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Dog's Life: Humane
Dogs On Board
Operation Roger: Truckers hauling rescue dogs home

When Marty discovered Jackson (bottom, left), shunned by a pack of wild dogs in a Louisiana swamp, he rescued the Beagle-mix, assuming he was another Hurricane Katrina victim. After some time, Marty became ill and could no longer care for his dog. Eventually, poor Jackson ended up in a shelter—homeless again. When a rescue organization in Lakeside, Calif., offered to take Jackson it seemed a mixed blessing. After all, the rescue was nearly 2,000 miles away near San Diego, which was besieged by wildfires.

A trucker named Nancy learned about Jackson through a volunteer transport organization called Operation Roger. In late December, she loaded the dog into her rig in LaPlace, La., for a long drive west. During much of the trip, Jackson sat on Nancy’s armrest with his head on her shoulder and watched the scenery pass by. He was not alone. For many shelter and rescue animals, transportation provided by volunteers means the difference between life and death.

When Bark editor Claudia Kawczynska adopted Kit and Holly from a rescue in Kentucky last year, she was initiated into the formal and informal network of individuals and organizations with planes, trucks and automobiles that get dogs-in-need to places where their future is brighter.

Inspired and intrigued by this grassroots cooperative effort, TheBark.com has been talking to the people who make these daily efforts a reality. Earlier this year, we met the women behind Colorado Animal Rescue Express (C.A.R.E.), a van transport group out of Denver; Dawn Painter, an individual animal welfare advocate who uses email to spread the word for animals in need; and Pilots ‘N Paws, a collection of general aviation pilots who volunteer planes for speedy transfers.

In this our final installment on the underdog railway, we talk to Sue Wiese, founder of Operation Roger, a non-profit organization comprised of regional and long-haul truckers who volunteer their time to transport needy pets at the same time they do their job delivering freight around the country. Wiese (pronounced We-cee) is a trucker and animal lover who knows how to get the most out of her telephone headset. She talked to us by phone from her home in the “tiny town” of Joshua, Tex., south of Fort Worth, where she lives with two dogs—Buddy, an American Bulldog, and a Dachshund named Huck, short for Huckleberry.

The Bark: How did Operation Roger get started?
Sue Wiese: Remember how you felt after Katrina? All the animals’ and the people’s anguish and not leaving, you know the whole thing. Well, I was driving at the time, and I just going down the road praying. I said, ‘Lord, what can I do, I’m just a truck driver?’ And I heard one word and that was ‘transport.’ I was like, ‘Huh? What do you mean transport? How am I supposed to transport?”

I had heard about PetFinder.com, so when I was able to stop, I went online. I found out that the transport of pets was an everyday thing, not just disaster-related. I called a friend of mine, and then my daughters and … they immediately could see the big picture.

They talked me into going on a truck [call-in] show on XM radio. My hands were shaking; I was scared to talk on live radio. So I typed out what I needed to say. When the guy finally got to me he said, ‘What can I do for Classy Lady?’ ‘Well,’ I said, ‘I’d like to know if there are any drivers interested in an operation to move needy pets across the country.’

There was absolute silence. You don’t have silence on radio. From the left temple to the right temple was this thought: “Oh no, I’ve laid an egg now.” He and his wife finally got over the shock. The talk was about 15 minutes long, and I had about 12 calls to return by the time we ended.

Why were they so surprised?
Generally, callers say, ‘Hi Bill, I’d like to hear this song’ or ‘What do you think about the new regulations?’ So this took them completely off guard.

Of the 12 calls, how many were truckers interested in driving?
All of them, and many of them are still with me.

Once you had drivers who were willing, how did you connect with dogs and cats needing transportation?
I went onto PetFinder.com, into their transport area, and put our name out there. We had decided on the name Operation Roger by that time because I’d used the word “operation” in the statement I made. And I’d had a little dog named Roger, so in memory of him we just put the two together. [Operation Roger now has its own website with a pet board listing of transports needed.]

Are drivers taking legs and connecting with other drivers or do they frequently drive from point A to the destination?
We prefer the latter, obviously. Sometimes they have to meet and transfer. For when that can’t happen, we are trying to build a nationwide network of what we call “layover homes” and also shuttle drivers.

Are those people who keep the animals overnight if necessary during a transfer or shuttle dogs from one truck transport to another when a leg isn’t covered?
Right. We had one dog at a layover home for a month, before we could get a driver through there. They know there’s that possibility. But we try to keep it short. We just had a new layover home come onboard for us. Yesterday, we called. He drove 70 miles to Fargo, North Dakota, picked up a Boxer from a driver who lost her job. He’s keeping it at his place up in Minnesota until another driver can get there.

