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Second Chance Railroad
Finding forever homes for death-row dogs can mean lots of travel.
Katheryn Makowski with Dipper, one of the first dogs to ride the Rescue Waggin

When The Bark’s editor-in-chief Claudia Kawczynska agreed to adopt a pair of puppies slated for euthanasia from a Kentucky shelter, she imagined it would be a straightforward—if long-distance—operation. She quickly learned that transporting Kit and Holly from Kentucky to California in the middle of winter would be no easy feat. She ended up traveling to Tennessee to escort the pups home herself; the experience introduced her to the logistical challenges and committed volunteers behind pet transport.

Essentially, pet transport refers to a network of shelters, rescues and volunteers working together to relocate “doomed” dogs from overcrowded shelters, often in the South and Midwest, to regions where they should more easily find a home, often in the Northeast, and, less frequently, the West.

Some of these operations are fairly major. The “largest volume” pet transport effort is probably PetSmart Charities’ Rescue Waggin’, sponsored by Pedigree, which celebrated its fifth anniversary last week. By the end of the month, Rescue Waggin’ will have transported a total of 27,000 dogs, and expects to transport up to 10,000 dogs this year alone.

Transport has its critics. Some proponents suggest that dogs imported from other states make it harder on instate homeless dogs and that transport reduces the incentives for better spay/neuter in areas with overpopulation problems, according to a recent story in USA Today. Still, it’s likely that more dogs have a better chance—overall—with transport. I agree with JoAnne Yohannan of North Shore Animal League America in Port Washington, N.Y., who doesn’t think dogs should suffer for people’s inability to tackle overpopulation. She told USA Today, “If someone is drowning, you don’t just stand there and criticize their ability to swim.”

What do you think? I’d love to hear your stories of either helping dogs along the highways of America or a rescue dog’s epic journey to your front door. Look for more about pet transport in a future issue of The Bark.

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Lisa Wogan lives in Seattle and is the author of, most recently, Dog Park Wisdom.

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Photos courtesy PetSmart Charities. Thumbnail photo: Ernie, the 25,000th dog transported by Rescue Waggin’. Facing euthanasia at an overcrowded shelter in Tennesse, Ernie was relocated to Kansas City, Missouri, where he was adopted.

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