How do you talk with your dog-loving toddler about kill shelters? That is the question that Jen McConn faced when she visited one with her son Roman in 2016. Roman, only four years old at the time, asked her why there were so many dogs in these cages, and she spared him the details and explained, â€œTheyâ€™re looking for homes.â€ With the innocent simplicity and compassion you might expect from a child, he said that people should just find homes for the dogs that donâ€™t have one.
This led to the founding of Project Freedom Ride, an organization that transports homeless or unwanted dogs from kill shelters in Texas and Georgia to happy homes and humane societies in the Pacific Northwest.
Hereâ€™s how the McConns have rescued almost 2000 dogs in just 3 years, and what you can do to help.
The Great Rescue Effort
The idea of transporting pets didnâ€™t come right away. At first, Jen and Roman would volunteer at local shelters. Then, the family had to relocate from Texas to Washington when Jenâ€™s husband and Romanâ€™s father was called by the Navy to serve overseas. Jen soon realized, â€œThe world for a dog â€¦ was so much better up here in Washington than down there in Texas.â€ She decided that someone should totally start bringing dogs out of the clutches of death and into their new home state, where kill shelters were banned. She then decided to be that someone and, in December 2016, founded Project Freedom Ride.
Perhaps the most visible work that Project Freedom Ride does features Roman himself. The boy, currently seven years old, is the face of the organization. Ever since he and his mother began volunteering back when they lived in Texas, Roman has been filming videos spotlighting individual dogs. He describes their personalities and everything that makes them special. These videos, which mostly appear on the groupâ€™s Facebook page, have encouraged many loving families to adopt, and also elevated the projectâ€™s profile across the country.
Meanwhile, Jenâ€™s hard work in the background makes it all possible. She and her volunteers rescue dogs from overcrowded shelters and the streets, in both Texas and Georgia. They temporarily place them with foster families or no-kill facilities, then assess their behavior and vet them. Afterward, the dogs either get transported (40 to 100 at a time) to no-kill shelters in the Pacific Northwest or get â€œdirectly adoptedâ€ and transported to the adopterâ€™s home region.
What You Can Do
If you want to do your part with the issue of dog homelessness, there is plenty you can do. For starters, Project Freedom Ride runs entirely on donations. Now that you know about an excellent organization that has tackled this exact problem with aplomb, why not donate to it? Each transport costs between $5000 and $15,000 per month, and every little bit helps. You could also encourage people you know to donate to them â€” perhaps by dedicating your birthday to the cause on Facebook.
Additionally, you could take matters into your own hands in a number of ways. Volunteer at your local shelter and give some lonely dogs company. If you ever want a pet of your own, remember the truism: adopt, donâ€™t shop. You could also foster a pet. As any pet-lover should know by now, pets should be spayed and neutered to lower the chance of unwanted pets, and pets should be trained out of undesirable behaviors instead of simply being given away. Finally, if you have the power and resources, start your own nonprofit.
Statistics show that for every dog born in the US, only about 10% have a home forever. Organizations like Project Freedom Ride work to bring that percentage up, and they cannot do it alone. In all these ways, both simple and complex, you can do something that genuinely improves the world â€” for dogs and dog-lovers everywhere.
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