The euthanasia rate at Beaufort County Animal Shelter & Control has fallen in recent months, partly because of a program that started this past spring to transport animals to adoption agencies in Atlanta and Washington, D.C.
The program has eased pressure at the shelter in Beaufort and allowed medical staff more time and space to treat pets with curable conditions, such as ringworm and hair loss, said shelter director Tallulah Trice, who started at the shelter in March.
Since the twice-monthly transports began in March, the shelter's euthanasia rate has fallen by 50 percent some months, Trice said.
A transfer is planned for today that will send animals to Washington, D.C. Sending the animals to Washington will give pets that wouldn't be picked for adoption as fast locally a chance to find homes, she said. It also will allow her to prepare animals with a better chance for local adoption.
"We try to focus on keeping the flow going because otherwise we become stagnant, and that is when you have to euthanize," she said.
Transport programs, which typically move animals from the South to the Northeast, where fewer pets are available for adoption, have been around for years. But Heather Bialy, director of shelter services for the Humane Society of the U.S., says they are becoming more popular.
"We are starting to see a lot more transfer programs, specifically with shelters in the South and the Midwest that are transferring animals up to the North," she said.
Trice has been involved with animal transport for more than a decade through the HAND Foundation based on Hilton Head Island. She also helped transport animals from disaster zones, including the tornadoes in 2011 that devastated central Alabama.
Through the years, she has placed pets in Charleston, Atlanta, New York and Connecticut, and some of those contacts have proven helpful as she tries to build a transfer program at the Beaufort County shelter.
So far, transfers organized by the county have been paid for by shelters that receive the animals, donations or outside agencies such as the HAND Foundation.
Long-term, Trice says, these efforts will save the county money.
"It's a huge savings if you do it right," she said. "When you keep an animal at the shelter, you have to ... vaccinate it, you have to feed it. You're spending hundreds of dollars."
Franny Gerthoffer, Hilton Head Humane Association executive director, says Trice should be commended for finding no-kill groups to take the animals.
"She has made contacts all over the East Coast and all over the county," Gerthoffer said. "She has some nice relationships with shelters that have a no-kill philosophy that are really looking for animals -- they are out of animals, believe it or not."
Trice also has formed partnerships with other groups across the region, including Brooke's Bed and Biscuit, Camp Green Dog and Three Black Dogs.
Before animals are transferred, Trice sends videos to nearby shelters to see if any can take them.
Local residents interested in adopting an animal from the county shelter get priority, she said.