By A.J. O'Connell
12:46 PM EDT, August 31, 2011
If you're looking for a dog on Petfinder.com, you'll see this again and again. You click on a likely-looking dog offered by a Connecticut shelter and read this: "Ralphie is still in Georgia," or "Fifi is still in Kentucky." You could call it an underhound railroad — for the past decade or more, local rescues have been importing pets from below the Mason-Dixon Line.
Holly Chasin, owner of The Little Pink Shelter in Westport, which offersdogs from Southern states, says that the South is 50 years behind New England as far as spay and neuter laws are concerned. Because of this, Southern states have an overpopulation ofdogs.
In Kentucky, the expense of keeping pets is a factor, says Deana Wehr of the Bowling Green-Warren County Humane Society. "Some people here see animals as something they don't want to spend money on," says Wehr. The shelter, which has been sending pets to homes in the Northeast for a decade, takes in thousands of animals a year and euthanizes thousands.
It's not only small shelters that are importingdogs; the Connecticut Humane Society has been bringing southerndogs to its three shelters for about five years. According to Kim Dunne of the Danbury Animal Welfare Society (DAWS), about 90 percent of thedogs in the group's shelter are from the south.
Although DAWS responds first to localdogs in need, Dunne says there are not enough Connecticut strays to fill its shelter. The same goes for the Humane Society.
"We have done such a good job with spay and neuter initiatives that there is a lack of adoptable, friendly dogs for the public," said Alicia Wright of the Humane Society.
It's not all sunshine and rainbows for local dogs. Connecticut's shelters are filled with homeless pitbulls. While transporting dogs in from out of state gives adopters more choices, it also makes the job of Bridgeport Chief Animal Control Officer Jimmy Gonzalez more difficult.
"It does make it a lot tougher for us because we do have a lot of pitbulls," says Gonzalez.
The out-of-state rescues are now facing their own challenges. On July 15, Governor Dannel Malloy signed a law which, starting on Oct. 1, will extend some of the rules governing pet shops to include organizations that transport pets from out of state. Among other restrictions, groups must have each animal examined by a veterinarian. That will make the work of small rescue operations more difficult and more expensive.
The bill was supported by the Connecticut Dog Federation, an organization of Connecticut dog clubs. Canton-based veterinarian Arnold L. Goldman, who is affiliated with the organization, said the bill was prompted by complaints to the Department of Agriculture, and by veterinarians who've seen health problems in rescue dogs.
"What is desired is assurances for pet adopters that the pets brought into the state are healthy," said Goldman in an e-mail, "and should they prove unhealthy, that the importing groups and individuals be identifiable, and responsible for the animals they transfer to others for donations."
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