And he’s not done yet.
Tony Alsup is no stranger to long hours on the road. The 51-year-old from Greenback, Tennessee makes his living as a truck driver. And when disaster strikes, he trades in his truck for a modified yellow school bus and hits the road once more.
Bearing the name of his passion project, “EARS – Emergency Animal Rescue & Shelter,” Alsup’s school bus serves as a modern-day Noah’s Ark. Inside, the seats have been ripped out to make room for four-legged passengers.
When The Washington Post caught up with him at Waffle House outside Fayetteville, North Carolina on Sunday, he had been on the road for almost a week, working tirelessly to relocate animals left in Hurricane Florence’s path. He’d already rescued 53 dogs and 11 cats from South Carolina shelters, and said he plans to search for more.
"I'm like, look, these are lives too," Alsup told The 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 has been plucking shelter pets from harm’s way with his school bus since Hurricane Harvey last year. Sometimes he brings supplies in, but he always brings animals out.
He told The Post that when he saw how shelters become overcrowded with lost or rescued animals during natural disasters, he thought he could help transport them to vacant shelters. But there was a problem: he couldn’t exactly put them in his semi.
“I thought, well what can I do?” he recalled. “I’ll just go buy a bus.”
This time around, Alsup stopped at four South Carolina animal shelters in 48 hours, where he rescued all dogs and cats the shelter couldn’t find anyone to take… the “leftovers.”
With his bus stacked to its ceiling with crates, Alsup bussed the rescued pets to an awaiting shelter in Foley, Alabama. From there, The Post reports that they’ll be sent to shelters throughout the country and put up for adoption.
“Tony swooped in at 4am Wednesday morning to pick up our ‘leftovers’ — the dogs with blocky heads, the ones with heartworm,” the Saint Frances Animal Center in Georgetown, South Carolina wrote on Facebook. “The ones no one else will ever take. And he got them to safety. Not the most conventional evacuation, but surely the one with the most heart.”
Today’s plan is for Alsup to try and head to Wilmington, North Carolina, where—even though the roads are flooded—there is a shelter that needs him.