SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Armen Abalian is using two wheels to advocate for those with four legs.
Abalian, 43, traveled to the U.S. from Warsaw, Poland, recently to begin a bike trip through all 48 continental states. He hopes to raise awareness about the unnecessary killing of healthy animals at shelters nationwide.
"It is estimated that four million healthy dogs and cats will be euthanized this year in shelters across the U.S. This is both unacceptable and unnecessary," Abalian said. "This is a very important issue for me. I support all organizations that promote a no-kill approach, and I'm riding across the country to raise donations for those organizations."
In total, Abalian hopes to raise money for 125 no-kill organizations located in every continental U.S. state. He wants to raise $1,000 for each organization, as well as $10,000 for the Best Friends Animal Shelter in Utah, which operates a sanctuary of nearly 1,700 animals.
He has a long way to go to get to his goal of $135,000. As of Wednesday, he had reached $3,000.
Abalian began his three-month journey Oct. 1 in South Hero, Vt. He bikes 60 miles in each state and estimates to bike a total of 3,000 miles by the end of his journey. He plans to finish his final ride in Houston on Dec. 11.
Abalian biked through West Virginia Wednesday and chose South Charleston as his starting point. His route led him to Buffalo before turning around and coming back.
"West Virginia is my thirteenth state that I have traveled through," Abalian said. "I drive from state to state, and I'm covering a lot of ground."
Abalian has two bicycles. He takes them apart and reassembles them daily. He carries a hand pump in case the air in his tires gets low.
"I didn't bring an expensive bike, and I'm sure the professional cyclists would sneer at me," Abalian laughed. "I haven't been let down yet."
He is staying busy.
"I get up early each morning and update social media and my Web page," he said. "This entire campaign is social media based. I have to keep everything current so those who are following me know where I'm at and what I'm doing."
Abalian tries to pay a visit to the no-kill shelters he is supporting in each state. Because of conflicts and time constraints, he cannot make it to all.