300 Dogs and Cats Flew From Overcrowded Texas Shelter to Find Homes

They're fighting the 'geographic luck of the draw.'

Tim woodward with puppies
Tim Woodward with rescued dogs.


More than 300 puppies and kittens and dogs and cats recently flew by chartered planes from an overcrowded shelter in El Paso, Texas, to shelters in other parts of the country where they could be more easily adopted.

The animals were first checked by vets at the packed El Paso Animal Services, then blown to animal rescue groups in California, New Jersey, and Wisconsin.

The rescue mission was organized by Animal Rescue Corps (ARC), a national animal protection nonprofit, and BISSELL Pet Foundation, a nonprofit that provides financial help to animal welfare groups.

volunteer with scruffy dog
Pets were checked by vets before they left El Paso. ARC

It's common for some parts of the country to have a bigger problem with shelter overcrowding, while other areas have waiting lists for adoptable pets. This is due to the fact that in places like the Northwest, Upper Midwest, and New England, spaying and neutering is a widespread practice so there aren't as many unwanted litters.

However, in places like the South and Southeast, the practice isn't as common so unwanted puppies and kittens are common. That's why rescuer groups will work to transport animals that are unable to be adopted in one place to somewhere where wannabe-adopters will line up early in hopes of adding a pet to the family.

And that's what happened with this rescue.

"Through our shelter relief efforts, Animal Rescue Corps works with many shelters, like El Paso Animal Services, where the population of homeless animals far exceeds the demand for adoptable animals in their communities, conversely some of our best shelter partners are in areas of the country where the demand for adoptable animals exceeds the number of homeless animals coming into their shelter from their region," Tim Woodward, executive director of Animal Rescue Corps, tells Treehugger.

"By forging these partnerships and moving animals through well-managed transports we are providing a valuable resource to both the originating and receiving shelters, and most importantly it means that animals are often placed in loving homes in a matter of days or weeks versus months or years."

Pets Hitting the Skies

dogs and cats in kennels
Dogs and cats in kennels, ready for transport. ARC

The rescuers called the mission Operation Big Lift: El Paso with pets going to humane societies, animal shelters, and rescues that will find the animals forever homes.

The pets include Sally, a pup who arrived at El Paso Animal Services injured after being hit by a car. She was never claimed by her family and likely may never have found a new home in Texas. She'll receive medical care and a new family in a new destination.

There's also Rosa, a tiny, scruffy dog who came into the shelter with a broken pelvis. After some pain medicine and restricted movement, she'll heal and be ready for her forever home.

pets wait in kennels
Dogs and cats wait in kennels. ARC

With more than 300 pets hitting the skies and spreading to new places across the country, this mission is one of the biggest in ARC's history.

It is "relieving a lot of pressure on the overburdened region of El Paso as they head into flooding and heatwave season," ARC posted on Facebook "and, best of all, giving a Big Lift to so many deserving cats and dogs who, by geographic luck of the draw, otherwise had little hope of ever finding their own caring families."

Other support for the transport came from Maddie's Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida, American Pets Alive!, Best Friends Animal Society, Human Animal Support Services, IDEXX, Maddie's Fund, and Team Shelter USA.

As the group continued on Facebook, "The ARC team is tired but all smiles today. We can't wait to see Sally and the others find their forever families."