HUNTLEY – The white van that pulled into the parking lot of Animal House Shelter in Huntley was filled ceiling to floor with cages.
A black Labrador mix named May was in one.
Her time was up at the southern Illinois pound where she had been sent after getting caught running with another dog, said Jeannette Schulz, the executive director of On Angels' Wings.
"She was obviously loved," Schulz said. "She knows sit and paw."
Another held P.J. – short for Papa John – a 12-year-old mix that looks a little like a miniature husky. Blind in one eye and with a limp, Schulz is hoping for a "senior-to-senior" adoption where an older person adopts an older pet.
Cooing to each dog, Emily Huetson transferred five of the dogs, including P.J. and May, to the On Angels' Wings van.
Both animals were set to be euthanized unless another shelter agreed to take them, said Huetson, the animal welfare director for On Angels' Wings. She started the shelter with her mother, Jeannette Schulz, in early 2007.
"They literally don't have the space," Huetson said. "They'll even euthanize pregnant moms, pregnant mom dogs and pregnant mom cats, just due to space, and if nobody claims them in a certain amount of time, they're gone. It's really sad."
Volunteers at the shelters will send out emails to other shelters, letting them know the details of the animals' situations, and the area shelters will select the animals they think they can adopt out, she said.
About 60 percent of the cats and dogs On Angels' Wings adopts out come to McHenry County through these transports, Schulz said, adding that there aren't as many pets being taken to shelters or abandoned in McHenry County as in other parts of the country, not enough to cover the demand for pets.
On Angels' Wings wasn't the only shelter picking up dogs that cold Thursday afternoon.
Between that van and another that makes the weekly trip on the same days, 60 to 100 dogs, cats, rabbits and even once a opossum are ferried up to McHenry County from mostly southern Illinois, said the van's driver, Dave Novak.
"Sometimes it will be a mom and her kittens or a load of puppies," Huetson said. "You just never know. There's just such a need in the south, and we're happy to have a transport that makes it up here. We love it."
Novak, a Lyons resident, is one of a series of drivers who can bring the animals from as far as Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, Georgia and Tennessee, Schulz said. He starts his day at about 7 a.m. and gets home about 12 hours later after making stops in Tinley Park, Joliet and Huntley.
The drives can get noisy, but most of the animals calm down once the van gets moving, he said. They'll start to get noisy again when they need to need to go to the bathroom.
Novak started running transports about a year and a half ago, he said. He had been fostering animals at the time, and another driver asked if he would take over.
"It's to save the animals," he said. "My opinion is there are no bad animals, there are bad people. That's pretty much it. That's really why I bring them up. That's why I volunteer my time to do this."
Besides donating their time, many drivers cover the transportation costs, including gas, Schulz said. Some volunteer pilots also run transports.