OK, so while the title of this article may have thrown you off a bit, what this article will discuss is a new trend towards adopting cats and dogs. There is not official acronym for the vehicle (MAV?) but its basic function is to bring the animals to your door or wherever you may be, ready to adopt a pet. One of the first ones appeared back in 2016 called The Catty Wagon. (note: This is a play on words as a paddy wagon is a place that is used to transport accused criminals from point to point.) It traveled the Los Angeles area with its obvious cat ears on the outside of the van and bright yellow color.
While this particular vehicle was designed to only transport cats, the idea can be easily expanded to include dogs. There are accommodations for staff to ride in the back along with the pets, so they are always watched take taken care of. The pilot program had a moderate degree of success, placing an average of 7 kittens a day into new homes.
While the idea seems to work in practice, it also seems to have a limited scope. It’s hard to imagine a fleet of adoption trucks scurrying around the city in search of cat owners. Mobile technology allows potential adopters to be checked out, so there are no worries about placing a cat into a potentially abusive situation. But the problem lies with the shelters, not the idea itself.
Currently, many animal shelters are at or exceed the shelter’s capacity to legally and safely keep cats and dogs. One reason for this is the rule of thumb that states that the more animals a shelter can hold, the greater the amount of time will go by before the animal is adopted. This is based on the condition that the shelter is continually full – 10 are adopted, 10 are admitted during the same day. Beyond this capacity, the animals will be euthanized sooner than later.
Another overlooked problem is cost. Shelters need to have staff on hand to deal with the day to day care of animals, as well as address any unexpected medical problems. Not only the cost for staff but the food and other necessities, including medicine in some cases, to keep the animals adoptable. Though the cost of operating the MAV may seem small – gas and normal maintenance on the vehicle – someone is going to have to pick up the tab. Every new vehicle added to the fleet would require the same gas and maintenance needs plus insurance, and possibly the expense for branding each vehicle.
Even with the public admonitions to have your cat spayed or neutered, the cat population continues to grow and there is not a plan in place to house all of them.
Seeing that an MAV is not a complete solution to the problem of cat adoption, is it possible it is at least a partial solution? The answer to this is a resounding yes, since even placing 20 cats a week will take pressure off of the shelters and general cat population. One potential problem is staffing each MAV with qualified staff, as what usually follows a growing trend is a proportional amount of legal regulation. The Los Angeles experiment has shown promise, but what happens when the one turns into 25? In the current state of the country, someone will find some reason to slow down the progress.
Perhaps a possibility to maximize the use of a MAV is to allow it to serve a dual purpose. It can do its primary duty of seeking to adopt cats, but can also be used to take cats that currently have an owner but are ill to the veterinarian. A nominal amount can be charged for the service, and would also serve as a way to advertise both the service and provide an opportunity for people to adopt a cat.
However the idea can be modified to benefit both sheltered cats and people seeking to own cats, the MAV is a simple and economic way to make a positive impact on both the problem and the community. Following up with the adopters of the cats would be a good way to get meaningful feedback and get additional ideas for modifying and improving the service.