Many Ways To Save Lives

Part 1: Pup My Ride Los Angeles Style

Best Friends Animal Society’s Los Angeles Programs staff and volunteers have been pulling off a quiet miracle with their amazing Pup My Ride program. Over the last few years, they have transported over 2,500 small dogs to safe haven and ultimately to loving homes in other states. For most of these dogs, time had expired at one or another of the Los Angeles County or city shelters and they were facing death. To put that number of dogs into perspective, for those well versed in movement factoids, it is about 100 animals more than last year’s combined total intake of dogs for two of the nation’s most rightly respected no-kill shelters, Tompkins County SPCA in New York and Charlottesville Albemarle SPCA in Virginia.

Despite their popularity, or because of it, there is a glut of small dogs in LA area shelters. Some are puppy mill cast-offs, some are the result of the known, backyard breeder problem in the county and some the sad emblems of a disposable culture. Best Friends staffer, Robin Harmon, creator of the Pup My Ride project, offers this rule of thumb for how she negotiates the difficult task of which dogs to choose and which dogs to leave. “I pick the dogs that have been there the longest, the ones most likely to be put down.”

Meanwhile, shelters in some cities rarely see small dog breeds so, for example, if someone in Salt Lake City wanted, or for some reason could only manage, a small dog, their only option used to be to go to a pet store or breeder and buy one.  That fact not only supported the pet store / puppy mill cycle, it also kept potential new adopters out of the world of rescue.

Transporting small dogs to regions of high demand makes sense for a lot of reasons. Some folks want to adopt, but there are pet weight limits for their apartment or condo, others are too old or physically compromised to handle a large dog and others are set on a small breed – they’ll do the right thing if it’s easy, but they’re not going to do back flips and would just as soon buy as adopt. It makes no sense trying to up-sell such folks into adopting a shepherd, a big old lab mix or that sweet pit bull who greets everyone with a big wiggle.

Pup My Ride has also captured the hearts of some big name supporters including LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, actors Katherine Heigl, Denise Richards, Amy Smart and Dancing With The Stars / Maxim model, Joanna Krupa. Denise and Joanna are regulars and Katherine Heigl has helped fund some of the transports including occasional necessary medical care.

Pictured left, Denise Richards and Joanna Krupa, with Pup My Ride dogs getting ready to go

About 50 – 75 dogs per month are pulled from the brink and are loaded into vans in groups of 25 for the ride to new lives. Receiving shelters are backlogged with requests for small dogs, and all the dogs, even some pretty gnarly old critters are placed in good homes.

Exploiting these kinds of niche opportunities for saving lives is happening in different ways all over the country. Pup My Ride is not the answer to the homeless pets problem but for the nearly 2,500 dogs that have been caravanned to new lives, it’s the only answer they’ll need.

You can get detailed, how-to information on Pup My Ride and other life saving programs, and campaigns at Best Friends 2010 No More Homeless Pets National Conference, October 15-17, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Francis Battista