On Thursday morning at 4 a.m., the bus from Pack Leaders Rescue arrives at PetSmart in North Little Rock. It’s there to take dozens of dogs and cats on a journey to East Hartford, Connecticut— a journey toward a happy ending.

“Since there's such a need here, we come down and do our part to make sure these wonderful creatures have a place to go,” Montana Cateni, president of Pack Leaders Rescue of Connecticut, said.

This week, about 60 dogs and 12 cats from shelters across the southern U.S. are aboard the bus, which travels the route between East Hartford and North Little Rock weekly.

“We just sent off our babies,” Tanja Jackson, shelter manager for Union County Animal Protection Society, said.

Jackson and Jana Reynolds, the agency’s executive director, regularly make the three-hour trip from El Dorado. This week, they loaded nine dogs on the transport bus and watched with mixed emotions as they departed.

“This is what we work for,” Jackson said. “I don't care what it takes, we'll do what it takes so they find their second chance— their home. There are more animals here than there are homes for.”

She attributes that, in part, to a lack of leash and sterilization laws in many parts of Arkansas.

“We're so overcrowded here,” Reynolds said.

About 75% of the animals will have new owners waiting when they arrive in Connecticut, according to Cateni. He says the others will likely be adopted within a few days.

“In the Northeast, we have a large demand for dogs,” Cateni said. “Many, many families up in the Northeast have two or three dogs. It’s a different culture, so the demand is there and these dogs need rescuing.”

Meanwhile, work continues here at home to rescue animals in need and eliminate the need for transports altogether.

“This is just a temporary fix to this problem,” Reynolds said. “We can't adopt our way out of this problem. We can’t transport our way out. The only real answer to this is spay and neuter.”

As shelters across Arkansas deal with overcrowding, Jackson says people can help through monetary gifts, volunteering, and visiting the facilities.

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