It all started with a dog named Bear.
Carissa Serino felt compelled to give when she saw a Facebook plea asking for donations toward the dog’s hip surgery at a Texas animal shelter. She soon found herself drawn into the world of animal rescue.
Across the country, animal rescue groups and shelters rely on social media and sites such as Petfinder.com to find permanent homes for stray pets, which often face euthanasia in overcrowded facilities. It is estimated that 10,000 shelter animals are killed daily in the United States, Serino says.
When networking dogs online succeeds, these animals often must travel long distances to reach their “forever home,” Serino says. As she used Facebook and other means to try to help animals find homes, Serino began to realize the importance of erasing distance as an adoption hurdle.
Volunteers often stage relays, meeting in parking lots, driving a few hours and handing off pets to another volunteer to help get them to their new owners. There also are businesses that will transport 20 to 30 dogs in cages to their new families.
A recent Moravian College graduate with a pet-walking and pet-sitting service, Serino decided she would like to turn transporting animals into a career. Serino and her boyfriend, Seth Lippincott, both of Palmer Township, have created Traveling Friends Transit and launched anIndiegogo campaign in hopes of raising $10,000.
The money will go toward purchasing a transport van, outfitting it with kennels and obtaining the necessary certifications and licenses. The campaign has raised $1,000 and it expires Monday. Serino expects to extend it in hopes of reaching the goal.”It’s a start, so we’re happy about that,” Serino says.
Even if the couple doesn’t reach the $10,000 target, they get to keep the money that’s been raised. Serino promised all of the funds will go toward the business.”We still plan on going through with it,” Serino says. “It just means more money out of our pocket.”
In the meantime, Serino and Lippincott have been spending their weekends doing volunteer transports. The couple loves to drive long distances and enjoys uniting animals with their new families.
“It is actually a lot of fun,” Serino says. “It’s a very rewarding experience to know you are helping an animal get to his new home when he has been at a high-kill shelter or in an unfortunate situation.”
Andrew Flegler, shelter manager at the Center for Animal Health and Welfare, says the issue of overcrowding is ever-present.
“We’re consistently turning people away because we don’t have the resources to take care of all of them,” Flegler says. “The hardest thing is finding people to adopt (them).”
Serino hopes the transport grows into a full-time job. Initially, the couple plans to start locally and gradually expand south, where there is a huge stray problem and many at-capacity shelters.
“We don’t want to turn our back on the animals in our community,” Serino says.