After 14 years of volunteering in the ACC vet room and walking dogs, Carri Lucas is a “newbie” again. When she read a message about the need for transporters, she decided to expand her volunteer efforts to transporting animals from SFACC to other shelters and rescue organizations. SFACC receives many types of wildlife that folks bring in to the shelter or are brought in by the Animal Control Officers responding to emergency calls. Pigeons, seagulls, and other birds, mice, raccoons, skunks, opossums, and other mammals that are injured and orphan babies that can’t survive on their own are often transported to WildCare in San Rafael or to the Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA in Burlingame. (PHS/SPCA is one of a handful of animal shelters in the country that rehabilitates wildlife.) But SFACC doesn’t always have staff resources to do the transfers so they rely on volunteers to help out.
Carri didn’t know what to expect and the first week she ended up doing three transport trips (two birds and one dog). She was given clear instructions for the drive, the main one is to be silent in the car—no talking or playing the radio. The idea is to keep human sounds and interactions with wildlife to a minimum, so that the animal isn’t stressed and so it doesn’t become connected in any way with humans. This practice is important for the goal of eventually releasing a healthy wild animal.
Transporting domesticated animals—cats, dogs, rabbits—to rescue organizations or fosters is a different kind of trip. Carri recalls one time she took a small terrier named Scrub to a foster home. Scrub was pretty shut down at the shelter. He wasn’t available for adoption and the Fetch volunteers (specially trained dog volunteers) couldn’t get him to leave his kennel and go to the play yard because he was very shut down. All they could do was sit in his kennel with him and throw treats in his direction. DogZone Rescue, an SF-based organization offered to take him and a transport was needed to get him to the foster home in Newark. Carri answered the request and SFACC care attendants got Scrub into a crate and into Carri’s car. At the beginning of the drive to Newark he was whining and barking frantically. Carrie had read that dogs respond to music and that it can calm them, so she started singing Silent Night. “It was the only song I could remember that was fairly simple and quiet. After I started singing to him he settled down and was quiet and calm for the rest of the trip.” Carrie sang the Christmas hymn over and over all the way to Newark (~38 miles).
When they arrived, Carri stayed and observed how the foster couple, who had a large yard, put the crate on the lawn and opened the door. Then they ignored the crate and sat on the opposite side of the yard, talking quietly. The couple had fostered dogs three times before so they knew how to approach Scrub’s transition. Slowly he came out and soon he responded to their calling him, wagged his tail. He wasn’t ready to be petted but clearly was starting to relax and trust his surroundings. “Seeing Scrub’s transformation from being so scared he couldn’t move in the shelter, to wagging his tail and running around the grass was so heartening. Meeting foster parents and learning about all the amazing rescue organizations that partner with SFACC is very heartening.”
Carri shared that her transporting trips offer an immediate gratification: “I’m making a difference in a very direct way, taking these animals from the shelter to a more comfortable place, whether a specialized wildlife care center or a foster home.”
SFACC is expanding their range and the need for more transporters in the driving pool is growing. The group of dedicated transport volunteers who have been doing this for a long time would welcome reinforcements. The area for the trips is usually local (Marin or Burlingame) but can be further, like the East/South Bay, Half Moon Bay, or beyond. One recent need was to transport chickens to Sebastopol, for example.
If you’d like to become an animal transport volunteer, you must first attend a volunteer orientation (sessions are held twice a month). To sign up call (415) 554-9427 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.