David Treadwell

David Treadwell

Quick now, what’s the difference between New Englanders and people who live in the South? To make this quiz more difficult, your answers can’t refer to the weather, the Civil War, religion, race, temperament, food (no references to grits!) or political bent.

Time’s up. How many of your answers involved dogs or, more specifically, the treatment of dogs? According to Joe Montisano, Executive Director of the Coastal Humane Society and the Lincoln County Animal Shelter, people in the south have a very different attitude towards dogs. “They often don’t register dogs down there and where there are leash laws, they often don’t obey them.” To make matters worse, many dogs and cats in the south don’t get spayed or neutered. Joe noted that sometimes if a male dog has been neutered, the owner has plastic testicles implanted to give the dog a more “natural” look. As a result, thousands of stray dogs (and cats) roam the streets and countrysides.

The strays end up at shelters and, usually, euthanized. In fact, the ASPCA estimates that 2 to 3 million dogs and cats are euthanized in the U.S. every year.

Joe came to Maine a year ago from central Florida where he worked at a zoo. When he interviewed for the position at the Coastal Humane Society and mentioned euthanasia rates elsewhere, the people interviewing him were astounded, as the CHS practices euthanasia so rarely.

The dog transport program at the Coastal Humane Society — and scores of animal rescue organizations in Maine and around New England — helps alleviate this problem by transporting thousands of dogs from south to north every year for ultimate adoption.

Brunswick resident Dale Dorr, a loyal CHS volunteer, has been involved with the dog transport program for nearly two years. “When I began volunteering, I was mainly walking dogs and cleaning out cages. When they needed someone to drive to Mobile, Alabama to get some dogs I agreed to do it.” Joe loves to travel and he doesn’t mind long drives so it was a good fit.

On a typical long run, a CHS staff member and a volunteer take two days to drive down south (e.g. to Alabama, Florida, Mississippi or Georgia). They pick up 30 to 40 dogs (most of them puppies) and put them in cages for the return trip. The two people take turns driving back, stopping every four to six hours to walk and tend to the dogs. “You don’t get a lot of sleep with all those puppies yipping,” admits Joe. That said, he enjoys seeing the sites along the way. “The views of the mountains from the Blue Ridge Parkway are beautiful!”

The shelters providing the dogs, which are sometimes “mom and pop” operations, must follow strict guidelines concerning vaccinations, etc., to ensure the health and safety of the dogs, which are being transported. Moreover, the dogs are quarantined upon arrival in Maine.

In addition to long runs to the deep south, the CHS takes shorter runs to pick up dogs. For example, regular runs are made to Logan Airport to pick up “satos,” which are mixed breeds from Puerto Rico.

Eventually, all of the dogs brought north to Maine end up being adopted, a win-win for both the dogs and the new owners. Most dogs get adopted within a week or two, especially the puppies. Kate Cohrane, Transport Coordinator for the CHS, derives great satisfaction from placing dogs which wouldn’t have found a home in the south. Every transported dog eventually finds a home. “This hound named Roy had a lot of energy and was hard to place. One day a young man who already had a poodle and a Chiwawa came in and took him. They all got along great.”

Woof !


For information on ways to support to the Coastal Humane Society, go to: www.coastalhumanesociety.org. David Treadwell, a Brunswick writer, welcomes commentary or ideas for future “Just a Little Old” columns at [email protected]

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