Bonsack resident transports shelter animals to safety

VINTON–Dianne Prout has dedicated her life to broken animals. The motherless kittens so young that they must be bottle-fed. The one-eyed, two-legged, and mentally retarded cats. The emotionally starved and physically beaten dogs.

“We prefer pets that are not perfect,” Prout, a Bonsack resident, said about her husband and herself. 

Bonsack resident Dianne Prout travels as far away as Tennessee and Maryland to rescue dogs and cats from high-kill shelters, as part of an "underground railroad" of pet transportation. The animals are taken from high-kill shelters and driven in her rescue van to foster homes or no-kill shelters, where they will be adopted into loving homes.
Bonsack resident Dianne Prout travels as far away as Tennessee and Maryland to rescue dogs and cats from high-kill shelters, as part of an "underground railroad" of pet transportation. The animals are taken from high-kill shelters and driven in her rescue van to foster homes or no-kill shelters, where they will be adopted into loving homes.

Prout’s American Eskimo mix, Kaci, was adopted from the Roanoke Valley SPCA. While at first glance Kaci may seem like a normal, happy-go-lucky dog, she is hiding a painful past behind her blissful smile. She was almost certainly abused. The dog shows signs that in her previous home, barking earned a beating. Prout has heard her bark only a handful of times in years, and Kaci is also fearful of knives.

Prout’s toy poodle, Shea, is even more of a victim.

“He’s a true rescue,” Prout said.

Shea is a puppy mill survivor. As a breeder, Shea spent the first seven years of his life in a tiny cage, doing little more than eating and mating. When he was finally rescued, he was near death; the underweight dog had heartworms, hook worms, and ear, bladder, and mouth infections so severe that only a few of his teeth are left. Shea’s owner was not breaking the law by keeping him in this condition; according to Prout, regulations only require that the dogs are fed and watered. He was only given up because he was too old to reproduce; the business Shea came from is still in operation.

Shea still has severe emotional problems, with a genuine fear of most people. For Prout, however, he would give the world.

“I think he’d lay down his life for me,” Prout said about Shea.

Prout has a knack for getting through to these dogs. But there are animals who need her even more than Kaci and Shea do: the animals abandoned at shelters where more of them are euthanized than adopted out. That is where Prout comes in. She calls her one-woman organization Eubie Rescue, named after the dog who introduced her to the world of rescue.

Prout is a transporter, saving dogs and cats from these high-kill shelters, and driving them to new homes or no-kill shelters, which 99 percent of the time are in the north. In the course of a week, the housewife may do as many as three or four transports, driving the pets on one leg of the journey to their future.

Approximately five million homeless dogs and cats are euthanized every year in shelters. There is a network of animal lovers throughout America who are working towards reducing that number. When these volunteers find a dog or cat who tugs their heart strings, they do everything in their power to save them, even if that means placing them in a home or shelter hundreds of miles away. To reach safety, however, these pets need transportation.

“It’s kind of like the underground railroad,” Prout said.

Prout is on the email list for animal shelters all over the south. She receives 500 transport emails a day. When the trip passes through Roanoke, she is always willing to lend a hand.

Prout is also a transporter for many purebred rescues and local animal shelters, from Angels of Assisi and the Roanoke Valley SPCA, to humane societies throughout Southwestern Virginia. She does home visits for distant animal shelters, to make sure that a potential adopter is suitable. Prout herself is an OTRA verified transporter, meaning she does not have to be checked out by individual shelters.

One of her most important jobs, however, is education. She encourages people to do two things: have their pets fixed, so that one day transporters such as her will not be needed; and avoid purchasing dogs from pet stores, who often sell puppy mill puppies.

“There are so many ways to get a pet without spending eight or nine [hundred] or 1,000 dollars,” Prout said.

Of course, Prout has spent many times that amount in her attempt to rescue animals. Her garage houses at least 16 crates, for every size dog or cat.

“I take everything from great Pyrenees to Chihuahuas,” Prout said.

She also bought a new van just to transport animals.

“[My husband] calls it negative employment, because it’s costing him money,” Prout joked.

In the end, her husband is just as dedicated as Prout herself. From fostering 40 cats in their garage, to paying for a new transport van, both Prouts are equally dedicated to saving the world, one dog or cat at a time.

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