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Natchez puppies get their ticket to ride home

Bettie Norwood lifts a dog into a cage on the van. Norwood is a regional coordinator for the transport of the animals. (Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat)

Bettie Norwood lifts a dog into a cage on the van. Norwood is a regional coordinator for the transport of the animals. (Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — Two van loads of Natchez puppies and dogs will head out of state this week in hope of finding their forever homes.

Bettie Norwood lifts a dog into a cage on the van. Norwood is a regional coordinator for the transport of the animals. (Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat)

Bettie Norwood lifts a dog into a cage on the van. Norwood is a regional coordinator for the transport of the animals. (Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat)

Kathy Fitch, president of the Natchez Adams County Humane Society, said 21 pups left Monday afternoon, transported by the Animal Rescue Front, an organization that transports dogs out of Mississippi to other areas of the country where adoption is more likely.

Monday’s pups were headed to PAWS Chicago, a no-kill, foster-based shelter in the metro Chicago area.

Today, 39 Natchez puppies and dogs will be transported by the Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to no-kill shelters in Virginia and New Jersey.

The Humane Society here participates in transporting animals because doing so is the only current option for saving lives, Fitch said.

“It has been two and a half years since we have had to euthanize healthy, adoptable puppies here because we are participating in transport,” Fitch said.

Last year, 800 Natchez area puppies and another 400 dogs were transported from Natchez to other parts of the country for adoption there, she said.

Hannah Driggers, above, tags one of the dogs that will be headed to Chicago on the Animal Rescue Front van. (Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat)

Hannah Driggers, above, tags one of the dogs that will be headed to Chicago on the Animal Rescue Front van. (Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat)

“Each year we adopt out roughly 700 animals here, and that counts dogs and cats. The number we transport is just slightly higher than our adoption numbers,” Fitch said. “We get animals from a very large area and far more than we can place locally.”

Getting dogs ready for transport is expensive, much more expensive than euthanizing them.

“Each dog has to have vaccinations, worming, vet checks. We have to have a separate facility to quarantine puppies and have to hire and pay staff to take care of them. It’s lots more expensive to save them than to euthanize them. However, we are committed to saving as many as possible. Our goal is to place every single helath, adoptable animal that we get,” Fitch said.

Other areas of the country have more advanced spay and neuter efforts, she said, and don’t have the issue of stray and unwanted animals we have here.

Fitch said Natchez residents can help cut down on the number of unwanted animals here by making certain their pets are spayed and neutered.

“And adopt first, rather than buy an animal,” Fitch said.

Chris McLaughlin, founder and executive director of the Animal Rescue Front, has been rescuing unwanted Mississippi dogs and puppies and transporting them to other parts of the country for adoption since Hurricane Katrina.

Animal Rescue Front Founder Chris McLaughlin prepares to get on the road after loading up her transport van with dogs from the Natchez-Adams County Humane Society quarantine shelter. The dogs are headed to PAWS Chicago, a no-kill shelter in the metro Chicago area. (Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat)

Animal Rescue Front Founder Chris McLaughlin prepares to get on the road after loading up her transport van with dogs from the Natchez-Adams County Humane Society quarantine shelter. The dogs are headed to PAWS Chicago, a no-kill shelter in the metro Chicago area. (Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat)

Originally from Boston, McLaughlin lives now in western Massachusetts. She was in Natchez to help load and transport puppies and dogs on Monday.

She said Mississippi needs much more awareness about the affordable and no-cost spay and neuter services available for pets.

“Mississippi alone probably killing close to 80,000 animals a year — healthy, adoptable animals that would be slam dunk adoptions in other part of the country,” McLaughlin said. “For some of the reason, spay and neuter is more of a challenge in the South than in most other parts of the country. I’ve been working in Mississippi since Katrina and I’ve heard everything from ‘If God had intended them not to breed he would have made them that way,’ to ‘I can’t afford to have them spayed,’ to ‘I don’t have any way of getting them to the vet’s.’ ”

She said Natchez residents who need access to free or low-cost spay and neuter services can find that through the Natchez Adams County Humane Society.

“You folks are lucky. You have a strong Humane Society and a good strong community of business people who are really trying to make a difference in this area,” McLaughlin said.

Fitch said those who wish to donate to the Humane Society may do so by signing up for monthly contributions of any amount, which can be automatically drafted from a checking account. The average amount of monthly bank-draft contributions is $19, she said.

The Natchez Adams County Humane Society is also in need of items, like pet food and paper towels.

A list of needed items, as well as how to contribute, can be found on the Humane Society’s website at natchezpetadoptions.org.