Many people are looking for a pet. Many shelter pets need permanent homes. The biggest problem is that these animals and people are not in the same places.
This stumbling block is resolved in the most imaginable way of the 21st century.
Social media sites are more than a place to keep in touch with friends. They also connect dogs and cats to forever homes. That’s where the likes of Claire Boles, Woody Adkins and Diana Pietregallo come in.
They are one of countless volunteers known nationally as Pet Carriers. They are part of Facebook groups that make themselves available to move pets from shelters to rescue organizations or to foster or permanent homes.
“A lot of these little rescues don’t have the manpower to drive around the state to get dogs,” Boles said. “It’s a super cool thing for people who don’t want to commit to long-term or short-term fostering. You figure three or four hours a day and you’re done. That’s a good thing for people who can’t accommodate or don’t have much time.
Boles got involved three years ago when a friend who volunteers at an animal shelter texted him about a kitten at a New Iberia shelter who needed to go to a Prairieville veterinarian for a surgical intervention. The friend asked Boles if she would carry it.
Boles drove to the shelter, picked up the kitten, and delivered it. The kitten underwent surgery, was sent to foster care and has since been adopted. It hooked her. She estimates that she has traveled 25,000 miles in a year carrying pets.
Not all of these trips are as straightforward as Boles’ first. The South has a lot of unwanted animals due to year-round heat and lax restrictions on ranchers. The opposite has led to a shortage of adoptable dogs in the North.
“It’s a bit like a relay,” said Pietregallo. “We put these animals back along the way. Sometimes it’s a trip of 30 stages, and there are 30 different drivers who volunteer. Sometimes it’s just a few.
That’s where pet carrier groups on Facebook come in. There are many, with a coordinator enlisting volunteers to bring pets to their forever homes. Eryn Leather, who lives in northern Colorado, is a disabled Navy veteran who created Just a Girl Moving Dogs. She coordinates moves in the lower 48 states, many of which are from Louisiana and Texas, she said.
“There are so many babies that need to be moved,” Leathers said.
When someone who wants to move a dog contacts her, Leathers contacts her group. Depending on the length of the move, it can take anywhere from 4 to 12 hours to mount a run. Leathers said she has five to eight races a week, and two or three might be cross-country. The longest race she completed was 3,546 miles and involved 47 riders.
“In moving animals, I found a purpose that allows me to have something bigger than me,” Leathers said. “I have something that means more, and I’m saving lives. Because I’ve moved animals, I’ve also given people who need something to do, need a purpose, need something. something that makes them feel like they’re changing something for someone, I gave them the opportunity to do that. It’s pretty amazing.
The problem is not going away, even though adoptions through the Companion Animal Alliance are increasing. The alliance had 2,626 of its animals adopted in 2020, 3,649 in 2021 and is on track to have more than 4,000 adoptions this year, said Jillian Sergio, executive director. The pet carrier knows they will be needed for some time to come.
“It’s like trying to empty the ocean with a teaspoon when it comes to helping these animals,” Pietregallo said. “They are just abandoned by people. So animal lovers want to volunteer to save as many of them as possible.
“It keeps me going. … Adopters are so grateful that you gave their dog a chance.