I have been talking about my dog transporting endeavour with a lot of people and I've gotten a fair amount of questions from them, many of the same, so I thought I'd write up an FAQ on what it is I do.
Do you work through a particular organization, like the Humane Society?
No. This is set up by various rescue organizations in the USA and Canada. Someone finds dogs (or cats or bunnies or horses) from a place where they're in dire need of help (kill shelters, etc.) and says "I can take this animal into my rescue." From there, the coordinator puts out a call for people to help and if they can fill the transport, the run will go.
How do I find out about these transports?
I made a post earlier with some information, so you can read more about it there. Basically, I use one of two major sites to find out what's going on each weekend: Acme Pet Transport has a message board where I look for transports in my area. You can also post your information so that those looking to fill a transport can contact you. The yahoo group, Canine Rescue, also has information on transports. It's a very busy group, so I find it easiest to filter them to one folder and search for messages that contain "NY."
How exactly do these transports work? How do you get these animals across country?
Each person will volunteer for one leg of a longer trip. You drive your leg, meet up with the next person, and then pass the animal(s) off to them.
What kinds of animals are being transported?
There are transports for every animal imaginable, from rabbits to cats to dogs to horses. I mainly focus on dogs, since dogs are my passion. The dogs can be of any size. I've transported two 5 lb beagle puppies and a St. Bernard/Bernese Mountain dog puppy who was 10 months old and weighed over 85 lb.
How do I know specifically what animals are on each transport?
Each call for transport will include information on the dog(s) needing help, including age, gender, neutered/spayed, weight, and any personality information they know of. They will tell you if the dog needs to be crated or tethered (tethering is clever way of keeping the dogs in the car when you open the door -- you do up the seatbelt through the loop in their leash -- this means that even if the dog tries to bolt when you open the car door, they're safely attached).
How many animals go on each transport?
This varies greatly. I've been on some transports where I've taken just one dog. Those are generally the easy ones! I've also been on two transports where I've taken three dogs each time. I've seen transports that have had several animals (upwards of 15 or more!) where they required 2, 3, or even 4 drivers for each leg.
I only have a small car. Can I still do transporting?
Yes! I drive a 1998 Chevy Prism. It's a pretty small car. Having a small car just means you have to pick and choose which transports you can comfortable do. If there are too many dogs or too many large dogs, you just don't do it. There are plenty of transports for just one dog or for a couple smaller dogs. You do what you can. Any bit helps!
I don't own a crate of any size. Can I still do transporting?
Yes! Some dogs will need to be crated, but many will not. I've only used my crate once on a transport (though I wish I had brought it for another one!). The rest of the times I've tethered the dogs.
How do I know a transport is going through my area? How do I know which legs are available?
Each post for the transports is set up in a very specific way to make it as easy as possible for the coordinators to fill and the volunteers to find a leg they can cover. Here is an example of part of a run sheet:
Fredonia, NY to Buffalo, NY
47 mi, 1 hr
10:45 AM – 11:45 AM
Buffalo, NY – Henrietta, NY (Rochester)
69 mi, 1 hr 20 min
11:45 AM – 1:05 PM
Henrietta, NY – Syracuse, NY
85 mi, 1 hr 35 min
1:05 PM – 2:40 PM
Looking at the sheet, you know exactly what time, how far, and where the legs are. You know what has been filled when the message is sent out and what hasn't been filled.
What happens to the dogs if a transport doesn't get filled?
I've seen a handful of these transports not get filled (a surprising amount do) . Generally, they try to fill it the next weekend. I've also seen transports get postponed due to weather. I live in an area of the country that is precarious for weather (snow/ice/wind/sleet/etc.) from about November to April. I've had transports I was supposed to help with postponed and I've helped ones that were postponed.
Ok. I want to get involved...how does all of this work?
Let me lay out the steps for it all:
1. Find a leg of a transport you're interested in taking.
2. E-mail the transport coordinator. Be careful when e-mailing! These are often crossposted by some well-meaning person, so the person who is sending the e-mail you received might very well not be the transport coordinator. The information they'll need from you is your name, e-mail address, home phone number, cell phone number, and car information (make/model/sometimes license plate #).
3. The transport coordinator will get back to you and let you know if the leg you wanted is taken or if they now have you down for the leg.
4. They will generally put you on the list of people involved in the transport at this time, so you'll get updates as to whether or not the transport is filling. Hopefully all the legs will get filled by the time the weekend rolls around!
5. Once it's filled, the coordinator will send out an e-mail with everyone's information on it. if the transport is monitored, they will also include their phone number.
6. At this point, you should contact the person before and after you to find out where they want to meet. In NYS, where I do my driving, we often meet at the park and rides right at the Thruway exits. People also meet in hotel parking lots, gas stations right off of exits, etc. Generally people who have been doing this for awhile have spots they prefer for meeting so let them guide you in picking a spot.
7. During the transport, if you're one of the later legs, you will get multiple updates from the coordinator letting you know how things are going, if anything has come up concerning the dogs (fighting or health problems), and if the transport is running ahead or behind. You will occasionally even get pictures of the dogs forwarded from others who have already done their legs.
8. Plan to arrive at the meeting spot about 10 minutes before the other person is supposed to arrive. This is especially important if there are multiple dogs. You can help each other get the dogs out, walk them, and let them get a potty break. Things go much smoother when there are more people there to help out!
9. When the other person arrives, the first thing you want to do is get the paperwork. I know that going right to the dog will be awfully tempting! But most of these dogs are traveling with important paperwork and sometimes even food. You'll want to have that in the car ahead of time.
10. Once you take off and drive your leg, you will repeat the procedure at the next stop on the trip. Again, make sure you hand off the paperwork before the dog! Often, people will give the dog a little bit of water between legs. Since they are allowed a potty break every hour to hour and a half, this is ok.
11. Once the dog is off with the next person, you need to call the transport coordinator and update him/her on the progress. That way the rest of the group still yet to go is kept up-to-date.
12. At this point you're done! You can now go home, feel good about what you did, and upload any photos you took that you want to share! I always take my camera along so I can keep pictures of all the dogs I've helped.
Should I bring anything with me on the transport?
I always make sure I have the following items: paper towels, a pooper scooper, some plastic bags (i.e. like the ones you get at your grocery store), a pet blanket, an extra leash, a bowl and some water, and some old towels. I also always bring a book (in case you arrive too early or the transport is running behind) and my camera.
Phew! I think that's all I can think of for now. Please comment if you have any questions.