That’s a terrible reason to need a layover home, isn’t it?
It is. We’ve had layover homes because of car wrecks, anything you can imagine.

Are you transferring the dogs from a rescue or shelter to another rescue or shelter?
Generally, it’s from a rescue or shelter to an adoptive home. That’s the most usual. Then it may be to a foster or it could be to another shelter that has more room in another part of the country. And also we do it for individuals. Maybe you’ve moved and you couldn’t take your animal with you at the time, now you’re able to have him. We’ve transported some lost during a move. We have one on the board that got stolen, and they found it and now we’re trying to get it home.

How many drivers do you have right now?
Between 30 and 35, and we’re needing three times that many.

You just celebrated your fourth anniversary in September, how many animals have you transported in this time?
401.
    
Does that include dogs and cats?
Mostly dogs. But we have dogs and cats. I think there have been four ferrets, four ratties, and a hamster.

You were a trucker? Are you retired?
Reluctantly retired. I was injured almost two years ago. I’m trying to get back out onto the road.

Tell me about the operation’s namesake, Roger?
I adopted Roger from a shelter in Grand Prairie. He’d been a stray. I had him on board for a little over two years, when he suddenly passed away.

What’s it like to have a dog companion in your truck?
It is actually safer. It’s wonderful. You have someone to talk to, someone to care for. I say someone, because they really become a person to you. They know you just as well as anybody can. They make you get out and walk them. Even those with cats on board enjoy companionship. We have one team that has two cats onboard, when they’re stressed, they can just sit there and stroke them. That purr is relaxing.

Now if we can just convince more of the trucking companies, it would be great.

Are there companies that prohibit dogs on board?
Many of them. One of our major companies, which we had quite a few drivers from, suddenly [told drivers they had] 30 days get rid of all their dogs. You talk about drivers quitting right and left and raising holy Cain.

So trucking companies are not seeing the advantages of dogs onboard?
You know, it’s like the proverbial bad apple in the barrel. You can have a bad owner who will let the dog just tear up a truck, and that’s quite expensive. Plus there are places you go that don’t allow pets on the property.

What do shippers have to supply?
We request the shipper provide at least 10 days of food that the animal is used to eating. That keeps down digestive problems. Plus, blankets, harness, leashes and collars. For dogs that are 30 pounds or less, we ask for a crate. That’s kind of the largest crate that we can comfortably fit in the cab. Many dogs lay their heads on our knees to get stroked.

That’s got to be so great on a long haul.
It really is. The trucking industry, the companies and the general public too, all they see is this big 70-foot monster. They don’t see the human being behind the wheel and realize that that human being is a human being, has a family. We're hoping Operation Roger shows we have hearts too. The biggest comment made by our drivers has been that they feel like they’re giving back to the community, which they can’t do it at home, because they’re not there.

News: Guest Posts
Wisconsin Passes Puppy Mill Law
Tireless advocate dies soon after signing

Mark Markarian’s posted a happy story with a sad ending on his blog, Animals & Politics, today. Last week, soon after Wisconsin became the 10th state to adopt legislation cracking down on puppy mills (“requiring licensing, inspection and basic standards of humane care at large-scale dog breeding operations”), one of the prime movers behind the law died. A tireless voice for animal rights and puppy mill crusader, Joyce Kitsemble, attended the signing ceremony at the capitol and fell ill. She was taken to the hospital where she died. As Markarian points out, the law is a tribute to Kitsemble’s inspiring effort, and hopefully will bring some consolation to the many loved ones and admirers she leaves behind.

News: Guest Posts
Update: Puppy Mill Bust
One couple pleads guilty, others face charges
The Seattle Times reported that the couple arrested for running a puppy mill in January, where 160 dogs were found in deplorable conditions in Gold Bar, Wash., pled guilty on Nov. 20 to six counts each of first-degree animal cruelty. (Bark covered this bust with a story by Jan Rodak in the May/Jun 2009 issue.) The prosecution is seeking a 12-month sentence for each defendant.  

A second couple faces multiple felony animal-cruelty charges in Skagit County, Wash., where they were arrested and hundreds more dogs were seized in a related puppy mill. But so far no charges have been filed Renee Roske, the kennel owner for whom the Gold Bar defendants claimed to be working. (The Times reports that the Skagit County defendants are Roske's parents.) An investigation of Roske is reportedly ongoing—and we can only hope she will be held accountable for masterminding all this cruelty. 

News: Guest Posts
Dog Duct Taped and Abandoned
Sadly, this isn’t an isolated abuse case.

