They pull out in the wee hours of the morning, driving for hours on end to rescue dogs and puppies that would otherwise be destroyed.
Three years ago this month, FOX 13's Cynthia Smoot and photographer John Wright rode along on one of Loving Friends Transport's rides of rescue. Recently, we checked back to see how things are going for Laura Fletcher-Taylor and her husband J.T., and found their trips are making a huge difference for rural shelters along the Louisiana-Mississippi Gulf Coast.
We caught up with them as they pulled into the Humane Society of Tampa Bay with a trailer full of mostly puppies, in kennels packed to the ceiling. The trip logged nearly 1,200 miles in 14 hours. But the Taylors are used to it.
At least twice a month they make a "ride to rescue," picking up dogs and puppies and bringing them to the Humane Society in Tampa and Sarasota.
"They come in. They're turned around in three days. They're adopted. They're in homes," Laura explained. "That's why we bring 'em here."
Since starting the trips in late 2009, Loving Friends Transport has transported more than 4,000 animals and logged nearly 150,000 miles. They've even transported a few tigers and lions that needed a ride to new sanctuaries.
"When they growl at you and it just runs through your body, I know the saying now that you're just fearful and you just can't move," Laura recalled. "I've experienced that now."
But dogs are the heart of what they do. Their mission was inspired by Laura's beloved 'Lily,' a puppy mill dachshund she rescued several years ago. Sadly, Lily died last year. But there was another little dachshund waiting to be rescued. Now 'Clementine' often rides shotgun when they're on the road.
Rural shelters along the Gulf Coast say transport has saved countless lives. Kathy Fitch of the Natchez/Adams County Humane Society in Mississippi says their euthanasia rate has plunged from over 50 percent to less than 20 percent.
"We have all these puppies that there's no way we can find homes for, and they're beautiful and they're healthy and they're completely adoptable," she said. "Our dogs have gone from having numbers only to having names."
The director of shelter operations at the Humane Society of Tampa Bay says they're glad to get the puppies. They're always in demand.
"In a nutshell, it means we're saving lives," stated Pam Backer. "As long as our nation continues to not spay and neuter we're going to need to step up and be there to help."
As for Laura and J.T., their reward comes every time a dog leaves the shelter and she can mark a name off her list.
"That's what actually makes it worthwhile for my husband and I, is seeing the pictures of the dogs going home that just would never have gotten a home or be euthanized," added Laura.
You can keep up with Loving Friends Transport on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/lovingfriendstransport
Most of the dogs and puppies Loving Friends Transport can be adopted at:
Humane Society of Tampa Bay
Humane Society of Sarasota
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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