Nova Scotia

N.S. SPCA pioneers partnership with U.S. counterpart for animal relocation

The SPCA in Nova Scotia has launched an international pet transportation program in partnership with the ASPCA. Animals needing homes will travel from U.S. shelters to Nova Scotia, where they can be adopted.

The SPCA-ASPCA program will see animals relocated from U.S. shelters for adoption in Nova Scotia

The first SPCA animal relocation to Nova Scotia from the U.S. took place on Aug. 26. (Nova Scotia SPCA)

The Nova Scotia SPCA has started an animal relocation program that will see shelter animals in the U.S. brought to Nova Scotia for adoption.

The program is being done in partnership with the ASPCA, which is working for the first time with a Canadian organization for animal relocation.

The first dogs made the trip from the U.S. on Thursday. Cats may be included in the program in the future.

Heather Woodin, director of programs for the Nova Scotia SPCA, contacted the ASPCA with the idea after noticing that many rescue dogs from the United States were ending up in the province even during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"We wanted to really lead the way in doing it. And I thought it was safe in a way that's supportive and good for the animals and good for the people as well," Woodin said.

Heather Woodin of the N.S. SPCA says dogs arriving from the U.S. will be given time to settle in and be checked out by a vet before being placed for adoption. (Wendy Martin/CBC)

She said as a leader in animal welfare in the province, the SPCA wanted to "raise the bar" on importing dogs into Nova Scotia and partnering with the ASPCA seemed like the ideal way to do it.

She said the primary advantage of having the ASPCA as a partner is that they can fully vet shelters and ensure the animals being sent meet SPCA standards.

Animals in the relocation program will also benefit from the medical care available to the U.S. organization.

Unlike some other organizations that send pre-adopted animals to the province, Woodin said the Nova Scotia SPCA program will not accept adoption requests for their animals ahead of time.

One of the dogs travelling to Nova Scotia gets a snuggle break during the trip. (Nova Scotia SPCA)

Woodin said it will give the animals a chance to settle down and their veterinarians time to do another health check.

According to Woodin, another benefit of the Nova Scotia program is that they are able to offer adopters a safety net. 

"With the SPCA, we have the ability to just say, 'If it doesn't work, we're here. You can bring the animal back to us at any moment,'" she said.

Spaying and neutering will be handled once the animals arrive in the province so as not to traumatize them before their trip.

An ASPCA animal relocation vehicle used to help transport dogs to their new country. (Nova Scotia SPCA)

Karen Walsh, senior director of animal relocation at the ASPCA, said there is an animal overpopulation problem in the southern states with too many animals in shelters and not enough available homes. 

Walsh said animals destined for Nova Scotia are screened to ensure they have been vaccinated, de-wormed and free of pests or parasites.

They also undergo a behaviour evaluation to ensure they do not have any undesirable tendencies. 

"And then we have manifests and picture lists that we send to our destination, and they have given us parameters of what they can take and what they can't take," she said. 

One of Nova Scotia's newest residents. (Nova Scotia SPCA)

"So we look at all the animals that are available and we select the ones that fit their parameters."

Walsh said programs that help get rescue animals to areas where there is a demand for them discourages so-called puppy mills from popping up.

When celebrities started adopting rather than shopping for pets, it encouraged other people to think that shelters were a great place to find a new addition, she said.

Walsh and Woodin spent many months in discussions before coming up with a solid plan. 

"I really admire that they are our only Canadian partner, and I really admire how much effort and thought and research she went into in order to choose us for that work," said Walsh.

Woodin said the project would not have been possible without a $100,000 donation from Pet Valu through its Giving Back Project.