Animal Rescue Transport
All across the highways and byways of America, at any given day or night, at all hours, there is a wonderful thing happening. Most people are oblivious – have no clue – they just see a person going down the road – maybe the heads of a couple animals pop up or kennel crates are visible through the windows. At rest stops and truck stops and Cracker Barrels and Bob Evans and places everywhere across the USA, two travelers may be seen with animals – together the crates are lifted from one vehicle to the other or leashes exchange hands and the animals hop from one vehicle to another. Those travelers have smiles and emanate joy – greet each other warmly – take pictures – quick hugs and pets to the animals – and suddenly depart like a whirlwind. Perhaps a bystander has a fleeting thought – what are they doing – why are the animals exchanging hands – what was that all about?
The answer is volunteer animal rescue transport.
It is an unfortunate fact that too many animals across America end up in shelters. People give all sorts of reasons and are things they should have thought about before they ever got a pet but didn’t. Pets should be for life. In addition, pets are not spayed and neutered so end up in a cycle of endless puppies and kittens that the owners don’t know what to do with so they end up in a shelter. Regardless of the reason, the sad fact is that shelters are overcrowded. If animals are not adopted or pulled out into rescues, they are euthanized to make space for the next ones coming in. It is a fact that a shelter animal is euthanized every 8 seconds. In the time you draw a breath another one has died.
Often, one of the biggest roadblocks to a rescue or individual being able to take in an animal at risk and getting them to safety is getting them from where they are to their new home. Paid transport is expensive – depending on the distance and size of animal can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. A simple trip from let’s say Richmond, Virginia, to Boston, Massachusetts, for one golden retriever sized animal can cost $1600. That kind of money is enormous for a rescue that thrives on donations and adoption fees, their vet bills are huge, food and nutrition, supplies – it all adds up.
Enter the volunteer transport. We call it the drive to save the lives. We do it to save the rescue money so that they can save another. Without us, many animals would be left behind – never making it out of the shelter.
Volunteer transport is set up by a transport coordinator. A run sheet is built – it maps out the trip for the animals – sometimes one or two or three or a load of mama and babies – and describes who is traveling. Passengers can be dogs, cats, birds, turtles, potbellied pigs, goats, alpacas, rabbits, hamsters, reptiles, and more – whatever will fit in a vehicle. Each part of the trip is broken up into a leg – segments of the trip that are 1 to 1-1/2 hours long on average. The run sheet gets posted on the venues where the volunteers hang out – social media, email, internet sites – and one by one volunteers step up – I can take Leg 2 – I can take leg 20 and 21 – I’ll do that overnight in Philly – whatever it might be. The transport coordinator gathers their information and keeps up the hunt for drivers, overnighters, maybe a week-long stay depending on the length of the trip. Until finally that magic word: FILLED! Each leg is spoken for, each sleepover is secured and the transport is ON!!
The transport coordinator gets everyone together and exchange of information (what are you driving, what’s your phone number) and places where volunteers will meet each other to transfer passengers is made. The transport coordinator enters it all into the run sheet and it is sent out to all involved. All is finally good to go. Volunteers ready their vehicles for their passengers – putting down blankets, packing water and treats, extra of everything – making their vehicles a haven - a place where the animals can feel secure – a place of comfort for these beautiful souls who will be wondering what is happening to them now. Finally, the day of transport comes. The first volunteer picks up the animals. Then drives down the road. Talking to their passengers, singing to them and sometimes they sing back, playing music, reading books on CD. They get to the meet spot where they are to exchange for the next leg – the animals get a potty break, a drink of water, and they get lots of LOVE. They gets hugs and kisses and pets and reassurance. They often give hugs and kisses in return. And this is repeated for every transfer.
For the transporter, this is it – it is why we do what we do. It's all about second chances - it's all about love - it's all about seeing worth regardless of outward appearance - it's all about knowing what happens if we turn away - it's all about giving so that others may live - it's all about working together to make it happen.
Every animal has a story - some have never known the kindness of a loving hand - never had someone who cared - never had someone make them comfortable - give them water - worried about them - brought them home. Others have lost the only home they have ever known and were left quaking in a lonely kennel in a shelter – wondering why – what did I do – why am I here. You can see when you look at them as a transport goes on they relax - they mellow - they stop jumping at every sound - because THEY KNOW that this person cares – they know they are safe! Then it happens and this is why we do what we do: a kiss, a snuggle, a cuddle, a gentle touch with a nose, a lift of a paw, a gentle snore as they sleep - they trust - they all say thank you for caring - thank you for taking care of me - thank you for taking me home.