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Road Trip Saves Dogs and Cats In Lee And Columbus County Shelters

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SANFORD, N.C. — Dozens of animals from North Carolina are headed to Massachusettsin an unusual partnership that gives the unwanted pets a chance for a loving home.

The 30 dogs and three cats began a trip north Monday morning.Their new benefactors are the Animal Rescue League of Boston.

Volunteers flew in Sunday morning to take the animals back in a U-Haul van. They arrived Sunday afternoon and gushed over the eager but unwanted pets straining against cages.

"These animals will probably be adopted within two or three weeks. It's amazing," said Boston volunteer Gayle Fitzpatrick.

Massachusetts has strict spay and neuter laws. The result is that there is a lack of mutt-variety dogs and cats for average families.

The Boston group is taking animals from Sanford and Columbus Counties to families, some which are already on waiting lists.

Fitzpatrick said that there just are not enough pets for families who want them in her state. The former Tar Heel is passionate about saving the animals.

"Rather than have people go to pet stores and purchase a puppy, there are so many [animals] in shelters a few states away from us that really could use a good home," she said.

San-Lee Humane Society

board members said North Carolinians tend to let their non-pedigree animals reproduce at will, creating a constant stress for shelters.

San-Lee vice-president Jane Moore thumbed the head of a blue-eyed Siamese mix cat through the cage bars and bristled.

"People throw their animals out," she said. "They don't spay them. They don't neuter them. They don't even give them their rabies shots. We try desperately to take care of them, but we get overloaded."

The Animal Rescue of Boston spent its own money for the trip and brought its own veterinarian to check out San-Lee's rescued strays and drop-offs.

Dr. Marsha Smith looked over each animal, and took blood samples before agreeing to take them.

"So far, these cats look tremendously healthy. They don't look like they've been on the road at all. They're well fed," Smith said.

Even a cat with a broken jaw was pronounced healthy. The cat, named Diva, lost her kittens after being abused and dumped at San-Lee.

Several Boston volunteers paid their own way on this trip to help crate the animals for the long journey back to Massachusetts. Another two dozen animals will join the group in Sanford from a shelter in Columbus County.

It is a mercy mission, which will continue as long as donations pay for it. Boston donors have picked up the travel and vet expenses for this trip and a previous one. Fundraising must occur to keep the rescue effort going.

The San-Lee Humane Society wants to continue the partnership, but the center -- now operating without county funding -- is struggling itself. It relies on adoption fees and donations, and the board is troubled that the shelter will not be open 30 to 60 days from now.

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