When my cat went missing for 12 hours a couple weeks ago, I thought I had imagined every possible worse-case scenario. But what happened to Daisy the Beagle never would’ve occurred to me. She had been missing from her upstate New York home for two weeks when a hunter located her on his property, shoved inside a plastic bag and duct taped so only her nostrils were exposed. She was in really bad shape, but miraculously was reunited with her family and is on the road to recovery. As I researched Daisy’s story, I found five more cases of animals being duct taped and thrown away in garbage bins. Incredibly, they all survived, too, but in every instance except one, the perpetrator has yet to be caught. The New York State Humane Society is offering a $500 reward for information leading to the capture of Daisy’s abuser and the Humane Society of the United States pledged $2,500 to assist the family with her medical costs. If you’d like to help find who did this to Daisy or defray some of her vet care, donations may be sent to the New York State Humane Society, PO Box 3068, Kingston, N.Y. 12402 or call (845) 336-4514.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Holiday Travel With Pets
Tips from American Humane

Every year, millions of people travel with their dogs over the holidays. And every year, many of those people vow not to do it again next year. Long car rides and airplane rides can be extremely stressful for our dogs and for us as well.

Considering safety issues such as crates for car travel and whether a pet is healthy enough (physically and emotionally) to travel by air is important. If the dog is too big to fly in the cabin, going by car or briefly boarding your dog may have enough advantages to outweigh the disadvantages. It is essential to teach your dog to be comfortable in a crate before driving over the river and through the woods for hours with your dog in that crate.

Pre-trip planning such as making advance reservations at pet friendly hotels, bringing along copies of medical records in case you need to see a veterinarian while you are away, and ordering up-to-date ID tags with the contact information of your destination are all ways to make your trip smoother.

American Humane offers a more thorough list of holiday travel tips for pets. Bon voyage!

News: Guest Posts
Help Pets of the Homeless
Why and how to help.

I often think that having a dog would be a great comfort to me if I was forced to live on the street. So when I see a pup curled up next to someone who appears to be homeless, I have mixed feelings. I think it must be a benefit for the person but I worry about them both. I worry that the dog, just like the person, may not be getting enough food, water or medical attention. And I know that having a dog can be a liability on the street, since most shelters and other services have no place for them.

This week is a perfect time to do something to help the homeless and their pets. Each year, one week before Thanksgiving (Nov. 15-21), the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) and the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness co-sponsor National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. During this week, a number of schools, communities and cities take part in a nationwide effort to bring greater awareness to the problems of hunger and homelessness. This year, Feeding Pets of the Homeless is joining their efforts to draw attention to the pets of the homeless. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, there are an estimated 3.5 million homeless persons in the United States, and the number is increasing. NCH has also estimated that up to 10 percent of homeless people have at least one pet. For those with pets, finding pet food, shelter and other assistance is more difficult.

Feeding Pets of the Homeless has more than 200 volunteer/collection sites in a number of cities across the country. Donations of pet food and pet supplies are needed. The organization has more than 100 distributing organizations in place that have agreed to offer the pet food to the homeless and needy. They include local food banks, food pantries, homeless shelters and soup kitchens.

In addition, help for many homeless with pets comes from free clinics that provide a basic check up, vaccines, medicines, flea and tick treatments, spay or neuter, along with pet food and other pet products. These clinics depend on grants to licensed veterinarians from Feeding Pets of the Homeless and the generosity of many of the veterinarian’s distributors who donate products. Grants are made possible from donations from the public to Feeding Pets of the Homeless.

Find a list of pet food collection sites in your community. If there isn’t a collection site near you, contact Feeding Pets of the Homeless to learn how to start one.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Who’s Responsible?
Mass. landlords may be liable for their tenants’ dogs.

It’s not easy finding a pet-friendly apartment. There are many areas I’ve been unable to consider because none of the affordable rentals would allow my pups. From paying higher rent to sneaking dogs out for potty breaks, pet lovers often go to great lengths to live with their furry family members.

Now it could be even harder to find dog friendly housing, particularly for those breeds that are all too often stereotyped. In Massachusetts, the Court of Appeals has ruled that a jury can decide whether a landlord is liable for injuries caused by a tenant’s dog. The ruling came after a 10-year-old boy was attacked by a Pit Bull in his apartment building.

Unfortunately, the Court of Appeals left the door wide open for breed discrimination:

“While the defendants may not be held strictly liable by virtue of [the dog’s] breed, knowledge of that breed and its propensities may properly be a factor to be considered in determining whether the defendants were negligent…”

I agree that landlords have a responsibility to keep their tenants safe, but as I’ve said before, I don’t believe it’s an issue of breed. I fear that this ruling will only cause more tenants to ban Pit Bulls or even ban all dogs. I really wish more tenants would require dogs to pass a measure of responsible ownership, like the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen Test.

