Pup My Ride Spares the Lives of Tiny L.A. Dogs
Originally published August 2010 at www.tonic.com/article/small-la-dogs-facing-death-find-love-hundreds-of-miles-away/
This unique program shuttles an overabundance of Chihuahuas and other small breeds from L.A. shelters to the Humane Society of Utah, where a long list of people wait to adopt them.
They are the "in" dogs of Los Angeles — little poodles, Yorkies, Pomeranians and Chihuahuas. We can thank their rise in popularity to Paris Hilton, aficionado of teeny weeny dogs and films such as Beverly Hills Chihuahua, which made that breed a much sought-after commodity.
So while backyard dog breeders in the area see dollar signs, every day the shelters of L.A. overflow with tons of unwanted small dogs, now facing euthanasia. "It has a lot to do with Hollywood," says Robin Harmon, the adoption manager for Best Friends Animal Society in Los Angeles. "It got so popular for people to carry purse dogs."
Meanwhile, in Utah as well as many other areas of the country, small dogs for adoption are rare, usually only for sale. "It's senseless to have dogs euthanized in one area when dogs like that are in demand in another area," says Jessica Almeida, rescue and transfer coordinator for the Humane Society of Utah, which almost never had small dogs for adoption.
That was until about two-and-a-half years ago, when Almeida and Harmon figured out what to do: create a pipeline to whisk the tiny strays of L.A. to eager small-dog adopters in Utah. Called Pup My Ride, some 3,500 of the tiny pups have been saved from a city kill shelter, making the trip north to Utah in twice-monthly van rides.
"You have these little dogs and you can't imagine why no one would want them," says Almeida. "And to imagine you can make someone's dream come true, for a dog who had no future, is amazing. It is a fantastic feeling.
Pup My Ride has attracted strong celeb support, none bigger than that of Katherine Heigl and her mother, Nancy, whose Jason Debus Heigl Foundation funds the effort. "They're awesome," says Harmon. "We were struggling before trying to get funds."
Regular volunteers Denise Richards and model Dancing with the Stars alum Joanna Kruppa and other devoted dog lovers show up for transport days. The pups are washed with sweet-smelling shampoos, then driven hundreds of miles to a halfway point in Utah. There, they are transferred to a van from the Humane Society of Utah, which brings them back to the organization's base in Murray. Soon, Pup My Ride will expands its reach, taking dogs to Montana, another area with a small dog shortage.
The work, however, overwhelms at times. Volunteers must enter the shelter — called Baldwin Park — to find their small dogs to save; all the while, they witness so many sad faces of dogs who may soon be dead.
But focusing on those that are saved is the key to continuing this kind of work. Says devoted Pup My Ride volunteer and actress Stephanie Lemelin: "They (Pup My Ride dogs) know they aren't going to die, and they would have if they stayed. To help them, it's the most rewarding thing."
For more information on how you can help this cool program go to the Pup My Ride website at network.bestfriends.org/campaigns/puppymills/pages/pup-my-ride.aspx
To find out more about the Best Friends Animal Society, visit www.bestfriends.org/
To find out more about the Humane Society of Utah, visit www.utahhumane.org/
What do you think about the Pup My Ride program? Do you know of a similar program in your area? Tell us your comments below!
And check out these related articles:
Ellen DeGeneres and Freekibble Want Every Stray Pet to Have a Halo — www.tonic.com/article/ellen-degeneres-and-freekibble-join-forces-to-feed-homeless-cats-and-dogs-halo/
Pink River Dolphins Rescued — www.tonic.com/article/pink-river-dolphins-rescued/
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