Wishbone’s transport program: The underground railroad rides again!
The first time I heard about Wishbone’s Transport Program I thought immediately of the
underground railroad of Civil War days: the rescued [in this case dogs and cats] are driven
to a rendezvous point where they’re handed off to the next driver who takes them to meet
the next driver. And on and on until they reach their destination: a rescue organization or
foster home in another part of Michigan or even another state.
The brainchild of Wishbone’s Adoption Coordinator Karen Kazyak, the Transport Program
is the reason the “space needed euthanization rate” at the Allegan County Animal Shelter
has been near zero since Wishbone took over management. The cremation company used
to pick up from the Shelter weekly, often up to 50 bodies a month.
Karen is in touch with a network of shelters around Michigan and neighboring states,
many of which operate at less than capacity. Since the Allegan Shelter is usually close to
capacity, dogs and cats are transported to shelters which have room for them — the next
stop towards their finding their forever homes.
The logistics are mind-boggling: each run can involve coordinating meeting times and
places for up to 3-4 drivers and shelters. There is usually a transport run three out of every
four weeks a month. Karen personally transports 5-6 animals a week on her commute
between Ann Arbor and Saugatuck. On July 9, 2012, she transported 39 cats and 4 dogs!
Our shelter partners
Because of her many years in animal rescue, Karen had many contacts to assist her in
finding shelters to transfer to. She uses shelters with high visibility, quick placement rates
and comprehensive adoption programs. Those shelters also monitor our website looking
for pets they feel they can place.
Sometimes she’ll receive a call from a shelter saying, “We have a fantastic home for a
________. Please let us know about the next one you have come in.”
Wishbone now has over 120 approved state-wide rescues and shelters it works with, and
there are 50 new rescue organizations seeking approval from Wishbone.
For a shelter to be approved to receive our dogs and cats, they must be a state licensed
shelter; be a non-profit [501c3]; provide two vet references; and copies of their adoption
contract and application. We also review their protocol for the adoption and surrender of
animals and call animal control to see if they have any violations or complaints. On top of
that, Wishbone calls people who’ve adopted from the applicant shelter for a reference.
These high standards insure that our animals will not end up homeless again, or in the
hands of animal experimentation labs.
Selection of animals for transport
As soon as an owner-surrendered animal comes in, a photo is taken and put up on
Petfinders and sent to Karen. She in turn sends the photos to Wishbone’s network of
approved rescues and no-kill shelters for their consideration as well.
We are committed to adopting out to approved local families before transferring an animal
to another shelter or rescue, so we wait as long as we can for adoption applications to come
in via Petfinders, or in-person visits to the Shelter. But the Allegan Shelter has limited
space so we work hard to move the animals along on their journey as safely, quickly and
conscientiously as possible.
Strays are held for four business days to give lost owners time to contact the Shelter
looking for them. After four business days, they go through the same process as
surrendered dogs and cats.
In 2011, Wishbone transported over 500 cats and dogs to rescues and shelters across
Michigan and parts of the near Midwest!!
Here are our needs to help this program grow:
CARGO VAN – Often a car just isn’t big enough to handle all the cats and dogs needing
transport. We need a cargo van small enough that it doesn’t require a chauffer’s license to
We can save many more lives if we have a cargo van.
GAS CARDS – Gas is expensive these days and cargo vans drink a lot. Any denomination is helpful.
DRIVERS – This is really a stand-by situation. You may get a call asking if you can do a
transport on a given day. Please know that you can say “No” if a driving request doesn’t
work for you!! Or you can specify, “I’ll do anything within a 30 mile radius” and so on.
Some runs are very short, such as taking a dog from the Shelter to Wishbone House, or to
the Vet. The more potential volunteer drivers we have, the less work for everyone.
This wonderful program is saving hundreds of dogs and cats a year. Your support is most
welcome and appreciated.