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Pet Professionals: Interview Karen Vazquez of Rescue Express | Figo Pet Insurance

Interview with Karen Vazquez of Rescue Express

We recently had the opportunity to speak with Karen Vazquez, marketing and social media coordinator for Rescue Express, a non-profit animal transport service. Their mission is to help reduce stress on already overcrowded animal shelters in California by transporting companion animals to forever homes throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Q: Can you tell our readers a little about the origins of Rescue Express?

A: Rescue Express is an initiative of the MGM Animal Foundation that was established in 2000. Our founder Mike McCarthy, a retired software entrepreneur, has worked with rescue groups for over 20 years and has always had a passion for animals. While working in Eugene, Oregon, he saw that there was a shortage of adoptable animals in the Pacific Northwest. Animals were being transported in cramped vans that could only hold about a dozen crates. He realized there is a more efficient and cost-effective way to transport hundreds of animals at once. Rescue Express was founded to transport animals from high kill shelters in Southern California to their “forever homes” in the Pacific Northwest using a fleet of four refurbished school buses and a tractor trailer.

Q: Do you partner with specific area shelters?

A: We actually have partners in various states! While we mainly operate in California, Oregon, and Washington, we also provide charter trips in other states such as Delaware, Arizona, Texas, Utah, and more. We have over 300 partners across the US, and we hope to expand as our organization continues to grow.

Q: Approximately how many pets do you transport per year?

A: We have transported almost 19,000 animals since 2015. That’s an average of 6,000 lives a year. Our organization hopes to increase this number each year, especially with our tractor trailer that can hold up to 350 animals per trip.

Q: How are your vehicles modified for safe pet transport?  

A: Each bus is equipped with 100,000 BTU heating and cooling capabilities to provide animals with a comfortable environment regardless of the weather. The buses carry five different carriers sized (XS-XL) to ensure that the animals have enough space for the long ride.

Q: How are animals monitored during transport—and how are any health emergencies that arise during transport handled?

A: We always have an animal transport coordinator onboard in addition to the driver. The coordinators all have multiple years of experience in caring for animals, and are charged with feeding the animals, cleaning out the crates, and evaluating any problems that may arise and responding appropriately.

Q: I see you cover California and the Pacific Northwest. What’s the farthest your organization has transported an animal?

A: Rescue Express has traveled as far up as Canada, and as far east as Delaware!

Q: Can you briefly share an adoption story that you found particularly moving or significant?

A: This year we transported a dog named Droopy. He was dumped at a Long Beach shelter after his family moved away and was at risk of euthanasia. Luckily, a shelter animal advocacy group called Outta the Cage took Droopy in and provided him with a foster. Once again, however, Droopy’s foster was unable to keep him and he was back to a cage-free boarding facility. Agave Dogs Rescue in Washington arranged a transport on one of our buses on September 22, 2018. Droopy traveled all the way from southern California to Washington where he was adopted by his new foster parents.

Q: Do you have any foster or adopted pets yourself?

A: I personally don’t, but our founder Mike has seven rescue dogs! Each has a unique story and personality and they love to hang around us at the office in exchange for hugs and cuddles.

Q: Is there anything specific you’d like our readers to know about your organization, perhaps something not found on your website?

A: Thanks to our mass animal transportation capabilities, we can transport one animal for only $20. This means that every $20 donation saves a life and gives another animal a chance at life again. As we expand, we hope to reduce this cost even more.


Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.

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