From the outside, it looks like a normal school bus. But inside, it’s a bustling animal shelter on wheels, with rows of dogs and cats in crates stacked two deep.
Tony Alsup spent this past week driving his bus to South Carolina shelters to rescue animals in the path of Hurricane Florence, which has caused 23 deaths and displaced more than 1 million residents as of publishing. So far Alsup has gathered 53 dogs and 11 cats and relocated them to shelters out of harm’s way.
“I’m like, look, these are lives too,” Alsup told the Washington Post. “Animals — especially shelter pets — they always have to take the back seat of the bus. But I’ll give them their own bus. If I have to I’ll pay for all the fuel, or even a boat, to get these dogs out of there.”
Alsup never planned on becoming a chauffeur for dozens of animals in need. It all started with a misunderstanding on social media: When Hurricane Harvey was barreling toward Houston in 2017, Alsup saw a web post requesting help in bringing shelter animals to safety. Alsup volunteered, planning to carry a few dogs in the cab of his semi-truck. Meanwhile, the shelters assumed he could transfer dozens of animals in the body of the truck.
“You’ve got to be very careful what you say on social media, man,” he told the Greenville News.
But once he had given his word, Alsup felt he couldn’t back out. “So,” he reasoned, “why don’t I just go buy a bus?”
He spent $3,200 on a former school bus, tore the seats out to make room for dog crates, and hit the road. Since then, Alsup has been an essential force in helping rescue pets displaced by Hurricanes Irma, Maria, and now Florence.
Alsup has largely focused on the “leftover” animals — “the dogs with blocky heads, the ones with heartworm,” wrote one shelter on its Facebook page. “The ones no one else will ever take.”
“It’s so easy for people to adopt the small pets and the cuties and the cuddly,” Alsup said. “We take on the ones that deserve a chance even though they are big and a little ugly. But I love big dogs, and we find places for them.”
If you’d like to contribute to Alsup’s animal rescue efforts, you can donate via PayPal.