How Transfer Teams Help Animal Shelters Save Lives

At this blog, you have learned about how homeless animals flow (or not) through the animal control system and have started to meet local rescues through the Better Know a Rescue article series. Recently, we've seen how innovative new community programs are seeking to make an impact on the numbers of animals entering shelters. Today, we look at how some volunteer groups are providing a critical service to help open admission shelters get animals to safety before space and stress result in the euthanasia of adoptable animals.

Open admission shelters, run on low budgets with tight staffing levels, are hard pressed to manage the full scope of demands the constant influx of homeless animals places on them. From providing basic animal care, kennel cleaning, health and behavioral monitoring, and facility management, to responding to abuse and neglect calls in the community, it is extremely difficult for shelters to simultaneously make sure all animals are presented in a timely fashion on websites and social media to help them find ways into homes and rescues.

Enter the transfer team.

Transfer teams provide a life-saving link between over-taxed shelters, rescues and the adopting public through integrated social media efforts. In this way, as many eyes as possible can see the full range of available cats and dogs in the shelter at any given time, greatly increasing their chances of finding homes.

Recently I had the opportunity to speak with Deena Traina, the Dog Coordinator with the all-volunteer Humane Society of Aurora (HSA) about the AACC Transfer Team (which they staff).

AACC transfer teamAs Deena explains, the AACC Transfer Team (TT) represents the in-house census of Aurora Animal Care & Control. A visitor to their Facebook page will quickly see detailed information on AACC's dogs and cats, including whether they are available for direct adoption/rescue or are 'rescue only'.


To clarify, TT pages are primarily set up for the benefit of rescue organizations who are looking for information on available animals. However, since the TT page shows the full census of  the affiliated shelter, animals that are also available to the public for direct adoption are listed as well. These animals can either go to adoptive homes directly, or to foster-based rescues, whichever comes first.

The Rescue Only designation may happen when an animal needs to be in foster care to recover from a health issue or, as may be the case for some dogs, a foster home environment is sought to mitigate the effects of kennel stress or to provide some 'finishing school' training to help make sure they will have a successful adoption. Additionally, fosters may be sought for very young animals who may need special care or simply be too young to receive the vaccines required before they can be adopted out.

For open admission shelters where space is at a premium, ALL animals presented by transfer teams are considered urgent but some are perilously so.

Transfer teams also contribute to shelter transparency (a very good thing) by keeping the public apprised when euthanasia dates have been set for animals (which can happen in facilities due to space issues as well as the mounting effects of stress on the animal). Not only does this allow rescue organizations to prioritize who they might pull, but individuals in the community may be inspired to assist in the effort by pledging donations for animals most in need.

Roxy is available for rescue pull or adoption through Aurora Animal Care & Control.

Roxy is available for rescue pull or adoption through Aurora Animal Care & Control.

That public support is not insignificant and can go a long way to helping both the animal and the rescue who pulls them. The vast majority of rescues are entirely volunteer led and maintaining adequate funding is a constant struggle. By providing the forum through which animal welfare advocates can interface with those on the front lines of animal rescue, the transfer teams provides a sort of glue, facilitating connections through their social media efforts which allow the community to band together to address what truly is a community problem.

A rescue interested in pulling an animal from the shelter can then place a rescue hold via the transfer team who then notifies the shelter that a rescue transfer is pending. Should an adopter also express interest in an available animal, the adopter is given priority status.

In addition to the social media effort, transfer team volunteers may also help with the physical transfer of the animals, providing transportation if needed from the shelter to the receiving rescue.

As an aside, I have to say I was impressed with what I learned from Deena about the Humane Society of Aurora. Although HSA is a young organization (establishing itself last year), they have veteran, rescue savvy volunteers at their core and the systems they have put in place for their volunteers have been very well thought out.

One aspect of HSA's work with dogs that illustrates their commitment to effectively running the transfer team is that all volunteers are asked to take photos/video of the dogs they work with and provide updates to Deena as coordinator. This enables her to be very responsive to animals that might be showing signs of stress, which she can then communicate to AACC staff. This, in turn, aids the transfer team in prioritizing their promotional efforts and providing relevant detail on the dogs for rescues and potential adopters.

"I encourage the volunteers to each focus in on one or two animals particularly during their time so that we can get more in depth information on them. That way our dogs can have someone working with them who gets to know them well. The more detailed the information we can gather, the better informed rescues are regarding the animals and the better able we are to help potential adopters find good matches."

Ready to go see who is at the shelter? To get information on 4 y.o.Roxy, pictured above (available for adoption or rescue transfer), and all AACC's available dogs, visit this album. Cats can be found here.   You can also find them on Instagram.

Want to foster an animal? Consider signing up to do so through one of their current rescue partners.

Want to check out more transfer teams? Chicago has a CACC Transfer Team with an additional Cat Transfer Team. The Animal Welfare League in Chicago Ridge has a team setting up here.

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