GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. -- On Wednesday, there was a special delivery at the Animal Humane Society: 20 dogs from Alabama arrived with their crates perfectly packed inside the back of a van to find their forever homes in Minnesota.
Shelters here say the requests for similar out-of-state transfers of animals to Minnesota come frequently. For the Humane Society, volunteers have fielded more than double of the inquiries than they normally do, mostly from shelters in the southern United States dealing with overcrowding due to lower adoption rates.
But the North Star State is a destination for dogs because the opposite is true: More people want to adopt dogs here than there are dogs available, said Dr. Graham Brayshaw, director of veterinary medicine at the local chapter of the animal welfare group.
"We have that surplus in demand and there are places that have that surplus in supply," he said.
At Secondhand Hounds in Minnetonka, it's the same story. Founder and executive director Rachel Mairose said they've seen an uptick in interest from shelters in the south. On Thursday, her team was piling crates inside the back of a van "like Jenga" to bring back as many dogs as possible from Kentucky this weekend.
"We hear stories about shelters down south where on Saturdays, when they have open intake days, there's lines around the corner of people having to surrender their pets," Mairose said.
Calls have increased since the pandemic and she described shelters' overcrowding as a "crisis" that could mean more animals are euthanized.
One shelter in Dallas exceeded 130% of its capacity for dogs this summer, according to one local news report. Nearby Forth Worth had just 1% availability across the city.
"We have this amazing situation where the demand is bigger than the supply in Minnesota and so we are in this good position to say yes to those southern shelters and keep bringing up loads of animals," Mairose said.
But just because there is demand for sending dogs to Minnesota doesn't mean shelters here can meet all of that need. The Humane Society had one-third of the transfers in fiscal year 2023 than 2018, according to intakes tracked by the organization.
Brayshaw said staffing shortages are to blame—he doesn't have enough vet technicians to evaluate, sterilize and get dogs ready for adoption. The Humane Society also closed a St. Paul animal shelter during the pandemic and didn't reopen it, citing poor building infrastructure.
"Their need for transport is high if not higher than ever, so we're definitely not seeing a decrease in the desire for dogs to come to Minnesota and other places. It's just trying to be responsible on our end of how many we can bring in," he explained. "If we wanted to go get ten times that number of animals and import them—if we had the homes to do it and the space to do it—we probably could."
Brayshaw and Mairose both said if Minnesotans are interested in helping, they should consider becoming a foster home. That helps shelters open up more spots for animals that need rescuing.
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