Let’s Talk about Transport

Ben, again.

A subject that’s been discussed a lot in the comments recently is that of transporting dogs from kill shelters to places where they can be adopted.  I know at least a few of our readers are involved in rescue transport so I thought I’d post this thread for people to share their experiences and ask questions.  What exactly does it involve?  How can people sign up to participate?  In what ways could transport be improved to save even more shelter pets?

28 thoughts on “Let’s Talk about Transport

  1. I’ve only got about a year and a half experience, but I’m certainly willing to share what I know with anybody who has questions. I can’t take on more animals (if I did, *I* would be the one featured on here with 200 animals being removed!), but driving part of a trip with some dogs in my Jeep is doable. I’ve got way much work to do, but I’ll stop back later and see if I can help offer any info.

    1. Let me tell you my story about a golden retriever that was stolen from a good home by the Forrest City Area Humane Society then transported north. You should be very careful who you support and who you donate to because some groups are not good people. Our dog was loved and cared for and we will not stop fighting to get him back. We rescue dogs here in Forrest City, AR and anyone that knows us knows how well are dogs are cared for. I am a nurse so I have the medical background to care for many of their issues, but if not they go directly to the vet. Approximately a month ago I fought off a pit bull attacking another one of my dogs with a flashlight, so I am will to risk my own well being for my dogs. They are like our children. Please just beware of some groups that are simpley out for the money. Dogs are bringing big money is this low economy. Criminals are always way ahead of us with a scam.

  2. I’ve recently joined a transport group on Yahoo that does transports every weekend, and it’s been an amazing experience.

    If you’re not familiar with transporting, here’s how it works, at least for the group I’m in:

    Various rescue groups try to pull as many dogs as possible from high-kill shelters, usually in the US, so that they can be brought to non-kill shelters/foster/forever homes in Canada. A coordinator for the group sends out an email (called a run sheet) with information on the dogs that need transporting, where they come from and need to go, and a list of the legs that need to be filled.

    Anyone who wants to volunteer to drive a leg (or more) simply emails the coordinator. Each leg is anywhere from 60-90 minutes. Depending on where the dogs are coming from, there can be anywhere from 15-20 legs spread out over one weekend.

    Here’s an example of a run sheet from early Feb:


    As you can see from that run sheet, some of these dogs are coming from as far as Kentucky.

    Once the run is finalized, a final run sheet is emailed to all the transporters with details on where everyone will meet (for example, leg #1 transporters will meet leg #2 transporters at a parking lot in X city).

    It’s all very organized, and updates are sent after every leg is completed to let transporters know whether there are any delays.

    I did a transport in early January for two adorable little yorkies who were placed in foster care, and then adopted in February.:]

    If you have extra crates and a couple of hours to spare on the weekend, it’s a great way to help dogs who would otherwise be left behind.

    You can check Yahoo Groups to find a transport nearest you or visit http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/OpenArmsTransports/.

    (sorry for the novel :P)

  3. Here in Alaska, transport is critical. We’ve got a large population of dogs, not many people, and not very much road!
    The small airlines (bush planes) are really terrific about flying animals in need. (Although it’s much easier to get an animal flown into town than it is to fly them out of town…everybody needs to fly stuff out to the villages, but the planes have more room coming back.)
    I’d like to see some coordination and national participation with the major airlines as it can be very difficult to fly pets out of state.
    Here in Alaska we network pretty well to find a willing human escort to fly a rescue dog to their new home out of state.
    There are those that drive pets as well, but it’s a bigger task as the drive is much longer and it’s an international trip. (You can’t just drive a few hundred miles and pass the critter on to somebody else!)

    1. LynnO,

      My one experience with the bush planes transporting was a very positive one. We were trying to get a cat out of a shelter in Homer to Cleveland, OH. The local guys were happy to put this cat on their planes free of charge and move him to where he needed to be. In fact, everyone in AK was really super helpful – shelter staff, pilots, everyone.

  4. My shelter regularly takes dogs from other states (south mostly). We have a Community Programs Coordinator whose whole job is to facilitate these transports, send animals to rescue, and set up donated vet services.

    Besides working with individual groups and shelters, we also work with Georgia Puppy Pipeline and Rescue Waggin (which is through PetSmart Charities).
    Rescue Waggin is the only transport we get that’s ‘differnt’ from the rest- shelters get signed up with them as either Source or Destination (we’re destination). The Source shelter is responsible for behavior evaluating their dogs (they have a specific eval that they all use) that rate the dogs (i think by color) in regards to behavior- green = no problems, yellow = minor (etc). The Source shelters are only allowed to send green and yellow dogs. That way the Destination shelters can be certain of the quality of animals that are arriving and don’t have the evaluate the dogs themselves.
    i ‘believe’ Rescue Waggin takes back any dogs that are ever in danger of being euthanized, but we had a situation where one of their dogs was adopted and then returned (i believe for a bite situation) and Rescue Waggin didn’t want it back since we had already adopted it (so their level of investment on each specific animal is not very long).

    otherwise, we ask that the groups we work with send happy, healthy dogs and have started basic vaccinations and heartworm tested dogs over 6 months (while we will occasionally take a few HW+ cases, we would easily be overwhelmed if we took them all). Also, we will only accept pitbulls under 6 months of age (again- we have enough coming in from our community, so don’t want to be overwhelmed). Most of the groups will always take back any dogs we find to not be placeable- this way we are not just displacing euthanasia from one shelter to another

    I could write pages on this subject

    1. Thanks, Shirley – I was just getting ready to post and ask about a place that might be set up to pull all transports together, which this appears to somewhat do. They have the book available on Amazon.com ($19) and I also found a DVD that is the show which aired on PBS ($17) – I ordered both! That website is full of interesting information about all kind of animal welfare stuff!

