NKLA’s premier transport program for small dogs is huge success.
February 25, 2013
By Denise LeBeau
Finally a blockbuster everyone can agree on. No, it's not a prequel or sequel to "Lassie Come Home," but it does involve dogs being united with loving families. It's the amazing success of the Pup My Ride program in 2012.
Few programs run as steadily and readily as Pup My Ride, a staple for getting primarily at-risk small dogs out of the shelter system in Los Angeles and into rescues where adopters are usually already lined up. From Oregon, to Washington, to Utah, to Colorado, to Montana, to Virginia, and the Northeast - the list continues to grow where Chihuahuas and other small breed dogs are in higher demand for adoption but are in shorter supply.
Pup My Ride is one of the progressive endeavors utilized by NKLA (No-Kill Los Angeles), a Best Friends initiative to end the killing of healthy and treatable animals in the city's shelters. Many of the receiving groups across the country are Best Friends No More Homeless Pets Network partners, who share our mission in their own communities and have extended a helping hand to these Angelinos in need.
Up, up and away
As the final numbers are being calculated, it's confirmed that over 2,700 dogs were transported last year alone. With a goal of 1,800 to begin with, the program ended the year with a joyous bang: December saw 12 transports saving 386 dogs and cats in time for the holidays. Beginning as a ground transport, Pup My Ride added some jet fuel to the program with the help of American Airlines in 2012.
Robin Harmon, Best Friends' Pup My Ride coordinator based in Los Angeles, has been with the program since its inception in 2008. She had been talking with fellow rescuer Jessica Cliver about solutions to the killing of small dogs. Robin was the person to approach the outreach director with an idea of getting these small dogs, who were perfectly lovely companions, out of the overcrowded shelters (often teaming with purebreds and "designer" dogs) and on the road to safety.
Unbeknownst to Robin, in Salt Lake City, Jessica Almeida, behavior and transfer director of the Humane Society of Utah (HSU), was considering how their shelter could have more small dogs available for adoption. There was a pet store just down the street, and HSU wanted to be able to compete by giving the public an option to adopt small dogs rather than buy them. Jessica, originally from Los Angeles, knew where small dogs were available. Thus, this mega-lifesaving machine emerged from the humblest of beginnings.
"We started as grassroots as it gets - we started pulling from the shelter and had one volunteer, Gayle Alexander, doing the transports on her days off. The first transport was under a dozen dogs to Salt Lake City. Now we have multiple transports per month, and Gayle is a full-time employee," shares Robin.
From rescued to rescuer
Snow, a four-year-old Chihuahua, came from the City of Los Angeles West Valley Animal Shelter. She was in the shelter with her seven puppies. Most people don't realize that nursing mothers and puppies are some of the most at-risk animals in the municipal shelter. So when Robin picked the brood to be part of the Pup My Ride program and make the trip to HSU, she literally made a lifesaving decision right then and there for eight little lives. Little did she know that Snow was going to repay the favor.
The pint-sized pooch was fostered by Tonya Ostrander and her daughter, Chehala. At the beginning of December, while the family was sleeping, carbon monoxide was filling their home. It was unusual for Snow to not sleep through the night, so when she started barking, they took notice. And it was a good thing they did - carbon monoxide poisoning is deadly. Three days after the ordeal, Tonya adopted Snow and added the hero as a permanent member to their family. And Snow's good deeds continue. Chehala is legally blind, and Tonya can breathe a little easier knowing her daughter has a best friend who is as smart as she is sweet.
Jessica is thrilled with how the program has been running: "Pup My Ride is important to help save at-risk animals because time and time again we have seen homeless dogs arrive here and watched them rapidly become valued family members of Utah residents - sometimes even superheroes!"
We can't guarantee that all the dogs transported via the Pup My Ride program are as savvy as Snow, but we can guarantee the unconditional love they will give you.
Find out more about the Pup My Ride program.
Learn more about NKLA and ways you can help.
Photos by Humane Society of Utah and Adopt-A-Dog