Investigators: The Puppy Pipeline

Adopting a shelter dog is trendy in Hollywood, but Minnesota is quickly becoming a leader of the pack when it comes to the business of rescuing dogs from across the country. TAP TO VIEW PHOTOS

Recently, two volunteers drove a van load of rescued dogs into Minnesota. The pups spent 12 hours on the road to escape a death sentence in Tulsa, Oklahoma where they would have most likely been euthanized. In Minnesota, they will get new homes. It's just one of hundreds of canine caravans that arrive in Minnesota this spring from more than a dozen states.

The rescues are made possible by a network of dedicated volunteers who have formed a "puppy pipeline" that stretch across the country. Pet owners in Minnesota have been good about getting their dogs fixed, lessening the pool of available hometown puppies. In turn, that has made the demand for rescue dogs increase.

"We have significant demand for adoption, especially for dogs," said Janelle Dixon CEO of the Animal Humane Society. "If it weren't for transport, you wouldn't see puppies available for adoption."

Many of the dogs transported to Minnesota come from southern states, where pet populations are out of control. A recent puppy influx to the Animal Humane Society arrived on a transport from Kentucky. This particular rescue mission was funded by a pet supply company. Each animal received a medical check, microchip and dose of vaccines. Surgeries to spay or neuter them will also come in the near future.

Last year, more than 6,000 dogs were transported to the Animal Humane Society. That number doesn't include hundreds, if not thousands, more that came to Minnesota through other rescue groups.

Who's rescuing them?

Minnesota rescue group volunteers have transporting dogs down to a science. Lacy and Jake Schramm run the "Save-A-Bull Rescue" from their home. Social media is a key part of their success, and they have 12,000 followers on Facebook. Those connections pay off when a rescue needs a temporary foster home.

"We just started doing it because it just wasn't fair really. A lot of dogs get mistreated, mishandled, especially with the bully breeds they just get branded," said Ben, a foster home volunteer. "Reality is, they're not bad dogs."

Sick puppies

At times the rescue business can be gut-wrenching. Koda arrived on a transport and then came down with parvo virus, often a fatal disease. It can cost hundreds of dollars a day to nurse a dog back to health. Last year, the organization spent nearly $20,000 trying to save 4 puppies that had parvo.

"Some people think that's a ridiculous amount of money to spend on puppies. Other people are very fierce the other way that you have to save them," said Lacy Schramm.

Members of the group believe if a dog has a chance to survive and they're not prolonging its suffering, they're going to fight for it. Again, thanks to social media they've found supporters who will open their wallets to pay the medical bills.

A new generation of dog owners

The metro's huge demand for rescued dogs is fueled by a new generation of owners who like the idea of having a pet with a back story. Jill and Ben Michel recently bought a new house and wanted to get a dog. They also liked the idea of rescuing an adult dog that might have been put down otherwise. The couple found 2-year old Nelson at the Humane Society. He rode the puppy pipeline out of Missouri.

"We can't figure out why someone would give him up because he's been awesome so far," said Jill. "He's been an awesome catch."