    2. If you would like to join On the Road Again (OTRA), the oldest volunteer transport group in the U.S., founded by Brandy Holleran and featured in Fifteen Legs, just go to
      and follow the instructions there. The group is moderated and there is an application procedure for anyone who wants to become OTRA-approved as a volunteer driver, coordinator or moderator.

      I’m not actively coordinating transports anymore but did it for over 5 years and would do it again if my work schedule allowed. It’s amazing what people can do when they pull together and work toward the same goal. We moved lots of dogs to safety–some over thousands of miles. And didn’t lose any. Only had 1 little biter and she got sent back after just 2 legs. She’s a demo dog for a behaviorist now. I think she demos the biting.

      Good luck!

  5. I am a member of a group called Open Arms Transport. All members are volunteers and every week 20 to 40 dogs are rescued from high kill shelters and transported from areas like Kentucky and Ohio to the North East US and Canada. the amount of work that goes into coordinating these runs week after week is mind boggling and I have the utmost respect for the transport coordinators. They are always looking for drivers and it’s a fun way to help dogs! http://www.openarmspoundrescue.com/TRANSPORT.html


  6. For smaller transports not hooked up w/one of the organizations you guys have mentioned: Dogs and cats must have health certificates signed by veterinarian of sending agency within 10 days prior to transport. If animals do not have certificates and driver is stopped, state Dept of AG will impose fines on sending agency and confiscate animals. http://bit.ly/hOZeHl

  7. Ideally, a dog or cat should be quarantined for two weeks after leaving the shelter before it is put on a transport. Nothing worse than putting a dog straight from the shelter on transport and then having it break with Parvo or Kennel Cough a few days later, exposing every other dog that was on the transport.

    1. For the group I volunteer with – Open Arms Transport – all dogs must travel with an individual health certificate signed by a vet. Dogs can’t be transported if they even show any signs of infectious disease.

      I’m not sure quarantine would be necessary, or even plausible, since these dogs are being pulled because the shelter is already at capacity.

      1. I live in Massachusetts, and recently an illegal transport with dogs came in. Most all of them had Parvo, and ended up having to be euthanized. It was really sad, because I understand that these animals were desperate to be saved and their transporters did it with good intentions, but it could have ended up infecting an entire rescue organization with a deadly disease and killing countless dogs. Thank god for responsible transports and rescues such as yourselves. These animals safe in your care. Here’s the link to the article posted by the MSPCA http://www.mspca.org/about-us/press-room/2011/mspca-cares-for-highly.html

    2. For puppies coming out of shelters in the South, quarantine is NOT OPTIONAL–it’s a MUST. Reputable vets won’t give a non-quarantined puppy a health certificate at all. Parvo and distemper are both deadly, highly contagious diseases that are very common in the South. Please protect the dogs you are pulling and transporting–and all the dogs they meet along the way. You won’t regret doing the right thing. But, believe me, you will feel horrible if your puppies break with parvo and spread it to others. Don’t take that risk.

  8. Our local shelter has been instrumental in helping a Georgia rescue group (Angel Dog Rescue) transport dogs back here to Florida where we have had a tremendously good adoption rate. I went along two weeks ago as a volunteer to Georgetown, Ga. and we gathered up 55 dogs (50 puppies) that had no chance of homes in that area. I have just recently learned from that agency that the neighboring county (Floyd County Animal Services) will not allow dogs to be transported out of Ga. due to the DOA. What the heck is that about?? It appears that they would rather euthanize them? Can you check into this???? PLEASE..

    1. I note on this site – http://www.romefloyd.com/CitizenSafety/AnimalControl/tabid/178/Default.aspx – that they say they work with local rescues. Would it be possible that the animals can be pulled by the rescue and then transported? Or do the rescues have to sign something stating that they will not transport out of state?

      I don’t understand how the DOA will allow one county to do it but not another. It doesn’t make sense – something smells fishy about it, unless the entire state has decided that no animals can be transported out of state – which I know isn’t the case, as there was just a transport of pits pulled from a GA shelter and brought to OH. From many things I have read about transports the DOA requires a certificate that the animal is healthy and has had, I believe their rabies vaccination, to to out of state transports.

