Sometimes in life, you need to make a journey, leaving your old life behind to get to where you truly need to be. For some homeless Georgia pets, a journey is more than a change of scenery; it’s a chance to find a forever home. Since 2014, some lucky Atlanta pets have been doing just this with Southern Journey Animal Rescue and Transport.
Southern Journey is the brainchild of two animal-loving Atlantans: Chris Bishop, a veterinary technician, and Michael Walls, a former writer and ad manager for the West Georgian. The duo’s have a mutual love of dogs with a complementary approach to rescue: Walls enjoys providing another chance to older dogs who’ve had a rough time, while Bishop loves giving puppies a happy start in life. “Together we make a perfect team,” says Bishop.
Bishop and Walls had been facilitating local adoptions with area rescues, but found their efforts weren’t enough to keep pace with the number of animals being lost in the shelters. When they learned that there is actually a shortage of adoptable animals in the northeastern U.S. due to the prevalence of spay/neuter programs there, they knew they’d found their mission, but needed financial support. They met with Betty Lou Stokes and Suzette Lindsay of Top Dogs Pet Boutique, who were looking for a way to leverage their stores’ success to help save animals in need. A happy partnership was born.
Next they needed a responsible group to receive the animals, so Bishop and Walls contacted Northeast Animal Shelter in Salem, MA, one of the largest no-kill shelters in the region. “Working with them has been a blessing,” says Bishop. “They are a huge part of the success of our animals. They strongly believe in finding them the perfect home and screen potential adopters. We have formed an everlasting bond with each other.”
Most of Southern Journey’s passengers come from animal control facilities, owner surrenders and rescues. Each animal is placed in foster care during the medical clearance process, with food and supplies provided by Southern Journey. On travel day, up to 60 pets are loaded into a gleaming new cargo van for the 18-20-hour journey north, traveling in climate-controlled comfort with food, water, bedding, and toys. After a 48-hour quarantine, they are available for adoption, and within a week, more than 90 percent of the newly minted New Englanders are in their forever homes.
The scope of Southern Journey’s mission continues to grow. It now does two transports per month involving a total of 60-100 animals, and is working on a second partnership with another no-kill shelter in Vermont. This past July it kicked off a new cat program that enables them to rescue and send 30 cats on each transport.
“The need for our service is great,” says Bishop. “So many animals are being euthanized in our local shelters because there is just no space to house them. There has been a positive change, but there is much more work to be done. Spay and neuter is the best way to stop the overpopulation problem with animals in the south.” He concludes, “We are all working together for a promising future for all animals.”
Southern Journey is in need of fosters caregivers, transport drivers, volunteers and donations to continue their work. To learn more, visit southernjourney.org.