A day in the life of an out-of-state animal transport

Ever wonder what goes into a successful out-of-state animal transport for Animal Humane Society? Follow along as two of our transport drivers take us on a recent transport trip to Oklahoma and back.

Day one: The journey begins! Depart AHS and drive to Oklahoma

Day in the Life at AHS, Empty Transport Truck

6 AM: We arrive at Golden Valley and began our pre-trip vehicle check to make sure we had everything we need before we head out on the road. All the kennels were loaded the day before, but we still check to make sure everything is on board. The time we start our trip depends on our destination. For trips to Tennessee, we have to get to AHS at 3 AM!

6:30 AM: Time to hit the road! Drivers switch off approximately every three hours. This avoids any one driver getting fatigued, and allows the passenger time to rest up for the next driving shift. That’s one of the many reasons all of our transports include two drivers.

These trips include a lot of driving and a lot of passenger seat downtime, so we use podcasts, playlists, and naps to fill the time.

9:30 AM: We’ve already crossed into Iowa and are stopping for gas and switching drivers near Des Moines. We end up eating a lot of gas station food during our drives. The cabin of the van is small, so there’s not much room for us to bring  food from home. We all have our favorite must-have snacks for any trip.

Mid-morning through lunch: Some of the roadside highlights we saw on this stretch of road include two fires, a lot of round hay bales (seriously, so.many.hay.bales), Worlds of Fun amusement park, and the Missouri River. We drive along the outskirts of Kansas City, but can see downtown from the road.

Snacks transport drivers eat while on the road
Open road to Iowa, transport trip to Oklahoma

2 PM: Another stop for gas and to switch drivers. Our favorite gas station is Love’s! It’s a nationwide chain and they cater to truckers, so they have the nicest bathrooms, healthy food options, and long-handled window squeegees (perfect for our tall van).

4 PM: We made it to our destination! Usually, we’d go straight to the hotel to check-in before grabbing a quick dinner, but we made great time, so we have a little extra time to explore before enjoying an early dinner.

6 PM: After an early dinner, we head to the hotel to check in, fill up the gas tank, and load up on snacks so we’re ready for tomorrow morning. We want to be ready to go when we get up! Each driver gets their own hotel room for the night and may spend the evening watching TV, going on a walk to stretch our legs, playing a few games on our phone, or going straight to sleep.

Photos of Blue, a dog that greats hotel guests in Oklahoma

At our hotel, there’s a resident who lives there with his dog, Blue. Blue is a rescue pup and as his owner says, “he knows no stranger.” Seeing Blue is a staple of our trips to Oklahoma.

Day two: Pick up the dogs and head back to AHS

5 AM: Wake up, check out of the hotel, and meet at the van. We double check the manifest (that's the list of dogs we'll be transporting back to AHS, provided by the Oklahoma shelter) one last time to see if any dogs have been added or removed since we last looked.

We head over to the source shelter and start loading up the dogs. There's a lot of physical work that goes into this part of the trip. During recent trips, it’s been 90-100 degrees and very humid!

AHS transport drivers checking manifest
AHS transport manifest
Dog being loaded onto AHS transport truck
Dogs loaded on AHS Transport Van

7:15 AM: And we're back on the road, this time heading north, back to AHS! As we head out, we send an email to AHS letting them know the final number of adult dogs and puppies, giving them an ETA.

We get a lot of questions from the public about what our partner shelters are like. Our partners are very well organized and have nice, clean facilities — they just have more dogs in their communities than they can manage!

1:30 PM: We stop at a rest stop to use the restroom and do a welfare check on the dogs. The welfare check is the most stressful part of any transport, especially on hot or cold days, and also involves a lot of physical work. It takes 25-45 minutes, depending on how much cleaning of the kennels we have to do.

During the welfare check, we unload the kennels the same way we did for the initial pick-up. We take out as few kennels as possible, and if we’ve planned well enough, we only have to unload about 10 in order to access all 26 of them.

Here are some of the cuties who are traveling back to Minnesota with us!

Puppy from Oklahoma, being transported to AHS
Black and white spotted puppy from Oklahoma, being transported to AHS

3 PM: Continue our drive north, stopping to switch drivers and to get gas so the van has close to a full tank when we get back to AHS for the next transport. About an hour out, we call AHS to let them know when we plan to arrive — earlier than expected thanks to a smooth welfare check!

6 PM: Arrive at AHS! Animal Care and Vet Services staff are waiting for us when we pull in. We unload the kennels and dogs as efficiently as we can, and shelter staff gets them checked in and into the shelter for their first night in Minnesota. We start sanitizing the van as soon as the dogs are off. By this point in our trip, we’re pretty exhausted, but the excitement of our arrival gives us the energy we need to finish out the day.

AHS Transport staff unloading dogs from van
Puppy during post-transport exam

7 PM: Once the animals have been unloaded and the van has been cleaned, we prep the van for the transport team that’s heading to Tennessee at 3 AM the next morning. We clean and prep any kennels that are needed, fill the water supply, and load everything in the van.

8 PM: We grab our stuff and stumble out of the doors exhausted from a job well done. By the end of the trip, we have both worked about 30 hours in two days and each of us drove about 10 hours. We covered 1,300 miles, spent over $550 on fuel, food, and hotel, and brought 30 dogs from Oklahoma to Minnesota.

Join the transport team as a volunteer

We're looking for two volunteers to transport animals from out-of-state shelter partners back to Minnesota. Learn more by visiting our Volunteer Opportunities page and scrolling to 'Volunteer roles at AHS'. 

More on transport

Transport work can be exhausting, but it provides second chances to thousands of dogs each year that might otherwise be euthanized. Want to learn more about Animal Humane Society's transport program?  Read more about our transport program and meet some of the animals who've found their second chance thanks to this program.

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