Volunteers save dogs from death row

CHAMPAIGN -- A woman is dedicating her life to helping dogs in need. Mobile Mutts was created in 2008 to help dogs on death row get to safety. Since then, volunteers have saved more than 5,000 pets.

They do it through a process called the "Underdog Railway." It helps get the dogs from shelters which euthanize to foster-based homes. Volunteers pick the dogs up at one location and get them to safety with the help of other volunteers.

"A lot of people just don't know that organizations like this exist to be that bridge between death row dogs and tomorrow they're sitting in someone's back yard," said Marion Stevens. She's the transport coordinator for Mobile Mutts.

"I'd just been volunteering with them for years and was asked to take over leadership of it when the group was reorganizing," said Stevens.

Stevens commits up to 50 hours per week to her passion, in addition to working full time. It's something that wouldn't be possible without a great support system, starting at home.

"We're constantly on the go. Our work with the dogs keeps up going, going, going. It's wonderful," said Marion's husband, Earl.

"He does have one rule and that is he won't allow me to eat dinner and talk on the phone," said Marion.

But when it comes to transport time, Marion is focused 100% on the dogs. Without volunteers, she wouldn't be able to help.

"Who are there every week for us and just step up whenever we say, 'hey, we have a dog in need,'" said Stevens.

"You wish you could adopt every single dog and you can't but you have next week to look forward to and the next week after that," said Jan Caffrey, one of the volunteers.

WCIA-3 News traveled with volunteers like Caffrey on one leg of their transport. They picked up eleven dogs in Covington, Indiana, and helped bring them to Champaign.

Mobile Mutts' volunteers do drives like these almost every weekend to transport the pets, but their support doesn't end when the drive is over. Before getting back on the road for the next leg, the dogs will spend the night in Champaign and some stay even longer.

"The highlight, I adopted one of the dogs. I adopted a basset hound named Layla," said Caffrey.

The dogs will end up in foster-based homes in the Illinois, Minnesota or Wisconsin area, then hopefully will be adopted into their forever homes.

Then Monday will roll around again for Marion, and her attention will turn to a new group of dogs.
"Even though during the week it gets a little crazy, it gets hectic, very trying, the reward, you know, each week the reward is right there," said Earl.

"I would like nothing more one day than to wake up and have nothing in my inbox, no dogs in need, no dogs needing to get on my transport, no dogs on death row," said Marion.

An average trip transports about 20 dogs and takes about 60 volunteers. Marion says they could always use more help. To sign up click here.

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