STANFORD — Not everyone likes it when a black cat crosses their path, but since Black Cat Rescue crossed paths with the Lincoln County Animal Shelter, it's been good news for the county's stray dogs.
Black Cat Rescue is part of a vast network of animal transporters who help pets find adoptive families hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles away, said Hillary Culver, Black Cat Rescue organizer.
Culver acts a liaison for the Lincoln County Animal shelter, taking photos of the dogs available for adoption and posting information online for rescue organizations and potential adoptive families to see.
Stricter spay and neuter laws in northeastern states mean there isn't a surplus of animals like there is in Kentucky, Lincoln County Animal Control Officer James Witt said.
The Lincoln shelter adopts out about two or three dogs per month inside the county, but sends many more out to adoptive families in the north via Black Cat, Witt said.
"It gives a lot of these dogs a chance when they wouldn't have it," he said.
Culver said Black Cat's work has transformed the county shelter's statistics, taking an approximately 98-percent euthanasia rate and turning it into a 75- to 80-percent adoption rate.
"That's a huge difference because they get more than 1,000 animals a year," she said. "If somebody wasn't doing this, then very few of the dogs would get out."
Perhaps just as remarkable as the shelter's adoption rate is how Black Cat Rescue coordinates with networks of animal transport volunteers and rescue organizations.
As a result of the adoption network, animals from Lincoln County have been adopted out to homes in New York, Pennsylvania, Oregon and even Canada, Culver said.
Culver said she works with animal rescues around the nation that "definitely spay or neuter" and provide return policies that guarantee adopted pets never wind up in shelters again.
Rescues find animals they think are adoptable and request them from Black Cat, Culver said. The rescues pay for each animal's spaying or neutering and medical care, then recoup their costs through adoption fees.
On Friday, Culver was busy transporting a stray Lincoln County dog, Rosa, that had been selected by a Canadian rescue organization, Adopt-A-Pet, located in Lucknow, Ontario.
Culver took Rosa, a Great Pyrnees who was found loose in Lincoln County and housed at the shelter, in the back of her truck to Mount Vernon, where another driver from Pulaski County took Rosa and other dogs on to Richmond.
From Richmond, the dogs were taken to Lexington and then onto Cincinnati, which is something of a hub for the informal adoption network Black Cat operates through, Culver said.
In Cincinnati, a woman named Rhonda Frey coordinates the network, which doesn't really have a formal name.
The network of drivers organized by Frey transport the animals on Saturday, each driver taking the animals about an hour down the road toward their eventual destinations, Culver said.
"She's put together a marvelous network because she has people who do this every weekend of the year," she said.
Some drivers have fees, but many are volunteers, she said.
Some dogs with distant destinations like Rosa may not arrive until sometime on Sunday, she added.
"It's amazing how many people will help," she said. "It's great. I wouldn't be able to send near as many dogs (without the network)."
SO YOU KNOW
Black Cat Rescue can use donations and volunteers to help it continue adopting out animals. If you would like to donate or volunteer, email Hillary Culver at email@example.com.