Lifestyle & Human Interest

Mother & Son Work To Save Dogs on Kill List, Then Help Drive Pups 2,000 Miles To Safety


When Jennifer McConn and her son Roman adopted their dog Luna from a Texas kill shelter in 2015, they had no idea it would be the beginning of an incredible and unique animal rescue organization.

After being exposed to the harsh reality of high-risk and high-kill shelters, the mother and son couldn’t sit by for another day knowing they could do something to help.

From there, Jennifer began volunteering at their local shelter, and then-4-year-old Roman helped to spread the word by starring in videos about shelter dogs — and the occasional cat — looking for homes.

But back before they saved their beloved Luna, rescuing animals was something Jennifer couldn’t bring herself to face.

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“Rescue in general was something I avoided for most of my life,” Jennifer explained to Liftable. “I didn’t think I had the courage to help an animal from a sad situation or be able to let it go. Emotionally I felt like I couldn’t handle it.”

Luna opened Jennifer’s eyes to a real need in her community, and soon, rescuing animals became something so natural, she and Roman couldn’t imagine their lives without it.

“Once getting over that hurdle, rescuing became just a part of me. It was something both Roman and I seemed to fit into naturally,” she said. “It wasn’t something forced and we were good at it. Once we noticed that, it became almost like a commitment. We felt like we could potentially help so we had to.”

The pair were relocated to Washington in the summer of 2016 after Jennifer’s husband and Roman’s dad was deployed to serve in the military overseas. It didn’t take long for Jennifer to realize that many of the dogs they’d rescued back in Texas could face much better odds in the Pacific Northwest.

With that, Project Freedom Ride began.

“I would joke with Texas Rescues about an underground railroad for dogs up to Washington because the world for a dog, generally speaking, was so much better up here in Washington than down there in Texas,” Jennifer explains on PFR’s Facebook page.

By December 2016, Jennifer and Roman made that joke a reality with their first transport of 31 dogs from kill shelters in Texas to loving and safe homes and shelters in or on the way to Washington.

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Since that day, the mother-son duo has worked tirelessly to continue to rescue transport as many dogs as possible to a better life.

According to Jennifer, the organization is neither a traditional a rescue nor a transport company — it’s a “community.”

The rescue organizations that partner with Project Freedom Ride begin the rescue journey by saving dogs from kill shelters, off the streets, and more. Dogs remain with these rescue partners for at least two weeks while PFR searches for shelters in Washington or families looking to adopt a dog anywhere along the route.

From there, the second half of the rescue process begins. PFR hires transport companies to travel nearly 500 miles around Texas to pick up the dogs from the rescue partners. The process for each transport takes about 4-6 weeks as the dogs prepare to make the lengthy 2,000 mile journey north.

“From start to finish the entire process is generally four to six weeks. We require dogs be in our Texas rescue partners’ programs for a minimum of two weeks before transporting. Many are in their programs for four to six weeks before transporting,” Jennifer explains.

“They are typically housed with rescue fosters or, if the rescue has a facility, they will stay there,” she continues. “Then, whoever we hire to transport that month travels roughly 500 miles to pick up all the dogs from our Texas Rescue Partners and start the 2,000 mile journey from Texas to Washington.”

Of course, rescue situations can often be upsetting, making their work incredibly difficult. But for Jennifer and Roman, the reward of finding deserving dogs loving homes is well worth the pain rescue can bring.

“At times rescuing is draining, unlike anything I can describe,” Jennifer says. “But the amount of pride and joy you can also get from helping a once-unwanted dog transition into a family that adores them is an amazing feeling. Rescue is hard, but it has really just become a part of our family.”

As the face of Project Freedom Ride, Roman stars in the organization’s videos spotlighting adoptable dogs. His enthusiasm and dedication to helping save lives is truly remarkable, and without him, Jennifer knows there would be no PFR.

“Roman has very much has become the blood line for PFR. People have gravitated towards his videos and his mission to save animals which has allowed a huge spotlight to be shown on PFR and rescue in general,” she explains. “I think people have fallen in love with Roman’s genuine love and compassion for dogs as well as his very articulate way he can communicate things. I know, without a doubt, that if we didn’t have him PFR would not be around!”

Rescuing so many dogs also comes at a steep cost financially. With Jennifer and Roman making most of the fundraising efforts, supporting the transport of the animals can be difficult without outside help.

“Our biggest hurdle is always funding! Our transports run us up to $12,000 per month for about 70 dogs. I am just one person and Roman is my almost-7-year-old son and it is really only us fundraising for the transport expenses since our Texas rescue partners cover the pre-transport vetting costs.”

Project Freedom Ride is constantly in need of donations, volunteers, and more to continue providing for so many dogs.

For those interested in adopting a PFR dog or helping Project Freedom Ride to continue the amazing work they are doing, head over to their Facebook page.

Don’t know how else to help? Jennifer says donating to your local animal shelters and rescues is a wonderful place to start.

“Donate, donate, donate or get involved just locally with your shelter or rescues,” she advises. “Even if they are not PFR partners. It has been so amazing to see how many other parents and children are getting involved, visiting with dogs and cats who need to find homes.”

To Jennifer, Roman and the entire Project Freedom Ride community, keep up the incredible work. Your selflessness and willingness to help the helpless is truly inspiring!

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Liz was a senior story editor for The Western Journal.
Liz was a senior story editor for The Western Journal.
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