CUBA, N.Y. - Deep in New York's Southern Tier, a humble shelter works every single day at saving animals from all over the country.
Joyful Rescues, located in Allegany County, is an operation that over time, has saved thousands of lives from puppy mills, inhumane breeders, and high kill shelters.
Up a winding hill, past snowcapped trees, a sprawling hill is home to Joyful Rescues.
"I just can't imagine what would have happened to these thousands and thousands of animals had my husband not encouraged me to do this,” said Joye Turock, founder of the rescue.
Turock says her crew has saved more than 11,000 dogs and cats since the rescue's incorporation as a non-profit in 2004.
It is a no-kill shelter in Cuba.
Its volunteers serve the Buffalo-Rochester area, taking in surrendered pets and those with health issues.
They put their own time and money into recovery and finding homes.
"We have so many wonderful volunteers, who, at a moment's notice, Katie and I can pick up the phone, and we can get someone somewhere to grab a dog that needs help,” Joye said.
Katie is Joye’s heir-apparent when Joye eventually hands off Joyful Rescues to the next generation of volunteers.
President of the Board Susan Buckman is one of those many volunteers. She's also Joyful Rescues’ main transporter, which means she, armed with a minivan and several crates, will drive wherever she's needed.
That need is severe in Southern Virginia.
"From Webster, it's about 11 and a half hours to get down there, and 11 and a half hours to get back,” explained Susan.
Recently, she’s been traveling often to Grundy, Virginia.
Built on a coal mining mountain, it is an impoverished community.
"You don't see high rises, you don't see big cities…Grundy is very small,” Susan said.
Not for lack of love, but for lack of money, pets were put on the back burner as poverty rose. Buchanan County Humane Society president Stephanie Smith had crisis on her hands with too many dogs filling up a town shelter that had high euthanasia rates.
"So I put a plea out on Facebook, and I met a representative from Joyful Rescues named Susan Buckman, and we decided that it would be a great idea to try to move dogs from our high kill shelter to their no kill shelter in the north,” Smith said.
Susan packed up the minivan, and has not looked back since. She drives nearly 23 hours most weekends and brings back dogs from Grundy, Virginia to Cuba, New York.
Stephanie says the unwanted dog population was a growing problem.
"When we were adopting back out into our community, occasionally we would get the dog back with a litter of puppies,” she said.
Her relationship with the folks at Grundy’s animal shelter is extremely important.
The shelters get a lot of surrendered animals. There is no leash law in this part of Virginia, and to compound the issue, dogs are not often fixed.
"The coal industry is our main source of revenue. And the coal industry has suffered in the past few years, and so our economy is very bad, so people don't tend to put a priority on getting an animal spayed or neutered when they're trying to put groceries in the refrigerator,” Stephanie said.
Dr. Catherine Rasnake is an essential part of improving this problem.
At a discount to both the shelter and Joyful Rescues, she vaccinates and spays and neuters every animal that comes through this unique system.
“Anything our clinic can do to help get those animals a better life, we’re all in,” said Dr. Rasnake.
She and her army of colleagues stay late most Fridays to get the job done before Susan has to return to New York.
"We've worked out this system like a well-oiled machine that is saving hundreds of lives and making a lot of families up home happy with a new pet,” Susan said.
Without it, there would be a much higher euthanasia rate.
"It's just a rough time for people in this community, and there's just simply more animals than there are homes,” Stephanie said.
On this trip Channel 2 went on, Joyful Rescues brought back 17 dogs of all ages, sizes, and breeds. They are the lucky ones.
"They get to know what it is to be loved before they die, and to love a human before they die, but there's always those or two that come through that fate just doesn't deal them a fair hand, and that is really hard,” Susan said.
Stephanie, Dr. Rasnake, and Susan loaded the van at 5:00 a.m., said goodbye, and then Susan started the 11-hour drive back to New York.
"The most rewarding part is when you get back to Joyful Rescues, and you unload them and put them in the intake kennel...and you know they are not going to die. They're going to be okay, we're going to find them forever homes...That's why we do this,” Susan said.
Joye has a saying she's been using for years to keep spirits up, because undoubtedly, she and her team will have tough days.
"It's no matter what happens or what goes wrong, I say okay, you know, deep breath, on we go,” Joye said.
And that attitude is essential because their work shows that there are so many more lives still to save.
Want to adopt, donate, or help?
- Joyful Rescues website: http://www.joyfulrescues.com/
- Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/joyfulrescues
- Phone number: (716) 372-3661