Permian Basin shelter dogs take cross-country bus ride to a second chance

Published: Aug. 4, 2023 at 6:24 PM CDT
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GARDENDALE, Texas (KOSA) - A retrofitted school bus is transporting Permian Basin dogs across the country on Thursday and Friday.

This bus is lined with crates, not seats. It’s also full of wagging tails ready for a second chance.

The 3,500 mile trip north was coordinated by Dog Rescue R Us. Its volunteer drivers will get the dogs to communities with a greater demand for pets.

“You’re saving them. That’s not an exaggeration. You’re saving their lives,” said Jarvis Hooten, a volunteer driver.

Every two to three weeks a bus departs from the outskirts of Odessa to take the dogs across the U.S.

“There’s such a big problem here in West Texas, especially Odessa, people just dumping dogs out in the streets, right? So we have a pretty big influx of strays along the way,” said Oscar Ramos, full-time foster.

The rescue says this is their solution to the massive stray population in the basin.

“We’re so saturated with dogs here. I mean yes, there are a lot of good dog owners in Texas, but…I mean there’s so many dogs, more dogs than we have adopters,” said Kris Hinsz, executive assistant at Dog Rescue R Us.

They take dogs from local shelters, find them fosters, vaccinate, fix and microchip them, then coordinate with rescues across the U.S. to give them another chance.

“A lot of other states have better laws. They have spay and neuter laws. They have better animal welfare laws,” Hinsz said. “They treat their animals like family as opposed to just property. and we send our dogs to states where they have a better chance.”

This time, the dogs are traveling about 3,500 miles and making stops in Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin.

“There’s something charming about walking down the aisles, dogs on both sides,” Hooten said. “Most of them are puppies. it’s just very charming and makes you feel good.”

Hooten and his fellow driver will take turns and drive straight through the night to minimize the time the dogs spend on the bus.

“Throughout the trip I’m checking on them, giving them food and water, loving on them,” said Nikko Guerrero, a volunteer driver. “And then as soon as we get to our location we usually just drop them off.

It costs about $4,000 to send the dogs each trip. The rescue relies on donations and fundraisers to keep the transports running.

Staff says shelters in the basin are often full. Their rescue, and many others, try to find solutions to avoid the unfortunate alternative.

“The dogs would either just die because they wouldn’t be found. They’d be left in the wild. They’d be killed by wild animals or they’d die of exposure,” Hooten said. “Or if they were taken in, they would have to be euthanized.”

But the shelter dogs on this bus won’t experience that.

“You can look in the eyes of these dogs and you can see how much they want to love and how much they want to be part of a family, and this is their opportunity,” said Dolly Hinsz, operations manager at Dog Rescue R Us.

The rescue says west Texans can help reduce the stray population by fixing and vaccinating their pets, helping rescues doing this work, and fostering or adopting shelter dogs if possible.