Sunday, July 19, 2009

Animal rescuers go to great lengths to save doomed dogs

By Bob Shaw 

To Jimmie Williams, the pickup truck looked like salvation on wheels.

"There they are! I can see 'em!" he shouted as the truck pulled into a parking lot.

Out tumbled three dogs, bedraggled after their three-day journey. Saved from being euthanized in Kentucky, they sniffed around the legs of their rescuers, looking a little confused.

"I can't tell you how good this feels," said Williams, who was delighted to be adopting a rescued dog.

The trip was another small triumph for a new — and controversial — transportation system for animals.

In only a few years, the network has sprung up, saving thousands of dogs and cats from euthanasia in states that can't — or won't — support their own animal-welfare systems.

Supporters call it a new "underground railway." And like the transportation system that saved slaves in the 19th century, this one runs only one direction — from south to north....

The flow into Minnesota is swelling rapidly — despite the fact that this state kills more than 20,000 of its own dogs and cats every year.

"This is compassion run amok," said Lynae Gieseke, director of the Minnesota Valley Humane Society.

Critics say the volunteers want to feel like heroes by making 11th-hour cross country rescues — when they could be saving animals in their own local shelters.

"This is like a mental illness in the animal-welfare community," said Mike Fry, manager of the Animal Ark No-Kill Shelter in Hastings. "We have a huge problem in shelters here. Why would you bring in any more dogs? We are oversaturated with dogs."

"It is crazy — it is insane. I don't get it," said Laura Johnson, president of the cat-rescue group SCRAM. "We have so many here who need help."

Even as they are swept up in the thrill of their missions, some volunteers wonder about the wisdom of what they are doing.

"It does seem odd to transport into a state that euthanizes. Maybe we should get our own house in order first," said Pete Howell, of Falcon Heights, who has flown his airplane on two missions to rescue two dogs.

"My attitude is: I am going to go flying anyway, so I might as well help."..."  More