Driving Buckley Home: An Introduction to Animal Transport

My first animal transport — across four states — was a 145-pound Great Dane who took up the entire back seat. What did I get myself into?

Buckley stretches out in the back seat. By: Kristine Lacoste/Pets Adviser
Buckley stretches out in the back seat. By: Kristine Lacoste/Petful

My local animal shelter sends adoptable dogs to New England throughout the year.

Two volunteers drive the dogs to their destination.

I volunteered for a transport in the past, but I lost out to a couple — it’s easier for the two of them to drive instead of the shelter finding another person to go with me.

Fair enough. I kept my eyes open for another transport opportunity near my area, and recently one crossed my path.

What Is Animal Transport?

Before we get into the details of my transport, let’s discuss what transport is for rescues and shelters.

My local shelter has a van designed to move many dogs at once. Volunteers typically drive on these trips, and shelter employees help out when they can. Expenses are usually covered by the shelter: Food, fuel and hotel stays (if needed) are provided.

Occasionally a single animal needs to be transported, and this may be done with the van or a personal vehicle. Transports using a shelter or rescue vehicle usually involve driving from the starting point to the end point.

Individual transports for rescues or shelters involve using your own vehicle and money for expenses such as fuel and food. There are times when donations from supporters or revenue from the shelter or rescue can help cover some or all of these expenses.

The travel points can be across town or pass through several states, and volunteers are sought to cover as many legs of the trip as possible.

Smaller pets may travel in a carrier, and larger dogs may require much more space. The animals will travel with health certificates, vaccination records, collars, leashes and any personal items. Food is usually provided, and drivers should ensure they have bowls and plenty of water available.

Some animals may require medication to be administered.

Why Not Fly?

Flying can certainly be a faster method of transportation, but there are drawbacks.

Smaller flight operators such as Pilots N Paws are an option, yet they are limited in the number of animals they can transport, and just as with driving long distances, they usually have to arrange portions of the trip with other pilots.

Commercial flights can be expensive and are unpredictable due to delays. Commercial flights have a limit on the number of animals they will carry on each flight, and many airlines refuse to accept specific breeds. If you would like to consider using a commercial airline for transport, read our guide to Airline Pet Policies.

Getting on the Road

Many transports will post on social media sites and share the request with other locals, although sometimes requests can come from across the country.

Trips are usually broken up into legs with a description of the start and end points, miles to be covered and an estimate of the duration of each portion. People reply to the post or contact a transport coordinator (if listed).

Reading a post from one of my friends in the Carolinas, I found out about a Great Dane named Buckley who needed to get to his permanent home in Florida.

I expanded the post to see where his transport would take place, and imagine my delight when it started just half an hour from me.

Camp Bow Wow coordinated Buckley’s itinerary:


This was quite a long transport, so I signed up for the first two legs.

Time passed and the only other confirmed legs were seven through nine, and Buckley’s ride home was looking grim. Probably biting off more than I can chew, I offered to extend my journey to through leg six.

With all the trip portions covered, the only thing left was to coordinate pickup and drop-off places.

Buckley’s Ride Home

The day came for Buckley’s transport, and I met my first contact to pick up Buckley.

He certainly was a big boy, weighing in at 145 pounds, and I was glad I had covered the seats with a large sheet — he took up the entire back seat!

He was also a sweet, calm dog, a delight to transport. I had already figured out where I would stop for fuel, food and potty breaks for Buckley.

Here is Buckley getting settled in the back seat:

And here’s Buckley meeting his next driver in Lake City, Florida, for the remainder of the trip:

Everything went according to plan, although there is one issue I did not consider. It was very hot outside, probably around 100 degrees, so there was no way I could leave Buckley in the car.

He wasn’t exactly welcome inside gas stations or restaurants, and I found myself in an unusual dilemma. I did not have an extra key to lock him in the car with the air conditioning running.

So while he had his potty breaks, I had to hold it for seven hours until reaching my next meeting point. A little planning ahead can ensure you don’t end up in such a predicament.

If you would like to get involved in transport, talk with your local animal shelter, animal control office and rescues to let them know you want to help.

Consider which directions and how many miles you would cover, and let them know your preferences. This way they can contact you when a transport covers an area you are willing to drive.

If you have participated in transport before, tell me about your best tips or transport story in the comments below!

Kristine Lacoste

View posts by Kristine Lacoste
Kristine Lacoste, editor in chief of Petful, is an author, poet and pet lover from Louisiana. She is the author of the book One Unforgettable Journey, which was nominated for a Maxwell Award from the Dog Writers Association of America, and was host of a weekly pet news segment on the National K-9 Academy Radio Show. In addition, she was the New Orleans coordinator for Dogs on Deployment, a nonprofit that helps military members and their pets, for 3 years. Kristine has been researching and writing about pet behaviors and care for many years, with her articles appearing in various publications. She is the CEO of a large mental health practice in Louisiana and holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology, a bachelor’s degree in English and a Master of Business Administration degree.

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