Free time is sparse for attorneys, but Phillips Murrah Director Heather Hintz uses hers to help animals travel across the country.
“I got involved in transports only recently, via my years-long involvement with animal welfare organizations, rescues, and spay/neuter campaigns,” Hintz said. “One of the animal welfare email lists I have subscribed to for a long time, cross-posted the need to move a deaf and blind dog named ‘Ned’ from Stephens County, Oklahoma to Portland, Oregon.”
Animals that require transport are typically dog and cat rescues that have special needs or can’t be placed where they are, or rescues that are about to be euthanized. Animal welfare networks, animal shelters, and volunteers arrange for the dog or cat to be moved to another place where someone has agreed to place the animal and provide surgery or other animal welfare-related needs, she said.
“In the case of ‘Ned,’ he was totally blind and deaf and couldn’t be placed—he was a special needs dog,” Hintz said. “Deaf Dogs of Oregon agreed to train him to respond to non-visual/non-verbal commands, find a home for him, and train the new owner as to how to deal with a deaf/blind dog.”
Various organizations function as transport organizations. Once a volunteer has been ‘vetted’ or recommended as trustworthy, that person gets on a transport list. When there is a need to move dogs or cats across the country to be re-homed, a very detailed route list is prepared by a transport coordinator, broken down into segments with start and stop times, she said.
“I thought it would be a rewarding experience, so I signed up,” Hintz said. “I made arrangements with the person who would be dropping Ned with me, and we met at a fast food place. That driver handed me Ned’s papers, his water bowl and some treats, and Ned got into my car and I drove him to Wichita, Kansas.
“I had made arrangements with the person picking up in Wichita to meet at a certain rest stop – when I met her, Ned hopped in her car and they left to meet the next person.”
From conception to completion, the details of transporting animals are particular and sensitive to ensure the animals’ safety.
“If you happen to be on the route, you get the email saying ‘transport assistance needed’ showing all the segments, and you can sign up for a segment,” Hintz said. “It is very structured – you have to make arrangements ahead of time and at each hand-off, and both the person handing off and the person picking up need to notify the coordinator on the spot that the hand-off has been completed.
“The coordinator closely monitors the entire transport.”
Though there are many details and hours involved in making sure the task is completed, the overall mission is personally rewarding.
“It was an incredible experience,” Hintz said. “There were lots of people working together to get this done, giving up time out of their busy schedules, all to save one dog.”
Hintz assisted in another transport last summer involving four white German Shepherd puppies moving from Austin, Texas to Colorado, and an older Jack Russell Terrier moving from Texas to the Wisconsin Dells. The mission was special in that they were all picked up in Wichita by 2 different pilots who flew them to Colorado and Wisconsin, for no cost, as volunteers.
Those interested in contributing can get more info from Deaf Dogs of Oregon’s website here.