When animal shelters started to feel the impact of COVID-19 last spring, the nonprofit organizations connected to Mars Petcare and Mars Veterinary Health, which include VCA Charities, Banfield Foundation and PEDIGREE Foundation, came together to help. When the nonprofits learned that hundreds of healthy, adoptable pets were at risk of being euthanized from at-capacity shelters in the United States, they made a commitment to help with preventive care and transport.
"Due to the impact of COVID-19, the animal welfare community has been greatly affected,” says Kim Van Syoc, executive director of the Banfield Foundation, who played a key role in coordinating the partnerships between the nonprofits and the shelters. “Shelters across the country have taken a huge hit financially. We felt that if there was ever a time for Banfield Foundation, VCA Charities and PEDIGREE Foundation to come together to make a lasting impact, this was it.”
Many shelters have been overwhelmed with low adoptions or increased surrenders due to the hardships COVID-19 has caused for families. Conversely, others have seen a rise in pet adoptions and fostering as a result of the pandemic. In March 2020, when COVID-19 halted programs that transport pets from overcrowded shelters to other areas, hundreds of cats and dogs were at risk of being euthanized.
With the help of VCA Charities, Banfield Foundation and PEDIGREE Foundation, two large life-saving transport efforts took place between October 2020 and the beginning of this year.
Since 2017, the Humane Society of Tulsa has been a hub for the transport of animals from overcrowded shelters in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Oklahoma to shelters with the space and resources to care them. When reduced funding from donors brought the transport program to a halt, it caused a backlog in the region of pets in need of homes.
VCA Charities, together with the Banfield Foundation and the PEDIGREE Foundation, funded the Humane Society of Tulsa “HUB” Pet Transport Initiative. Support provided comprehensive preventive care and the physical transport of 1,304 pets who were at risk of being euthanized, but were otherwise highly adoptable. Nearly all of these cats and dogs, who were sent to shelters and rescues in California, Florida, Illinois, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Washington, were adopted within a week of being relocated.
"We receive daily calls from shelters looking to save highly-adoptable pets, but are low on funds and people looking to adopt or foster,” explains Gina Gardner, president of the Humane Society of Tulsa. “Being able to say yes to helping those shelters is hugely important and rewarding – thousands of pets are saved each year through transport programs."
Hawaii faced a similar issue when COVID-related economic hardships caused an influx of pets to shelters, and routine flights to the mainland were halted. VCA Charities, Banfield Foundation, PEDIGREE Foundation, and Royal Canin collectively funded a large portion of “Paws Across the Pacific,” the transport of shelter pets from Hawaii to the U.S. mainland on October 28, 2020. Funding provided comprehensive preventive care, physical transport and nutrition for the pets.
Greater Good Charities and Wings of Rescue flew more than 600 dogs and cats on a Hercules C-130 plane from each of the Hawaiian Islands to shelters in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana, making it the largest pet rescue flight in history.
Between the two transports, nearly 2,000 dogs and cats went from being at risk of being euthanized to finding loving homes.
“At a time when animal shelters across the country are in crisis, I’m really proud that we at VCA Animal Hospitals and VCA Charities did our part, together with PEDIGREE Foundation, Banfield Foundation and Royal Canin. Our commitment to ending pet homelessness is real,” said VCA President, Todd Lavender, DVM.
VCA Charities is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to helping pets in need through its programs. Since 2005, VCA Charities has provided free veterinary services, medication, food, and financial support to more than 100 animal welfare organizations across the country. Join us in critical efforts to provide vulnerable pets access to care when they need it most by donating today.
“Nearly all of these cats and dogs, who were sent to shelters and rescues in California, Florida, Illinois, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Washington, were adopted within a week of being relocated. ”