FAIRLAWN, N.J. — Every week, Fair Lawn resident Steve Quilliam drives a minibus 900 miles to Georgia to pick up dogs who are being housed in kill shelters.
Quilliam loads 40 or 50 mutts into his bus and places them in veterinaries and foster homes en route to New Jersey.
He has been doing this for two years and he estimates he has saved the lives of 7,000 dogs.
"It is just a moral responsibility," Quilliam told the Daily Voice of his business, "Grateful Doggies," that runs four busses a week.
"If I don't pick these dogs up they die."
A lack of spay and neuter programs in the south has led to a prolific overpopulation of dogs who end up in kill shelters, Quilliam said. Those dogs have approximately one week in the shelter before they're euthanized, he said.
Quilliam — who is USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service certified — works with some 300 "rescues" in the north and south to get the dogs out of kill shelters and properly vetted for transport.
His trips routinely take him as far north as Maine to find his dogs a safe home.
"The second half of the trip is very gratifying," Quilliam said, crediting his Grateful Doggies team and all the volunteers he works with.
"My crew and I are like family and I could never do this without them."
Quilliam this fall opened Grateful Doggies Rescue Retreat in Middletown, New York — an adoption center for the dogs he rescues.
Despite Grateful Doggies' success, Quilliam says he'd rather be out of business.
"I'm hoping that what we are doing eventually won't be needed anymore."
"I want to see people become more responsible dog owners and some legislation for spay and neuter programs," Quilliam added. "But until then we are going to keep running as many vehicles as we can."
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