Mountain Area pets take road trips to new loving homes

One of the Friends of Madera Shelter’s (FMAS) vans getting ready to transport abandoned animals to Oregon and Washington, where they are quickly adopted.
One of the Friends of Madera Shelter’s (FMAS) vans getting ready to transport abandoned animals to Oregon and Washington, where they are quickly adopted. Submitted Photo

“Are we there yet?”

That’s boldly painted on the side of Friends of Madera Shelter’s (FMAS) transport vans, which head every other Sunday (sometimes every Sunday) to Oregon and Washington adoption shelters.

We’re betting that if the dogs and cats grabbing a ride could talk, they’d probably be saying that, too. But however long the ride, at the end of the road these animals are the lucky ones.

The Madera Shelter is the only open-intake shelter available to residents of our Mountain Area. The county must accept all animals brought to them, regardless of the reason. That means there are always more animals at the shelter than there are families to adopt them.

And that’s where Friends of Madera Shelter comes in.

FMAS is a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving the lives of the Madera Shelter’s animals. Through vigorous fundraising, FMAS provides the money for vaccines, spay and neuter, and such basics as crates and blankets. They also coordinate the life-saving transports.

It’s a 12-hour straight-through trip to the Pacific Northwest adoption centers.

Dedicated drivers like Scott Snyder of Oakhurst and Debora Hall of Coarsegold show up at 5:30 a.m. Sunday mornings at the Madera Shelter, where a group of enthusiastic volunteers loads the precious cargo.

At the other end, 735 miles later, another group of volunteers greets the van and quickly unloads the animals, checking them in. Most are adopted within days.

This program was launched two years ago by FMAS, and it’s allowed Madera Shelter to increase its “live release” rate from less than 50% to approximately 80%, and to date has saved over 2,500 Madera County animals – with many of them coming from the Mountain Area.

All the animals riding the transports have sad stories, but now they have the chance at a happy ending. Some are surrendered to the shelter for various reasons, while others are strays that are never claimed. No tags and no microchips often mean it’s impossible to reunite pets with their owners.

Others are puppies and kittens born to un-spayed females, with the human owners unable to care for them or find them good homes.

The saddest cases were living in horrible conditions and removed from their homes. They are the ones who tug most at volunteers’ heartstrings.

The elephant in the room is that this transport is always from Madera County to Oregon and Washington, never the other way around.

Because of their high spay and neuter rates, these northern states actually are in need of adoptable pets, while here in California we produce too many unwanted animals and have overflowing shelters.

The goal of FMAS is to turn this tide.

It’s a fact that population control is the best way to stop animal abuse and neglect. It also assures that every animal is wanted and loved and eliminates unnecessary euthanasia of adoptable animals. FMAS is working hard to promote and support affordable spay and neuter clinics, as well as educational programs.

As our Oregon/Washington program grows, more volunteer transport drivers are needed.

If you have a love of animals, some extra time and a good driving record (we have vans), we’d love to have you join us.

For more information on volunteering as a driver for FMAS, or for other volunteer opportunities, contact Robin Bell at Robinbell@sti.net, or call (805) 674-6017.