MONTREAL — The beginning of July is a busy time for Freedom Drivers, a volunteer organization that transports animals from overcrowded pounds near Montreal to rescue organizations in Ontario and Quebec.
The organization is committed to getting these pets a new lease on life. With the number of animals in pounds and the number of euthanized animals rising, the services that Freedom Drivers provide are more valuable than ever.
On a busy day, as many as 50 kittens and cats are brought into pounds, with over 95% of them being unvaccinated and unfixed. One pound near Montreal keeps dogs for no more than a few days before euthanizing them.
The volunteer drivers go out once, twice or even three times a week, sometimes driving far east to the Maritimes with no monetary reimbursement for gas or mileage, and do what they do because of their love of animals. They mostly transport dogs and cats but also drive rabbits and birds, even the occasional pot-bellied pig. Like an underground railroad for animals the first driver picks up the animal from the pound and drives up to 100 km to the next driver, in relay style.
Over the past 14 months, volunteers with the Freedom Drivers have transported more than 2,000 animals from three pounds near Montreal to rescue organizations. Almost all would have been put down otherwise. Now most of them are in their forever homes.
Thorpe, a Montreal-area mother of three, is proud of the work Freedom Driver volunteers do.
“What I want known is that there is a whole network of volunteers who do so much to make it possible for these animals to live,” she said.
There are approximately 50 to 60 drivers in the Facebook Freedom Drivers group, which over 1,000 people are apart of, but it is important to note that it is the same 25 to 30 people who are on the go again and again. The Facebook group is full of pleas for people to help drive animals through specific routes.
“We had three or four runs booked this week — and no drivers,” Thorpe said. “There is no Plan B, no alternative.”
The volunteers evaluate the animals in pounds, photograph them, and make contact with the registered rescue organizations in Canadian cities. A pound might put some animals for adoption, but in most cases releases the animals only to rescues.
Stocks, a retired manager with Bombardier, was introduced to the Freedom Drivers by his wife, who often does the drives with him. People not involved in animal rescues have no idea that these dedicated volunteers exist — or that they work as hard as they do.
“You feel good about what you are doing. You know that all these animals are going to have a life because of you — and a forever home.”