1,000 Miles in 24 hours
Every Sunday around midnight, a bright red schoolbus bearing photos of pets pulls into a parking lot filled with people holding leashes and empty pet carriers. The bus, which has been outfitted to safely carry as many as 225 pets, has been driving all day and night, and this is the halfway point. Staff and volunteers hustle to unload animals that had come dangerously close to being euthanized but are now safe thanks to one California man.
Rescue Express founder Mike McCarthy started the free transport service with the goal of giving abandoned pets a second chance at life. “California shelters are forced to euthanize 40,000 animals a year,” says McCarthy, “while there is a shortage of adoptable animals in Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Montana, and British Columbia.
The organization’s first transport took place on Valentine’s Day, 2015. One bus running every other weekend quickly turned into a fleet of three buses and weekly transports after requests from California shelters quickly multiplied. This June, the number of pets rescued —including dogs, cats, rabbits and even pigs — surpassed 10,000. The nonprofit hopes to another 12,000 this year.
All for free
Smaller rescue transports traveling the country are funded by fees charged to the rescues that utilize them. McCarthy chose to offer Rescue Express’ lifesaving service free of charge to prevent shelters’ and rescues’ lack of funding from resulting in needless euthanasia of adoptable pets. Each transport spans over 1,000 miles between Los Angeles, CA and Burlington, WA; weekly transports cost $3,000-$4,000. The organization operates exclusively on funding from donors and grantors such as Maddie’s Fund and the ASPCA.
Due to the high demand for rescue transport, Rescue Express recently expanded its operations with a second location in Rancho Santa Fe, CA. The organization is currently recruiting sending and receiving rescue partners in order to coordinate a second rescue route along Interstate 15, transporting animals from Southern California to Las Vegas, NV, Salt Lake City, UT, Boise, ID, and Montana.
The bulk of pets abandoned and surrendered to shelters and rescues in the northwestern US and Canada tend to be large dogs and older dogs and cats. Demand for small dogs, puppies and kittens in the region has skyrocketed in recent years. When potential adopters don’t find these animals in shelters, they turn to pet stores, breeders and all too often, puppy and kitten mills. The pets they purchase are most often fertile and go on to reproduce. By transporting animals from the southwest, groups like Rescue Express are saving thousands of animals a year, giving NW residents the opportunity to adopt, preventing support of animal mills, combatting pet overpopulation, and raising awareness about the importance of spay and neuter.
The organization’s story has been featured far and wide, by print, broadcast and digital outlets.
Rescues interested in being added to the list for upcoming information can contact firstname.lastname@example.org for information.