90 percent of the animals at the Aiken County Animal Shelter are euthanized because they can't find homes, but one man is hitting the highways to help.
“Here we go, time to go up North, there ya go, there's the rest of your gang.”
“It's almost like a drive to try to rescue every dog from the South,” Mark Choper says.
Choper is on his way to saving 22 Aiken County lives, in addition to the thousands he's already saved, but for him that's not enough.
“I feel guilty I can't go home and drop these guys off and come back for another load,” Choper says, “but with the price of diesel I have to ship some horses to at least offset it.”
Mark's makes a living moving horses across the country, and every time he comes through Aiken he picks up a few hitchhikers. To save those lives today he's foregoing several thousand dollars.
“If I used those stalls it could take four horses, but I don't look at it this way,” he says. A horse can bring between $750 and $1,000. “My father taught me you don't have to make every dollar ever printed.”
Here's how it works: Aiken County's shelter has too many animals, and because of that too many die.
“We try to adopt as many as we can, but when you get 120 a week, there's only so much you can do,” says Jennifer Miller of Friends Of The Animal Shelter.
So, FOTAS has set up transfers with shelters in New Hampshire or Rhode Island that need animals to adopt.
“We send pictures to show what we have, then pull them, and fight for every one of their lives,” Miller says.
But those shelters are 16 hours and a lot of dollars away-; that's where Mark comes in.
“We couldn't afford it,” Miller says of shipping the animals. “That's why Mark is my angel and I'd give him my right arm if I needed to.”
Mark says all he needs is a hand loading up, enough money to buy the gas, and to know he's giving these animals that second leash on life.
While it's incredible how many lives Mark is saving, that's not the full story: Most animals will not be able to board that truck up North, and will be euthanized if they don't find homes in the CSRA. FOTAS encourages you to come to the shelter and take a look, and to of course spay and neuter your pets.