"Queen Elizabeth" and her three pups will make a 350-mile trip from Durango to Boulder today in hopes of finding a new home.
Faced with more dogs than adoptions, the La Plata County Humane Society has begun sending dogs and puppies to the Humane Society of Boulder Valley where they stand a better chance of finding a home.
Queen Elizabeth and her pups are four of the 17 canines that will be shipped to the Front Range to be adopted.
The animals will be transported via the Rescue Waggin', a charity program run by animal-supply retailer PetSmart that moves adoptable dogs from overpopulated shelters to shelters where they are more in demand.
Since beginning in 2004, the Rescue Waggin' has saved more than 24,000 dogs by moving them to shelters where there is more demand, according to PetSmart Charities. The Rescue Waggin' operates along the East Coast, Midwest and Great Plains states.
The La Plata County Humane Society has already given away 16 dogs and puppies this year, and it plans to give up an additional 15 to 20 dogs every month for an undetermined amount of time, said Chris Nelson, director of animal services at the Humane Society.
The Humane Society receives more animals than people adopt, so transporting the excess dogs to shelters with more demand is a viable alternative to euthanasia, Nelson said.
"This program is saving us from having to euthanize dogs every day," he said in a news release. "It was so wonderful to know these dogs will get adopted and find a loving home."
Last year, 1,500 dogs and cats were adopted from the Humane Society, but to keep up with the number of animals coming in, the shelter needs to increase the number by almost 50 percent. The shelter can hold 50 dogs. After today's shipment to Boulder, the shelter will still have 45 dogs, Nelson said.
"We don't have as many adopters and homes as we need," Nelson said. "Pets just linger here, so having a resource that moves pets to shelters with more adoption space is another way our shelter is working to help animals."
Nelson blamed the increased pet population on pet owners' failure to spay or neuter their animals. Later today, the shelter expects to receive 12 puppies.
"We're really not making up as much ground as we'd like to," he said. "It's not like were going to be out of animals by any stretch."
The weak economy also is playing a role. Some residents can no longer afford to keep a dog, and others have been forced to move into a smaller home or an apartment where dogs aren't allowed, he said. On Wednesday, Nelson received a call from two separate dog owners who lost their jobs and can no longer afford to keep their pets.
"With 3 (million) to 4 million pets still euthanized across the nation each year, we created Rescue Waggin' to help shelters achieve their goals of getting more adoptable pets placed into good homes," said Susana Della Maddalena, executive director of PetSmart Charities, in a news release.
The Humane Society of Boulder Valley accepts homeless dogs from more than 70 shelters, said Constance Rule, vice president of community relations and development. Some of the shelters donate only a few dogs once a year, she said, while others donate as many as 20 dogs at a time.
"We're a blessed community in that the Boulder community is very animal-friendly and very open in wanting to have animals in their homes," Rule said. "We're glad we can help; that's what this is all about."
The Boulder shelter works with overcrowded shelters in selecting which dogs to transport to Boulder. If the Boulder shelter has 10 dogs of a specific breed, it will request other dogs be sent. The dogs also must pass medical and behavioral evaluations, she said.
"By transferring them here to Boulder, it allows our community to have a great selection in age, breed and size," Rule said. "The whole idea behind the transfer program is to complement the inventory. Whoever we bring in, we want to give them the best shot at being adopted."
Of the 16 dogs the La Plata County Humane Society transferred last month, all had been adopted within five days, Nelson said. Some of those dogs had been stranded at the La Plata County Humane Society for months, he said.
It took the La Plata County Humane Society a year to be accepted for the Rescue Waggin' program.
"We're looking forward to sending as many dogs up there as we can," he said.