700 miles to a new beginning

PAAS Vinita

In just over a year, nearly 2,000 dogs that would likely have faced euthanasia in their home state of Oklahoma have instead found loving families and fresh starts in Colorado, thanks to a flourishing partnership between PAAS Vinita and the Dumb Friends League.

PAAS Vinita is a nonprofit animal shelter located in the small, northeastern Oklahoma town of Vinita. Like many shelters and rescues throughout the state, PAAS Vinita was faced with multiple challenges: high numbers of unwanted dogs and a low incidence of spaying and neutering by pet owners, many of whom are struggling financially and have little or no education about animal welfare.

PAAS Vinita Director Kay Stout puts it this way: “PAAS faced a crisis shortly after opening in 2012: too many dogs, too few adoptions and no solution in sight.” After contacting a colleague in Colorado about their plight, Stout was connected with League President and CEO Bob Rohde—and a beautiful partnership was born. “Caring for dogs from metro Denver, the Front Range and throughout Colorado is always our priority,” says Rohde, “but we want to open our doors to pets in need from outside our borders when we have the space and resources.”

PAAS Vinita agreed to serve as a central hub where 20-plus rural Oklahoma shelters and rescues with high euthanasia rates could bring dogs with little or no chance of being adopted. The League agreed to implement an ongoing transfer program to bring those dogs to Colorado, where they have a much greater chance of finding new homes.

On June 3, 2016, we received the first transfer of 27 dogs from PAAS Vinita at our Quebec Street Shelter. Today, nearly 2,000 dogs have made the 700-mile drive from Vinita to Denver, arriving at our shelter in groups of approximately 30 every Wednesday afternoon. They receive a warm welcome from members of our transfer and veterinary teams, assisted by 10–15 volunteers who have been specially trained in handling and caring for dogs that may be under stress after a long journey with dozens of other animals.

Prior to being selected for the transfer program, every Oklahoma dog must meet established criteria for vaccinations, deworming and other health and behavior conditions. Upon arrival at our shelter, the dogs are examined, vaccinated and treated for heartworm prevention. Fearful and undersocialized dogs are enrolled in our behavior program, and dogs with additional medical needs are cared for by our veterinary team.

As of Aug. 1, 2017, the Dumb Friends League had welcomed 1,828 dogs from PAAS Vinita, spayed or neutered 1,278 of them and found homes for 1,804, typically within a week’s time. The effects of the transfer program have been both impressive and far reaching: PAAS Vinita has not euthanized animals for time or space since its opening, and some of the participating Oklahoma shelters and rescues have seen their euthanasia rates drop by 50 percent or more within the past year.

But the transfer program is about more than moving vulnerable dogs from one state to another. Says League Transfer Manager EC Michaels, “Another piece of our partnership with PAAS Vinita is to support them with the knowledge and tools to improve the lives of animals in their own community.” To that end, League staff and nationally known contagion-control expert LeMac Morris have visited PAAS Vinita to discuss ways of mitigating the risk of contamination, and our behavior staff is helping the shelter develop a behavior assessment for transfer dogs. PAAS Vinita is also expanding its community outreach to provide humane education and increased spay/neuter opportunities, with the result that spay/neuter surgeries for owned pets increased from approximately 50 to more than 300 in the past year.

Says Stout, “It’s hard to put into words what it means to have a partnership with the Dumb Friends League. Every week, I know the dogs leaving for the League will have new forever homes within five to seven days. They will not sit in a shelter or wander the streets and, most important, they will be ‘fixed’ so they don’t add to pet overpopulation. Everyone wins; there are no losers—four legged or two legged.”

The Building a Better Way Home renovation project will create a new, designated transfer area at the Quebec Street Shelter, allowing us to care for more animals in a larger, more efficient and less stressful environment. To make a gift to the Building a Better Way Home campaign, please call (720) 241-7151 or donate online at ddfl.org/renovation.