LEBANON, Tenn. (WTVF) — Rescuing animals can be a difficult, even dangerous, job.
Even so, dealing with a violent drug cartel should not be part of the expectations.
And yet, that's exactly what Animal Rescue Corps dealt with during a recent, harrowing rescue out of Mexico.
The situation is almost impossible to believe.
A cartel in Mexico was extorting an animal sanctuary there.
The message was simple: either pay up or we'll kill all the dogs and your families.
Someone forgot to tell the cartel that one thing most shelters do not have is a lot of money.
The threats were serious, so the shelter there issued a desperate plea for help. Mobile kennels with 20 rescued dogs had to be loaded onto a chartered plane in Mexico, seeking a quick escape.
"Our friends at the Bissell Pet Foundation received an urgent request to help some dogs facing an uncertain future. They had been living and being cared for in a sanctuary in Mexico," Tim Woodward with ARC explained in a video statement. But the sanctuary had to close.
ARC reported that the staff and dogs were under serious threat from violent drug and gang cartel members.
Either pay or we will kill you all.
"And they urgently needed relocation. These dogs didn't have another solution," said Woodward.
The sanctuary connected with the Bissell Pet Foundation and ARC, and both acted quickly.
A single team member flew from the states to Mexico to help evacuate the animals.
They were all loaded onto a chartered plane and flown safely back to the states — no contact with the cartel.
"In a matter of weeks, these dogs will be in a home on a couch with a family, and that's what we are all working towards" said Woodward.
This was certainly a rescue like none other.
After landing in Florida, all of the dogs were transported back to the ARC emergency shelter in Middle Tennessee.
Animal Rescue Corps said its mission is to rescue animals from unlivable or dangerous situations anywhere — whether that's a puppy mill here in the states or drug cartel threats south of the border.