This post is written by Susie Iacobucci-Alexander, a volunteer with Muttley Crue and Cleveland Animal Control. Susie is a friend of mine and one of the most dedicated dog lovers I know. She fosters, volunteers and just generally loves dogs every chance she gets. Susie often posts photos on Facebook of the Freedom Rides she does, so I asked her to write about her experiences as a transportation volunteer for local rescue groups. I can’t think of a better feeling than being there for that moment when a dog is released from the shelter to begin his or her journey to a new life. Read on to learn more about freedom rides and how you can get involved.
Have you seen any cars driving around town lately, emblazoned with the words “FREEDOM RIDE!” and wondered what the heck those people are doing? Well here to fill you in, a Freedom Ride expert!
In the animal rescue community, this phrase is a very happy sign that some fortunate critter (or critters) is on their first trip to FREEDOM – most likely from a high-kill Animal Control facility or city/county pound, such as the Cleveland Animal Control facility, which is right in our backyard.
Giving Freedom Rides is one of my absolute most FAVORITE parts of volunteering for animal advocacy groups. There is such a feeling of unbridled happiness and joy when you get to help a dog break out of a pound! Dogs may be scared at first, or they may literally jump out of their cages with joy (or perhaps they are just trying to escape because they are stuck in a tiny cement cell all day!), but when they get to go outside and into a car, something tends to click and they realize don’t have to go back to that awful place – and seeing this makes my heart sing!
Personally, I do freedom rides for 2 main groups – Cleveland Animal Control and Muttley Crue – but there are groups all over Cleveland and in every other city in need of transport volunteers. You can even track your mileage and deduct them on your taxes, too!
Cleveland Animal Control (AKA CAC and their new re-branding of City Dogs Cleveland) has a group of dedicated Transportation Volunteers, amongst other groups of volunteers. Muttley Crue doesn’t have a specific group of drivers, but my schedule allows me to get dogs from pounds in the mornings and get them to their vet appointments, foster homes, adopters, etc. Rescue groups also often need volunteers to drive their adoptables to follow up vet appointments, adoption events, meet and greets, training sessions, boarding stints, and many other places – so it’s not just a job for people with free mornings.
Most rescue organizations have no paid staff, and rely solely on the time and effort of volunteers to get their animals to and from wherever they need to be – so there’s always a dog somewhere that needs a lift. If you have some free time and a reliable car, rescue groups would love to have you on their team!
When I am getting a dog (or any other animal – CAC has had cats and even chickens!) from a pound, I like to make a big deal out of the fact that they are escaping the needle of death, and I decorate my car in an attempt to help spread the word about Freedom Rides and pet adoption. It may not have a big impact, but if I can spark the curiosity of even one other driver on the road, and get them to go look up “Shelter Freedom Ride, “ then I am happy with that – it’s a start!
If you want to become a Freedom Ride Volunteer, or general transport volunteer, check out your local rescue groups and city/county pound. A few helpful links and tips:
- Get a car seat cover! You never really know how the dogs will react to cars. I have had every type of passenger from perfect angel to barfy, diarrhea -y messes….so you want something that covers your whole seat and is preferably easy to wash and water resistant! This is what I have – but trash bags and old blankets works quite well, too. . http://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B003M0EJ2A/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o05_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
- Get a little bin of doggie (or kitty) necessities together and store it in your trunk. I keep mine stocked with various sized toys and biscuits to keep them busy, extra slip leads/leashes (most pounds don’t give you a leash, so you will need your own), a dish for water (for long trips), plastic bags for messes, pet wipes, and paper towels, and good-smelling spray (pound puppies tend to be extremely stinky little buggers).
- Before letting the dog jump into your car, walk them around outside for 5-10 minutes to give them some time to do their business and shake some of the pound puppy stink off!
- TAKE PHOTOS! Everyone loves some good Freedom Ride pics
- Some drivers like to take pups to a drive through for their first delectable Freedom Meal – I normally just bring them nice treats, but feel free to make your own tradition!
- Track your work for tax breaks! http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/remind-nonprofit-volunteers-tax-deductions-29659.html
- Sign up to help local rescues/pounds! (there are of course way more than those listed here, these are just some I have coordinated with personally!)
- Cleveland Animal Control has volunteer orientations – Check here for upcoming sessions -https://www.facebook.com/CityDogsCleveland#!/events/776113802477938/
- Muttley Crue – http://www.muttleycruerescue.com/volunteerfosterdonate.html
- Secondhand Mutts – http://secondhandmutts.org/volunteer/volunteer-application/
- Multiple Breed Rescue – http://mbrohio.com/volunteer/
- DASH – http://daniellesanimalsafehaven.webs.com/
- Thea’s Promise – http://www.theaspromise.org/how-to-help.html (they are based in PA but pull a lot of dogs from Cleveland)
- South Hills Pet Rescue & Resort (also based in PA but save a lot of Cleveland dogs) – http://www.southhillspetresort.net/pittsburgh-pa-dog-training.htm
- Royalty Dog Rescue – http://www.royaltydogrescue.com/Volunteering.html
- Paws and Prayers – http://www.pawsandprayers.org/HelpUs/Volunteer/tabid/67/Default.aspx
And in case you need some additional inspiration – the shelter freedom ride movement is sweeping the nation! http://barkpost.com/shelter-freedom-ride-pics-that-will-melt-your-heart/
Contact your local rescue group to find out what help they need transporting dogs. This is a fun, easy, relatively inexpensive way to make a big impact on a dog’s life!