The difference between life and death for a dog or cat could be as straightforward as a set of wheels.
“All they need is a ride,” Donna Ruff said.
The size of her car was limiting the number of animals she could save. So the Vandalia-area woman started Ruff Rescue Transport, purchased a van and began driving even more animals to rescue locations where they are more likely to be adopted. By doing so, Ruff and her organization aids in ending the euthanasia of dogs and cats by helping to find them homes.
Ruff founded the volunteer nonprofit in 2013 and has since transported close to 15,000 animals, she said. The numbers increase quickly when she moves litters of puppies or even multiple large dogs at a time.
Dogs generally don’t travel from Dayton to other locations, thanks to the many rescue organizations in the area that already help them find good homes, she said. But she will pick up animals from places like Kentucky and Pennsylvania, taking them to other locations where they are more likely to find a home or driving one leg of a trip that will take them further afield.
“I pick up amazing, amazing dogs that I can’t believe don’t have a home,” she said.
A transport might have her driving 500 miles roundtrip in 8 to 12 hours, usually making 6 stops to pick up or drop off animals. She transports two or three days a week, in addition to keeping several dogs overnight at her own home on Fridays that are to be transported the next morning.
“Once you get in rescue, you see the need and the great outcomes,” said Ruff, 56.
For example, London was a pit bull in an overflowing rural shelter that already had 20 other pit bulls. The shelter was short-staffed and without the funds to pay for a veterinarian. The dog didn’t have a placement, but Ruff took her anyway.
The Humane Society of Greater Dayton found a foster, she said, and London turned out to be pregnant. London and her 12 healthy puppies ended up in loving homes.
Ruff said it is rewarding to witness scared dogs and cats come out of their shell, watching their personalities emerge.
Kim Robinson admires Ruff’s selflessness and devotion to the cause. Robinson volunteers to transport animals a couple of times each month and nominated Ruff as a Dayton Daily News Community Gem.
No matter how many animals Ruff and her organization saves, Robinson knows the work must come with its ups and downs.
“She is just tireless, and I can’t imagine the heartbreak that is involved in the pups and the kitties that she leaves behind,” said Robinson, of Vandalia.
Robinson encourages others to spay and neuter their pets, and help even further by adopting, fostering, volunteering or driving if they can. People often say thank you for transporting the animals, but Robinson said the blessing is hers.
“I get way more than I give, and I know she feels the same way,” Robinson said.
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