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Humane Relocation

Being uprooted in the middle of the night from the only place you’ve ever known would be a traumatic experience for anyone.

This experience, though frightening at first, is the best thing to ever happen to the 125-150 puppies and dogs being rescued and transported to North Shore Animal League America each week as part of its Humane Relocation Program. They may not realize it as it’s happening, but they’ll soon find out that the experience is more than just a sudden change in scenery; It’s literally a life saver.

These puppies and dogs are rescued weekly from overcrowded municipal shelters and commercial breeding facilities, otherwise known as puppy mills, across the country. As the organization’s most far-reaching program, our out-of-state, nationwide rescues are responsible for saving the lives of hundreds of thousands of dogs, cats, puppies, and kittens since the program’s inception in 1991.

“Our program gives a second chance to thousands of animals each year. It’s a chance that many of these animals would never get if our program didn’t exist,” said Animal League Senior Director of Operations, Sylvia Ottaka. “In the south alone, there is such an over-abundance of puppies that each day many die because there just aren’t enough homes. We are able to bring these puppies east where they’re placed into loving homes.” 

After being rescued from the imminent death, these lucky dogs are transported to New York by way of our well-equipped, climate-controlled Mobile Rescue Units. The weekly rescue missions to and from the safe and friendly confines of the Animal League would not be possible without these highly effective vehicles, as well as the dedicated drivers captaining the fleet. The sound of the asphalt under the tires of the rescue units and vans as they turn down Davis Avenue in Port Washington is truly the sound of a new beginnings, a second chance at life for all of the animals aboard whether they realize it or not.

“We as the drivers see these animals from a different perspective than most people. We see their entire journey from start to finish,” said Ted Moriates, who has two years under his belt as a Mobile Unit Driver for the Animal League. “The most gratifying part for me is seeing the dogs I helped rescue from death all cleaned, vetted, happy and healthy on our Mobile Adoption Unit ready to find their permanent home. To me it makes all the days of preparation, travel and work completely worthwhile.”

Once the rescue is complete and all of the animals are loaded onto the Mobile Unit, the rubber meets the road. Ted said throughout the duration of the trip he and another person take turns driving, while the other monitors the animals and tries to get some rest. He said many times they make up to four to five stops on the trip home to ensure the animals are properly cared for whether it be with water, food, bedding and bathroom breaks. Once the long road trip is complete, which can take anywhere from one to three full days depending on the distance of the drive, the animals are carefully unloaded from the mobile units by Animal League staff and volunteers. They are placed in prepared receiving areas equipped with food, water, and shredded newspaper bedding. From there they will be groomed, examined by a top-notch medical team, and treated for any issues they may be having before being put up for adoption. Cindy Szczudlo, Manager of Rescue Services at the Animal League, said the staff has the process down to a science, so in most cases these adorable, loveable puppies find their forever families within days of arriving off of the transport.

“The Humane Relocation Program is an opportunity for us here at the Animal League to not only rescue local animals, but it allows us to branch out across the country where there are so many animals in need and overpopulation is a common problem,” said Cindy, “Not only are we rescuing these animals and helping to get them adopted fairly quickly, but we are constantly opening cages for new animals and more rescues.”

The Humane Relocation Program also conducts rescues internationally in places like Istanbul, Turkey, Turks and Caicos and Taiwan. And though puppies and dogs are the crux of many of the weekly rescue transports, the Animal League does many cat rescues as well. We work closely with several local organizations from Long Island to New Jersey, all the way up to the Adirondack Mountains with a focus on rescuing cats and controlling the population with Spay/Neuter.

Here at the Animal League we pride ourselves on providing state-of-the-art care to more than 350 dogs, cats, puppies and kittens at any given time. In order to provide this high quality level of care, we rely on the generosity of our donors to ensure that we have the tools we need to respond to the varied needs of our pets. For example:

  • One round-trip rescue by our Humane Relocation Program, which saves anywhere from  40-100 animals on every trip, costs approximately $5,000
  • Multiply that by 3, which is the average number of rescue transports we do each week
  • Therefore it costs the Animal League approximately $15,000 per week to save close to 300 animals across the country and around the world


“Now that the Animal League is offering the incredible life-saving opportunity to sponsor a rescue trip, supporters can truly feel the impact and see the tangible results of their donation,” said Joanne Yohannan, Senior Vice President of Operations at the Animal League. “You can have a part in saving close to 100 animals’ lives in one rescue alone! Hands down, if you want to help animals that need and deserve loving homes, this is the meaningful program that you have been looking for.”

By donating specifically to the purchase of a much needed item from our Wish List, you can help us fulfill a need and do a great service for the animals that we serve. If you want to become one of the generous donors who help to fund different phases of the Animal League’s Wish List, please contact: Jill Burkhardt, SVP Development, (516) 883-7900, extension 833 or jillb@AnimalLeague.org.

Written by James Fitzpatrick, Staff Writer
jamesf@animalleague.org