7-Year-Old Wins ASPCA Award For Rescuing More Than 1,300 Dogs From High-Kill Shelters

Published January 11, 2019

"He's a born dog whisperer."

Roman McConn With White Dog

McConn Family“Dog whisperer” 7-year-old Roman McConn.

Seven-year-old Roman McConn of Augusta, Georgia, has saved over 1,350 dogs and 50 cats from kill shelters since the inception of his 2016 mission, Project Freedom Ride.

Together with his mother Jennifer McConn, Roman transports pets in danger of euthanization from high-kill shelters in Texas to forever homes in the Pacific Northwest.

Roman began the altruistic affair at just four-years-old when he asked family and friends to donate money to his favorite animal rescue in lieu of gifts. From there, Roman and his mother drove some 30 dogs from a kill shelter in Texas to Washington where they were adopted.

“He’s a born dog whisperer,” Crystal Eskola of Augusta Animal Services told the ASPCA.

The ASPCA’s tribute video to Roman upon receiving his award.

Jennifer posts videos to their facebook page of Roman playing with the rescues, “I think it’s very important for the dogs I meet that I give them the best chance at finding the right home that they need,” Roman explained. In showcasing the pets as friendly and playful online improves their chances of finding a home.

He has since been recognized by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and made an appearance on The Ellen Degeneres Show.

Roman interviews on Ellen.

During the show, Ellen gifted Roman $20,000 for the organization. McConn said the donation, made possible through Cheerios, will cover the cost of two transports. There will be a large transport in February that will cost an estimated $15,000 with a smaller one in March around $5,000.

Not even a day after the taping, Roman and his mother returned to their rescues. Roman’s mother picked him up from Riverside Elementary School and headed right to one of their local shelters to move eight dogs to new boarding locations.

Those dogs will travel to Texas in February as a part of the large transport Ellen funded and join up with nearly 70 other dogs to be transported to a no-kill shelter in Washington. It will take two drivers who alternate hours at the wheel to avoid costs for overnight stays en route.

Project Freedom Ride has followed the family as they’ve moved from Texas to Washington and now Georgia.

“The only way I can describe Project Freedom Ride is we are a community,” Jennifer wrote on the non-profit’s Facebook page.

Roman McConn Licked By Dog

Project Freedom RideRoman McConn has been saving dogs since he was 4-years-old.

“We partner with amazing Texas Rescues who help by pulling dogs from high-kill shelters or taking in strays and otherwise unwanted dogs prior to them entering such shelters and caring for them through their programs (vetting, fostering, etc) while we look for adopters and / or receiving partners in the Pacific Northwest to take them in.”

The whole process of matching and transporting the dogs reportedly takes about 4 weeks.

“My hopes for 2019 are since we’re transporting from Georgia and Texas, to get as many dogs adopted as we can. And, to help rescue dogs ’cause I think they deserve more than a life in a kennel,” Roman reported.

Next up, read about this dog who reunited with his family after surviving the deadly Camp Fire. Then, read about how Balto saved an entire town.

Leah Silverman
Leah is the associate editor for All That's Interesting. Her work has appeared in Catapult, Town & Country, Women's Health, and Publishers Weekly. She is currently pursuing an MFA from Columbia University's Creative Writing program.