Story and slideshow by LORI KUNZ
Trachelle “Chelle” Hilton-King founded Rescue Animals Needing Transportation (RANT) in September 2017 with support from her husband Berk King. RANT is the first animal rescue organization in Utah specifically for the transportation of animals from shelters to rescue centers and foster homes.
The idea came to her when she was taking a dog to a rescue center. Chelle realized there were no such organized services and saw a critical need for transportation in rural areas such as Roosevelt and Vernal and along the Wasatch Front. She proposed the idea to Berk and immediately started the approval process with the State of Utah. It is a 501(c)(3) foundation group.
RANT, based in Syracuse, Utah, is a natural outgrowth of Chelle’s passion for helping animals. She and Berk foster hospice care dogs, which is end-of-life care. They currently have a 14- or 15-year-old foster they named Dixie Denver who is a lab-mix with dementia. Families don’t want old dogs – they want puppies, she said. There is no better person than Chelle to take in an elderly dog to love until its last day because she understands that the simplest act of kindness can change a life. Because her love of animals is immense she started volunteering with groups that distribute pet supplies to individuals with pets who are experiencing homelessness and to low-income pet owners.
Chelle is the owner and operator of “Chelle’s Floral and Gift” located in Clearfield, Utah. While she runs her business she will also run RANT. Most animal rescue volunteers and founders have jobs outside their organization. “RANT isn’t a project, it’s a calling,” she said. Her motto for RANT is “Saved In Time” (SIT).
Saving an animal can be a complicated process involving rescue centers, animal control officers, animal shelters, animal-foster homes and volunteers.
Rescue centers are organizations that help find homes for misplaced, abandoned and unwanted animals by posting images of them on their website and on social media. Centers rescue animals from shelters and put them into foster homes and up for adoption.
Reputable centers will make a lifetime commitment to the animals they rescue. The process they follow is to pay for the animals’ care, including immunization shots and spaying or neutering. If an animal is returned to a shelter or not wanted the center will take it back.
Some centers have relationships with animal control officers and shelter workers who monitor animals’ “due-out” dates, the date they need to exit the shelter or face possible euthanasia. This gives centers the heads-up to rescue the animal before their due-out date. Rescue centers never euthanize.
Centers have their dedicated foster homes they rely on to step in and help with the placement of animals. Centers need more people to open their homes as a foster home for animals.
Chelle said every time a foster steps up, they save two animals’ lives, the animal that was taken and the replacement animal at the shelter.
Anyone interested in adopting can visit animals in an animal foster home, rescue center and at adoption events in places like PetSmart and Petco, which donate space each week to centers to hold adoption events.
Shelters are establishments run by cities and counties that take in strays and owner-surrendered animals. They adopt out as many animals as possible, but when they are full they have to euthanize for space.
A lot of the shelter workers are pro-life and pro-rescue. They network their own animals when they start to reach capacity and will reach out to centers for assistance. Some shelter workers aren’t pro-life or pro-rescue, for those shelters there are volunteers.
“Volunteers are the lifeline of all rescues,” Chelle said. There is a network of volunteers that monitors a shelter’s capacity, post animals’ needs such as “due-out” dates, injuries and special needs.
Social media play a role in animal rescue. Shelter workers, rescue centers and foster homes all post online on their respective website and Facebook page.
One of the biggest parts of rescue is someone seeing an animal on Facebook from pages such as Utah Shelter and Rescue Network, Animal Rescue Networking Group of Utah, Utah Animals ONLY or petfinder and wanting to foster or adopt, except they live hundreds of miles from the shelter where the animal is being held.
The next step is transport for the animal(s) to the area where the rescue center and foster home are located. This is when RANT will get involved, giving them 48-72 hours, depending on the shelter, to get the animal(s) out and transported.
Most transports are arranged on Facebook via posts and Messenger, it is the quickest and easiest way for multiple people to respond and offer to help said Chelle.
RANT will help free up more space in shelters by arranging a driver and a vehicle equipped with items that will be needed for transportation i.e., leash, animal carrier, food.
Some transports can be short, between a shelter and a rescue in the valley. Others can be long and can be broken up in relays or legs. In November 2017 a dog was posted on The Bridge needing a ride from West Jordan Animal Shelter to Meridian Canine Rescue in Idaho by Nov. 18. Volunteers stepped up and had the dog delivered on time.
There are two main websites for posting animals who need transporting: The Bridge and Utah Transport. There are also national organization groups: Pilots-N-Paws, Operation Roger and Kindred Hearts Transportation Connection.
Ogden resident Michelle Holbrook started The Bridge, an animal transportation page, on Facebook in 2015. It has over 700 members. Holbrook met Chelle in November 2015 while helping to transport dogs to a rescue center in Idaho. She now serves on RANT’s five-person board of directors.
“RANT is a fabulous idea because it will give us the opportunity to pull large numbers of [animals] from overcrowded or rural shelters and get them somewhere where they have a better chance at adoption,” she said in an email interview. “RANT will be a great addition [to The Bridge] because a lot of the time we have drivers to move the [animals] but they may not have large enough vehicles or the gas money.”
Holbrook said that a lot of the time when a transport occurs the costs add up by renting a van, paying mileage and finding a driver.
The Kings started fundraising for RANT in November 2017 and anticipate raising enough money to buy a couple of vans. They have transported several animals for RANT using their personal vehicles.
Their goal is to transport between Clearfield and Southern Utah, a distance of over 300 miles, once a week to move as many animals as possible. When they have vehicles available all transportation from rural areas will also be weekly, with distances averaging 100 miles.
They will train volunteers on how to transport an animal while keeping the animal safe. They are looking for volunteers who are available to transport and who love animals.
Chelle said there are all kinds of groups who work together to rescue animals, but there is not a transport group for Utah where one is needed. “I’m somebody,” she says.