John Zavaglia and Massimo Gelao, both from Ontario, already had full-time jobs when they decided, halfway through the pandemic, to help save dogs in need. Zavaglia, a hospital electrician and Gelao, a general contractor, joined together to start Ruff Riders Animal Transport—a company spreading love in the world. Zavaglia had been involved in dog rescues for years before COVID-19, but his passion to spread the message of “Adopt Don't Shop” has only grown. As rescue animal transporters, the two friends work with seventeen individual rescues across Canada focusing the bulk of their efforts in Manitoba—where there is a massive need for rescue animal assistance. Ruff Riders Animal Transport acts as the go-between for the front line dog rescues and the rescues that actually handle rehoming and animal adoption. The journey’s these two take are 30-hours straight from Winnipeg to Ontario—often with more than fifty dogs in their van and no telephone reception as they complete their journey through the woods!
From Manitoba, they drive thirty hours straight to King City, Oakville and then Oshawa dropping off dogs to their final rescue destinations to then make their way to their safe, forever home. “The long haul portion of our trip is where the fun happens,” Zavaglia says. “We’ve even had puppies delivered in the back of the van and have had 170-pound dog escape, search and rescues!” Zavaglia and Gelao take a 2-week break between their transport trips and then plan a new route with new dogs in mind and embark on another rescue mission. It’s a journey of life and love.
“They say it takes a village to save a dog. And it’s quite important for each dog to have that village behind it,” their site reads. “The reality of Canada’s northern dog overpopulation problem means some areas are overwhelmed with dogs and it’s only through teamwork that we can responsibly move these animals to areas where they will have their best chance at a happy ending.”
A happy ending. It’s the perfect finish line of the Summer of Love.
To learn more, please visit www.ruffridersanimaltransport.com or @ruffridersanimaltranspo on Instagram and please consider donating to this incredible cause!