Max’s Mission: The road to safety

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — If you have a rescue dog, have you ever wondered what their past life was like or how they got here?

There is a huge network in Ohio getting animals to safety, and it is all run by volunteers. At NBC4, we wanted to be a part of it. Our Hattie Hawks saw people rescuing animals firsthand in a special edition of Max’s Mission.

It’s 8am on a Thursday. The sun is rising as Lynne Aronson prepares to take the two-hour drive down U.S. 23 as she does each week.

“We are picking up at least 16 dogs and bringing them to other rescues where they will be safe,” said the director of Stop The Suffering.

Today is a small load for the transport group; made of mostly retired volunteers, who bring dogs from rural southern Ohio shelters like Scioto, Lawrence, Pike, Highland, Perry and Meigs counties.

The group has had the same routine for several years.

“First thing I do is make sure the van starts. You do not want to go out and have a dead battery. I get my cleaning supplies and newspaper. The day before, anyone who is driving (usually me) we have a food pantry and we get food and bring it for Lawrence County because they really depend on that.”

It’s a beautiful drive to a sad place for animal advocates. Shelters are packed with dogs who have been given up, abused, neglected, forgotten, or lost. Aronson says the shelter in Lawrence County used to euthanize around 97 percent of their dogs until people got involved. Now, she says, they put down less than 10 percent. Still, not all shelters will allow rescues to help.

“There are some, and I hate to say this, it’s easier for them to keep them on their three day hold and then they euthanize them.”

Many rural shelters don’t have the money to provide some of the most basic needs – like feeding the animals. Stop the Suffering brings food with them every week and Columbus Humane provides vaccines. In Scioto County, a local woman who runs a grooming service will board dogs  in her kennel, to keep them off of the euthanasia list until a foster opens up. She receives food as well.

It costs $30 to pull a dog from the Scioto County dog pound. Each dog comes with medical information (typically limited) and has to be visibly healthy before they can be taken in Aronson’s van. If they aren’t, then she will take them to a local medical clinic where they are seen and treated.

We load the dogs in crates and secure them with bungee cords. While these animals are on their way to a better life, other animals will have to stay until there is an available rescue.

“It’s hard to put into words because it is very sad and I feel so horrible for any dog that is in the shelter. They sit in those 2×4 cages and some places it is even worse than that.”

In addition to the usual reasons, shelters are overcrowded right now because rescues don’t have enough fosters to take them in. In the past two months rescues have been helping dogs impacted by both Hurricanes Harvey and Maria. She says the end of hunting season also tends to fill up the shelter. “Right before Thanksgiving is another time where the shelters are just packed. Unfortunately it is the end of hunting season and people dump their hounds. It is just so sad.”

After Scioto County, we head to Waverly to pick up dogs who have been pulled from Pike County. After they are loaded into the van we head back to Reynoldsburg where we unload. Some dogs stay in Columbus but we hand off other dogs to a different transport – headed to Toledo and Cleveland. On the weekends dogs will travel as far as New York, Chicago and Canada.

“We do a lot of begging. Please take this one into your rescue. Please give this one a helping hand.”

At times the job can be loud, stinky, emotional and funny as dogs have a lot of different habits and personalities. Each dog leaves a paw print on her heart. Before she says goodbye, Aronson will look at them, and tells them something. “

This is the beginning of a new and wonderful life for you. You won’t have to bear puppies if you are a female. You won’t have to bear puppies like your mommy did. You will be loved and not live a life on a chain.”

She has loved animals since she was five years old and says it’s our job to rescue those who ultimately rescue us.

“It sounds kind of silly but I have learned how to treat people better. I have learned to be more compassionate than I already am and I have learned how to give.”

If you would like to donate to Stop the Suffering you can find out more on their website or their Facebook page.   

To help local rescues save more animals you can donate, volunteer, or become a foster. You also have the opportunity to meat several rescues and learn about volunteering options this Sunday, November 19, during Max’s Mission to Clear The Shelter at the Franklin County Dog Shelter.

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