  9. I have been doing transports for several months now outside on NYC. Most of the dogs and puppies come from southern regions. I found the info for the transports on Yahoo, they have tons of information on groups all over the country. I have driven from one to several dogs. Usually the distance ranges from aprox. 40-70 miles each way. So very rewarding, I try to get pictures of every one I have driven. Also there are some transport groups that have a facebook page but the Yahoo listings are the most detailed. Hope this helps

  10. Okay, I have some links that might help those who don’t know where/how to volunteer… I generally do one run a week, with a second once in a while, although I’ve done as many as four, and kept up to 11 dogs overnight as well. Right now I’m off the road because our Jeep is broken, but as soon as it’s back, I’m going to go right back to it.

    I’m a member of this yahoo group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/OnTheRoadAgain/
    This is another Yahoo group that pertains to transports: http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/dogtransportvolunteers/

    Here’s a group that works with truck drivers to carry dogs: http://operationroger.rescuegroups.org/

    I first found out about transporting from a livejournal community, which is here: http://community.livejournal.com/driveforlife/profileThere are a lot of links on that page to other groups on Yahoo. I can’t say whether the groups are good/bad/other, you’ll have to use your own judgement. I can say that I’m pretty comfortable with OTRA certified folks, since I’ve worked with them a fair amount.

    This blog post has a bunch of links as well: http://pe-magazineblog.com/?p=464 Heck, there’s probably a lot more out there, but I haven’t really looked into them, since I can only do so much, and I tend to keep my hands full with the transports going through my area as it is.

    There are some transports that will offer up gas money for a person to drive, the ones I tend to stick with don’t have the money to offer, and we all just volunteer. Because the group I’ve been running with is the same people almost every week, we’ve started to become friends, and we have a pretty good pattern for how to do everything. We know where the meeting spots are, and we know each other well enough to load dogs in each other’s vehicles, or take them out (I don’t recommend casually getting into somebody else’s car to take a transport dog out LOL).

    I try to get pictures of all the dogs that come through on the transports I’ve driving for, and I blog about them. SO very many of the dogs touch my heart, and it’s a good thing I know I can’t being any more home, or I’d have a heckuva houseful. Yes, there have been dogs that made me cry. But knowing that I’m one small step towards getting them to a good life helps, and I wouldn’t give it up for anything.

    I’d love to see some kind of national database set up (perhaps OTRA is already there, and just needs the word to get out?) and try to get more people into volunteering. Not everybody can commit to every weekend, but maybe one weekend a month is doable?

  11. Eesh, I wrote a long comment, and I think I lost it. Hah. Here are a bunch of links that might be helpful for somebody who wants to transports. I can’t speak for most of them, you’ll have to use your own judgement.

    I blog about my transports, and try to get pictures of all of them.

  12. I’ve been involved in helping with transports on the west coast for almost 2 years. There are some great tranport yahoo groups to look into – roads of hope, truck’n’paws to name a couple. Pilots N Paws is a great resource as well.

  13. I don’t drive so don’t do pet transports, but even I can and do help by forwarding email messages about pets in need of being transported and ask others to help out if they can. Saved some dogs this way by finding people willing to drive a leg or two of the transport.

    You can find some pet transport pages on Facebook.

    Not all pet transports are taking place in cars. There are some truckers that transport and pilots.

  14. A link to share on the topic:


    “Every year, thousands of unwanted rescue dogs from Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi and other southern states are brought to New England where they are placed in new homes. The combination of an out-of-control dog population in much of the South, and successful spay and neuter programs in the Northeast, has created a supply and demand for adoptable dogs. But health officials and vets, including the Maine State veterinarian, are concerned that these migrant dogs could be bringing infectious diseases with them.”

    1. I know the transports I drive for do require a 2 week quarantine, health certs, and so on before moving the dogs. A lot of times, the dogs go from the shelters down south, into foster homes along the route for the two weeks, and then are added to a later transport. In our case, many of the dogs are going to Canada, so having the paperwork in order is a huge must, as crossing the border requires it.

  15. As I was driving some kittens to homes today, I had a thought. A little one but, here goes, do potential transporters know they can take mileage off their taxes? And if so, what about the vacation times – spring break, July 4th , Labor day ,summer time. If there were a way to coordinate it ie:”I’m going to blah-blah on vacation , I can take/bring x number of crates to/from with me. AND deduct my mileage.” Doable?

  16. I’m going to go a wee bit off topic here. Please know that I think the transports are great, and the people who participate are angels, but does anyone else marvel at the time and resources being expended moving animals around? If only we could get these animals adopted in their own communities, we could use those same resources to do so much for animals, and make the shelter experience so much more pleasant for the animals that have to endure it. Imagine if everyone spent the time they spent driving volunteering at a shelter, instead. And all the gas money was used to treat the sick, or the injured, or build more comfortable facilities.
    Maybe one day….

  17. It wasn’t until I became involved with a national rescue that I learned to search Yahoo groups, and join every major highway transport, and all those running through AZ. We can sit at home for a few hours, or help move dogs to safety. Also have used Op Roger and PNP, but I too wonder why more people don’t volunteer for this – if all our friends did one leg a year, we would not be driving every month. And please, why can we not post our planned trips (destination, dates, how much extra room)somewhere as one ride is always safer for the pet? Should we start another group for this purplose, and be certain all posters are already verifiable volunteers?

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