For several years, prospective pet owners in the Northeast have had the option to adopt dogs from south of the Mason-Dixon line. Reporter Tyler Unwin takes a look at the Dixie Dog Program, in Springfield, Massachusetts.
The Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society has been bringing dogs up from South for more than 10 years. The Dixie Dog program transports homeless dogs to the northeast, giving hundreds of dogs new opportunities for adoption. Executive Director at Springfield’s Dakin Humane Society, Leslie Harris, explains how the program began.
“We started to notice the number of homeless dogs that were coming into our adoption center were starting to trickle off … and what we ended up with was sort of a lot of empty kennels and a few homeless dogs," she says. "What we knew through from our own experience and talking to colleagues in other parts of the country was they were still completely overwhelmed and that a lot of good dogs were losing their lives due to pet overpopulation in those communities that just didn’t exist in terms of dogs in New England.”
Manager of marketing and communications at Dakin Humane Society, Candy Lash, discusses the reasons for such an overpopulation of dogs in the South.
“Spay and neuter is harder for people to afford, it’s geographically harder for people to get to … sometimes the distance between the person and the nearest vet is 100 miles," she says. "This particular shelter that we work with can have upwards of 400 dogs at any given time in the shelter so a lot of those dogs have been there for an extended period of time, and are likely not to have an option for adoption because they’re in competition with so many others.”
The Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society receives dogs from a group called Operation Pets Alive. They receive new shipments of Dixie Dogs twice a month and average anywhere from 10 to 18 dogs at a time. Operation Pets Alive serves several other Humane Societies along the way.
“There are other adoption centers and humane societies that participate in this program, in fact when the truck rolls in with our dogs, we are part of a series of stops along the way to other humane societies that are participating in this program," Lash says. "So they leave here and go up to Windham County and Brattleboro, Vermont and then they head over across New Hampshire and go over to the Hampton Beach area as well.”
Executive Director at Dakin Humane Society, Leslie Harris, says there’s a high demand for older, adult dogs.
“One of the things that we thought of here is that we don’t really have a huge demand for puppies in New England… we have a demand for family dogs, you know a lot of people are two working families or one single person who works all day and so a puppy sometimes isn’t the best thing for a lifestyle, so we actually made a commitment to import a lot of dogs, adult dogs … and in some cases we brought in older dogs, we brought in big dogs, little dogs and you know at this point we can find a dog who's 15 or 16 years old, as long as he’s healthy, we can find him a new home to retire in.”
Karry, a Wilbraham, Massachusetts resident, is here today looking to adopt a Dixie Dog for her family.
“Well, none of us could agree on the type of dog we wanted so we decided it would be best to rescue somebody … and I think it’s great that they bring the Dixie dogs over here, it seems they go out just as quick as they go in."
Although the program’s primary focus is on K-9s, Leslie Harris explains how the Dixie Dog program has been helping other animals get adopted as well.
“What that really means for us is not just that it you know it helps get our other animals adopted … sort of the buzz created by the Dixie dog program helps our local dogs get adopted, helps our cats and kittens get adopted, and our gerbils and rabbits but the other thing that it really means is it saves those dogs' lives.”
Since the Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society started bringing dogs up from the South in 2003, the program has continued to grow. The Dixie Dog program saves anywhere between 100 and 200 dogs every year, something everyone can wag their tail for.