During the holidays, we all love a feel-good story, and this one makes all of us here at NationaLease feel very, very good.
When Karen Talbot and Dante LaSasso first approached Jim Donnelly, President of All Services Leasing, Inc., a NationaLease Member, with a request for help for their organization in delivering much-needed food to animal shelters in Georgia, the response was immediate and positive. And it’s remained that way for nearly five years.
The organization, Animal Aid USA, is a “non-profit organization that is composed of all volunteers aimed at one thing: helping animals!” The main goal is to protect animals that face being euthanized at high-kill shelters in Georgia by bringing them up to the northeast to find homes. But how did the organization start?
Karen Talbot spoke about the group’s origins. “Back in 2008, I was the PTA President for St. Joseph’s Elementary School in New Jersey where my son was a student. I was tasked with coming up with a program for Catholic Schools Week and I recalled hearing about animal shelters in Georgia that were using gas chambers to euthanize dogs. I was appalled, to say the least, so I decided a great way to get kids involved was to teach them the importance of saving lives through rescue. That’s how we developed ‘Paws for the Cause’ and rescued 120 puppies and dogs.”
Karen knew she couldn’t make this a one-and-done situation, so she and another mother created M.O.M.S., the Making of Miracle Stories Animal Rescue. In 2009, they decided to do a road trip to Georgia and make a documentary about the trip. The caravan consisted of trucks taking 22 tons of dog food, accompanied by 50 vehicles and seven airplanes to bring the dogs back, a team from National Geographic, and a film crew. The result: a documentary entitled “Take Me Home,” which detailed the largest rescue operation in Georgia state history, with more than 350 animals rescued.
“We were getting sponsorships from wonderful people in Georgia and other places, but I knew we needed more, so I approached Prince Lorenzo Borghese (who was ABC’s ninth The Bachelor). Lorenzo is a huge animal advocate and was willing to join us. In 2012, we created the organization, Animal Aid USA and in January of 2012, we became incorporated. Now my husband, Dante, myself, and a team of volunteers travel back and forth from Georgia every 28 days bringing up approximately 200 dogs each time. We have four vans, a state-of-the-art transport rig, and a secondary transport rig. A few county-run facilities in Georgia law do not allow any public adoptions, so we have two locations in Georgia to keep the animals until we can transport them up to rescue organizations in the northeast. We spay and neuter them, treat them for any complications, and care for them. The animal advocacy organization, Dogs on Death Row, helps us get funding and grants, and we are dedicated to taking dogs off the death row list every 30 days and placing them in our quarantine facilities until we or one of the rescue shelters up north finds a home for them.”
Karen and Dante first approached Jim Donnelly at ASL about four years ago. “Jim loves animals and he’s just a truly giving person,” said Karen. “On the first trip, we had a 53-ft. trailer full of dog food that Jim’s company delivered to the Georgia shelters. The food we get is donated by Natural Balance Pet Food, Inc. and DSC Logistics, in partnership with the non-profit 501c3, Animal House Project and is picked up by ASL’s truck at the distribution center. ASL is now taking food to the Georgia shelters, 30 to 40 skids at a time, two to three times a year.”
“What’s so great about this,” said Caryn Quieti, ASL’s Director of Transportation, “is how easy it is to find drivers willing to make this trip. They actually love it. It’s very different from what they normally do and when they get to the shelter, they get to interact and play with the dogs. It just makes our drivers feel good. It makes us feel good, too. And Karen and Dante are so passionate about this that they’ve influenced the people that work here at ASL. Some of our employees have adopted dogs from the Animal Aid USA caravan.”
Said Karen, “Our main goal is to rescue these oftentimes abandoned and mistreated animals; but our secondary goal is to teach and inspire children to become involved; to understand how much joy animals can bring and how children can make a difference in these animals’ lives. We know that with the involvement of our sponsors and partners, and the continuing good will of companies like ASL and people like Jim Donnelly, we and these animals face a much brighter, more hopeful future.”
Please check out the organization’s website, animalaidusa.org for more information.