News: Guest Posts
It’s Raining Cats and Dogs in Michigan
At the groundbreaking symposium on animal welfare.

Today, the eyes of many in the world of animal care are focused on Michigan State University (home of non-animal mascot, Sparty the Spartan), where veterinarians and animal welfare experts are meeting for the first-of-its-kind Joint International Educational Symposium on Animal Welfare.

“We think that this symposium could have tremendous impact,” says Dr. Ron DeHaven, CEO of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), in a video promoting the event. “By bringing together animal welfare experts from around the globe, we hope to influence standards of care for animals of all kinds at the international, national and even local levels.”

Veterinary experts, animal scientists, political figures and leaders of humane and welfare organizations from around the world (including speakers from North America, South America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand) will attend the two-and-a-half-day symposium, which was developed and is being co-sponsored by the AVMA and the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC).

News: Guest Posts
Big Sky Humanitarians
Rolling Dog Ranch Animal Sanctuary honored by ASPCA.

I’m incredibly excited to share that Rolling Dog Ranch Animal Sanctuary in Ovando, Mont., has received the ASPCA’s 2009 Henry Bergh Award. It’s one of seven humanitarian awards given annually by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and represents a huge shout-out for a couple who devote every day of their lives and all their energy to providing sanctuary to around 70 disabled dogs, cats and horses—half of them blind.

I first profiled the sanctuary and Steve Smith and Alayne Marker, the husband/wife team who created and operate Rolling Dog Ranch, in the Nov/Dec 2006 issue of Bark. Since then, I’ve been privileged to visit the sanctuary several times. I can attest to the couple’s amazing compassion and dedication to disabled animals, their drive to achieve their mission of providing a full, happy life for the challenged animals that most would consider useless and unlovable. Steve and Alayne would be the first to point out that the unconditional love returned by the animals they care for repays them a thousandfold. When I’m there, working hard to help out anyway I can, I’m blissfully happy, whether cleaning horse stalls or playing with the dogs. It’s truly a special place.

“This is wonderful exposure for the animals, a way to strengthen the voice for all disabled animals,” Alayne said, when I called to congratulate her. “They have that right to a good life. To those individuals who nominated us, and decided to recognize us in this way, we’re very grateful.”

When the ASPCA's phone call came last week, “it was a total surprise, which makes it more fun and stupendous because we had no idea we were even being considered,” Alayne said.  “It’s a great honor, very humbling.”

Alayne will travel to New York City to receive the award at a luncheon on Oct. 29. Steve will remain behind, feeding the animals and cleaning up all the poop.

In the meantime, Rolling Dog Ranch is currently in first place in a vote-in contest on TheAnimalRescueSite.com Shelter Challenge. Visit the Rolling Dog Ranch blog to see how your vote can make a big difference. And while you’re there, delight in reading the heartwarming and inspiring stories of the animals on the ranch. Maybe you’ll even be inspired to make a donation.

News: Guest Posts
Knoxville Shelter Expands
Despite tough times, some good news in the South.

These days, it’s rare to hear good news from an animal shelter. The recession has put a squeeze on donor dollars at the same time more and more families are forced to surrender animals due to foreclosure or other economic challenges. The Young-Williams Animal Center, the shelter for Knoxville and Knox County, Tenn., is a shining exception. Next March, the center will open a satellite facility with a high-visibility adoption center, a stand-alone spay/neuter clinic, and, if all goes well, a dog park.

The project is a unique public and private collaboration between The Friends of the Young-Williams Animal Center (with support from the Aslan Foundation) and Knoxville citizens Randy and Jenny Boyd. Randy Boyd is CEO of Radio Systems, which produces and markets PetSafe brand products and the Invisible Fence and operates PetSafe Village, a local daycare and kennel. The new facility will include space for Invisible Fence and a small PetSafe doggie daycare.

While it might seem unusual to couple a profit with a nonprofit venture, Tim Adams, executive director of the Young-Williams Animal Center, expects a synergy between visitors to the shelter and Boyd’s customers that will benefit everyone concerned.

For Boyd, partnering up on the new facility is just one of several pro-dog moves. He has also opened the PetSafe Village dog park to the public and contributed toward establishing two other public off-leash parks in the county. With each step, he moves toward his stated goal of making Knoxville the most pet-friendly city in America. This is a tall order for a state with a poor animal welfare ranking and a high euthanasia rate. But solutions require creative thinking, and I’m thrilled to see initiatives like Knoxville’s.

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