Jul 19, 2011

ASPCA Strives to Save More Lives Through New National Animal Transport Initiative

The ASPCA is launching a national Animal Relocation Initiative that will establish a national network of humane organizations to transfer animals from overcrowded shelters to those where there is space and a high demand for animals to adopt. The lifesaving program will draw on the ASPCA's nationwide expertise and leadership with the aim of ending the euthanasia of dogs for space in U.S. shelters.

About 3 to 4 million dogs enter U.S. shelters each year, and roughly half of that population is euthanized. Our coordinated national relocation program will draw on proven economic theory of supply and demand to transport sheltered dogs from localities where supply exceeds demand to areas where demand matches the supply of adoptable dogs. There is currently no national standardized system in place for the relocation of shelter animals.

The ASPCA kicked off the program by transporting 46 dogs from shelters in Eastern Arkansas westward to shelters in Kansas and Colorado to make room for animals displaced by recent flooding. We also transported over 70 dogs from tornado-torn Georgia and South Carolina to shelters in New York and New Jersey.

The ASPCA has also transported 15 dogs and 10 cats from shelters in a flooded region of Mississippi to West Palm Beach, Fla., and additional relocation efforts for animals in other affected areas are in the works. Our transport initiative will save countless lives and is one of the ways the ASPCA is able to use its national reach to implement solutions in collaboration with local communities.

Such a system is particularly lifesaving in crises such as the recent flooding that has affected the south. Natural disasters such as flooding and major storms cause immediate hardship to the people and animals in those impacted regions. By moving animals out of overcrowded shelters in those regions, we are freeing up space for local organizations to rescue and shelter displaced animals until they are reunited with their families.

While the ASPCA's initiative is the first nationwide system, there are already smaller-scale relocation programs in place. In fact, our coordinated national relocation program is simply an extension of what shelters and humane organizations already do on a local level, where dogs and cats are transferred from a shelter facility to another organization or foster home for adoption. Since Hurricane Katrina, animal relocation has increased dramatically. In fact, in 2009 some 1,300 organizations reported that 14 percent of their intake was attributable to incoming transfers.

A national relocation network for homeless dogs requires leadership, expertise and capacity to implement. The ASPCA will leverage its role in the animal welfare community by not only providing critical support to shelters nationwide, but also by offering the organization's vast team of experts with the knowledge base to develop a successful relocation network. Moreover, the ASPCA is dedicated to establishing collaborations with organizations of all humane philosophies to make sure the lives and well being of homeless dogs and cats are given priority.

Relocation is just one way that the ASPCA will continue to be a voice for homeless animals. We look forward to continuing to develop and implement programs in cooperation with local shelters and humane organizations across the U.S. to achieve a nation where no dogs and cats die simply due to a lack of space. Such a goal requires us to both think big and to continue to help communities across the country achieve the lifesaving success we owe to homeless animals.