By Amy Hempe
The nearly straight, flat, eight-and-a-half-hour drive on Interstate 70 between Denver and Kansas City can get tedious. Sandwiched between cornfields, one focuses on the destination rather than the repetitive scenery. The people here are kind-hearted and friendly, but when time is imperative, stopping for folksy chats is not an option.
Julie Jury of Hope For Paws Colorado has made this journey many times. Based in the Denver area, she began the dog-rescue group recently, in June of 2016. It began with the realization that while rescue organizations are vital, people often overlook the important element of transport. Rescues often rely on volunteers with cars or SUVs large enough to hold one or two crates. Some rescues skip the crates altogether since their volunteers’ cars only hold one or two of dogs lying down in the back seat. Adding to the burden, coordinating drivers becomes a difficult task, requiring last-minute phone calls and a lot of pleading on the part of the rescues.
Hope For Paws Colorado – which is not affiliated with any other Hope For Paws organization – hopes to fill that gap at least partially. Thanks to a generous donation from Tito’s Vodka as well as other smaller donations, Jury was able to purchase a large transport truck and outfit it with crates. Essentially the same size as a FedEx truck, this dog transportation vehicle is climate-controlled and even offers music for the pups. Even better, it can carry up to 70 pets at a time.
“It’s pretty fabulous,” she says, smiling.
Based in the Denver area, Jury uses Kansas City as a port city where dogs from some Texas shelters are driven up. She gathers their paperwork and loads the dogs into the Hope For Paws truck before returning home to Colorado. Then she meets up with representatives of some of the more than eighty dog rescues based in the Rocky Mountain region. They take their designated dogs and place them with fosters. Once there, the rescues then begin the process of finding adopters.
Since Hurricane Harvey hit Texas back in September, Jury has organized many more trips to Kansas to rescue dogs out of hurricane-hit areas. After the massive storm, the number of dogs needing shelter skyrocketed. “Homeless animals were always a problem, even before Harvey,” Jury stated. “But there were so many owner-surrenders afterwards.” Shelters needed to move their population of verified-homeless animals to make room for new surrenders, as well as identified strays post-storm. Many shelters extended the wait-period for families to claim their pets, resulting in far less space available for many more pets.
Jury wants to stress that her organization has not transported any dogs who may have owners looking for them. Oddly, one of the criticisms directed at shelters post-hurricane was that they rehomed animals with people looking for them. In fact, shelters took pains to not do that at all.
“We assumed people knew that, but we have learned that we have to clearly spell out our procedures,” Jury explained. All of the dogs Hope For Paws Colorado has moved out were shelter dogs prior to Hurricane Harvey. Furthermore, all dogs are up to date on their vaccinations and have received health certificates from a veterinarian. All of this is in accordance with PACFA (Pet Animal Care Facilities Act) regulations that require inspection and licensure of animal care facilities throughout Colorado. The primary organizations she partners with include the Animal Justice League of Houston, the Harris County Animal Shelter, and both Houston and Austin Pets Alive shelters, all of which had resources stretched thin during this past fall.
Rescued dogs span most breeds and sizes. At the time of the interview, Jury was still trying to place a Labrador mix as well as a Dachshund mix. Most other dogs find rescues nearly immediately, although fostering can still fall on the shoulders of friends and family.
Overall, Jury has been overwhelmed with how others have reached out to offer help to animals in need. One big example was Apex Transport of nearby Adams County, Colorado, donating a semi-truck to take dog food, beds, and toys down to Texas.
“We get phone calls with people saying how much they want to help,” Jury said, obviously touched by the generosity. “It’s amazing how gracious and wonderful people have been.”
You can find out more about Hope for Paws Colorado (and donate!) at: https://www.hopeforpawscolorado.com/
Amy Hempe is a writer and teacher based in Denver where she and her two rescue dogs go hiking regularly.