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More than 30 dogs from the Sebastian County Humane Society were transported to a shelter in Chicago as part of an evolving no-kill shelter program.

The local shelter currently houses or fosters more than 600 cats and 500 dogs, twice as many as the shelter was designed to accommodate. The first group of 34 dogs left for Chicago at 3 a.m. Tuesday in two vehicles. The transports were made possible by a $15,000 grant from PetSmart Charities received Monday.

These were the first animals from the shelter in Fort Smith to be transported to other no-kill facilities as part of the Sebastian County Humane Society’s plan to become a no-kill shelter. No-kill shelters do not euthanize animals.

“These animals are going to shelters that do not have enough animals to fill the adoption need from the areas they serve,” said Joe Sprague, executive director of the Sebastian County Humane Society.

Cats are also being transported at a later date. This month, the local shelter will transport two groups of animals to Chicago, and with the help of another transport group, a group of animals will be flown to Oregon. Next month’s schedule calls for two more groups of animals to be sent to Chicago, one to Wisconsin and another group by air to Oregon.

Sprague and his staff spent several months interviewing shelters across the country.

“This program is a win-win for the animals we serve,” Sprague added. “It frees up space in our shelter so we can better care for the animals we already have, and it helps to ensure that each animal will be united with a loving forever home, whether it’s in Fort Smith, Chicago or Wisconsin.”

In order for the Sebastian County Humane Society to complete its plan to become a no-kill shelter it needs continued public support and donations, Sprague noted. The shelter currently requires about $1.3 million a year to operate, with $1 million of that coming from donations and the rest from grants.

“Our biggest stumbling point is no funding from the state, county or city,” Sprague said. “We’re always looking for funding.”

A fundraising campaign is now underway to purchase an additional used cargo van to increase the number of transports once the grant money has been exhausted.

How To Help

Donations to assist with the Sebastian County Humane Society's no-kill program, or to help with the purchase of a used cargo van, can be made by check to P.O. Box 10953, Fort Smith, AR 72917. Monetary donations may also be given at the shelter, 3800 Kelley Highway, Fort Smith.

Please visit their website for more information at www.sebastiancountyhumanesociety.org