Supply and Demand—The Role of Transport and Transfer in Saving Lives

We in northern Pennsylvania are all extremely aware of the problem of cat overpopulation. Even if you don’t have cats, even if you don’t like cats, I guarantee you that every person who lives in our area is aware that there are a lot of cats out there without homes. Now, this is a subject that I can talk about for days, however, that is not the subject of today’s blog. Today’s blog is about something—to be totally honest, the only thing—remembered from high school economics: the law of supply and demand.

Yes, I know this is an animal shelter blog—I promise this will all make sense. Just stay with me for a teensy second, no snoozing! The concept of supply and demand is that when the supply is not equal to the demand, the value of the commodity changes. So if you have too much supply, the value of the commodity goes down, and if you have too much demand, the value of the commodity goes up.

What in the world does this have to do with animals? Let’s put it in a format that is all too familiar to Bradford and Tioga county residents—if you have too many cats, the value of the cats goes down. If you don’t have enough cats to meet the demand, the value of the cats goes up. I know, now you’re all thinking, “Whoa, whoa…why would there ever not be enough cats? We have way too many cats!” Yes, sadly, we do. There are not enough homes around here for all the cats that live in our area. However, (and this is the cool part….wait for it…..) there are other places in this country where they don’t have enough cats.

Yes, you read that correctly. No, I’m not making that up. Yes, that is a real thing—I know, right?? Hang in there for one more mind-blowing fact—there are also other places in this country where dogs run wild in packs and live the same lives that feral cats live here. Seems weird, since that’s not the norm around here, but it’s true.

We tend to think of the situation we live in as being the status quo, even if that’s not true in other parts of the country. The reality is, there are pockets of overpopulation for both dogs and cats, and other areas where they have a shortage of one or the other, or both.

What does this mean for us? Well, the good news is that when we find ourselves in a situation with a high supply, and there is a high demand in another area, good economics (and good animal sheltering) suggests that we should send some of our supply to the area with high demand. Additionally, if we are the ones that have a demand for a commodity that we have a limited supply of, and there is another area that has a large supply and limited demand, we can both benefit from sharing that supply.

Cooperation between animal shelters is a relatively new idea. Historically, each operated as a separate entity, and communication and collaboration were very limited; this was because of a number of reasons, but due in part to disapproval of other shelters’ practices, protocols, and general operation, and also due to competition for donations and adopters. However, this old model is (rightly) falling by the wayside, and many shelters, ACS included, are embracing a new model of partnerships and relationships that encourage collaboration and teamwork. One of the many benefits to these relationships is the incredible effect that transports and transfers can have on our efforts to save the lives of animals.

ACS has worked with local shelters for several years, to help them avoid euthanasia of dogs by taking some of their dogs when they became full—so shelter transfers to help save lives are not a new concept for us. However, we thought we could really do more with this idea, and in the last year and a half, we have really delved into this model, and we have seen a huge benefit for us and for other organizations.

In 2017, 177 animals were placed into new homes because ACS participates in shelter transfers. Our cat partners in New England have a shortage of highly adoptable cats, and were able to take 100 of our cats over a year’s time to place with adopters in their area—one ten-year-old cat with minor health problems that had been waiting for a home for almost two years at ACS was adopted within twenty minutes of being made available on the adoption floor in New England! The best part is that those 100 cats being transferred then made room for us to take 100 more cats, who otherwise may not have had as bright a future. On the dog side, we were able to accept over 70 dogs and puppies from local shelters and from a shelter partner in Alabama; in case you were wondering, Alabama is one of the places I mentioned where they have stray dogs like we have stray cats.

So you see, high school economics does actually benefit you in real life—and can benefit our animals, too. This is an exciting new frontier for animal sheltering organizations, and is paving the way for even more ways we can work together to reduce overpopulation, increase adoptions, and save lives. In order to continue to develop these programs, we need your support! Volunteers to help drive animals from place to place, funds to put towards gas and vehicle maintenance, foster homes to help increase the number of animals we can save with one trip—the possibilities are endless!

Yes, transport trips are long, but sign up with a friend and take a cool road trip! Yes, the cats sometimes like to sing you the song of their people the whole way, but hey, they won’t mind if you sing along! And yes, it’s not as cool to donate money for gas as it is to sponsor adoptions and help pay for crazy surgeries, but I encourage you to consider helping us to build this program not for the little things in between, but for the larger picture: where dogs who otherwise might be euthanized in a shelter that doesn’t have room for them instead take a ride up north to ACS where a home is waiting, or where cats that are toughing out the snow and cold have a place in our shelter because New England has a place for one of ours. When we put our heads (and hearts) together, we can do some pretty great things!

 

Written by: Emily Blade, Director of Feline Care

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