Check out our new hours. Most DCHS and Wildlife Center services are by appointment only, including reuniting lost animals, surrendering a pet, wildlife rehabilitation, and more. Adoption visits are first-come, first-served. We recommend checking our current waitlist prior to your visit.

Dec 30, 2020

Where Do You Get The Animals?


We often get the question: Where do we get our animals? Read on for the top five ways that animals find their way to our shelter.

The Top Five Reasons a Companion Animal Arrives at DCHS:

1. An animal is separated from their human family.

Most animals arrive at Dane County Humane Society (DCHS) lost. We are usually the first stop for stray animals in Dane County and in 2019 we took in 2,456 stray animals. Most people typically think of stray animals as ones that have slipped out of the house or escaped a fenced yard. This group also includes abandoned animals and animals born without a human family. We guide finders through the steps they can take to find the pet's family, as most animals can quickly be reunited with their owners and don't need to come to DCHS at all. When an owner can't be found quickly, Animal Services officers and other finders bring the animals to DCHS.

Once lost animals arrive, our busy team of staff and volunteers try to reunite them with their families. First, we immediately scan each animal for a microchip that will give us access to their owner's registered contact information. If there is no microchip, we try to match them with lost pet reports. We take their pictures and put them up on our website's Found Pet Database. In 2019, we reunited 74% of lost dogs and 14% of lost cats with their owners. DCHS is proud of our staff and volunteers reaching such impressive return-to-owner rates. The national average for dogs is 37% and cats is 5%. Most reunions happen thanks to detailed lost pet reports and up-to-date microchips. After a stray holding period of four days, an animal who has not been claimed can move forward toward becoming available for adoption.

2. Partner animal shelters transfer animals to DCHS.

Our second highest source of animals are transfers from other animal shelters. With fewer local animals needing new homes thanks to high spay/neuter rates, we have room to help more animals from all over Wisconsin and across the United States. These animals may come from overcrowded shelters or need special medical attention that other shelters may not be able to supply. These relationships with our fellow animal welfare organizations are mutually beneficial, helping to alleviate their high populations while allowing DCHS to provide our community with pets looking for homes.

In 2014, twice-monthly transfers began bringing dogs from the South. Two years later we formed a partnership with Greater Birmingham Humane Society (GBHS) in Alabama. Starting in 2017, ASPCA also began transferring dogs from various places in the South to DCHS. When transfers are at full capacity, DCHS might receive up to 15-40 dogs each week from GBHS or ASPCA!

We also accept transfers of cats, rabbits, rats, and other small animals as needed, mostly from other Wisconsin shelters. In 2019, we welcomed 1,647 animals to DCHS through our transfer programs!

3. Owners surrender their pets.

There are many reasons owners might consider surrendering a pet and DCHS understands that making this decision is very difficult. We encourage people who are in this situation to contact us, as we may be able to offer assistance so you can keep your pet or help you rehome your pet on your own. We are committed to working together to find the best possible solution for you and your pet.

In 2019, 1,142 pets were surrendered, the third-highest number of animals arriving to DCHS. There are many reasons an owner might decide to surrender a pet. The top three reasons for surrenders in 2019 were too many pets, moving to a new home, and not being able to keep a found stray. Other reasons include: the health of the owner and/or family, allergies, behavior issues, having limited or no time, landlord issues, eviction, homelessness, and death in the family.

4. Animal Services or other protection agencies bring animals to DCHS.

Animal Services or other protective agencies may take an animal from their owner and bring them to DCHS during criminal investigations or court proceedings. In some cases, the animals brought to DCHS are illegal to own in the city of Madison, such as roosters and constrictor snakes six feet or longer. This is typically a small group of animals, numbering just 32 in 2019.

5. The animal is staying with DCHS through the SAAV program.

In partnership with Sheltering Animals of Abuse Victims (SAAV), DCHS provides temporary housing for pets of domestic abuse victims. According to SAAV, 71% of victims report that their abusers hurt, killed, or threatened their pets to control them or their children. Many victims stay with the abuser to protect their pets. The SAAV program provides a safe refuge for pets so that victims can leave abusive relationships. Since the beginning of the program in 2001, SAAV program foster parents have provided temporary care for more than 300 pets.

Thanks to our supporters, staff and volunteers, and the community, we are proud to help animals in need from many different situations.

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