A group of shelter dogs from Miami-Dade are hitting the road Tuesday for a trip up north to save their lives.
The 26 dogs are heading to a new shelter in Maquoketa, Iowa, a rural town of 6,000 residents 1,500 miles away.
"The shelter that they're going to is a no-kill shelter. They have adoptive people waiting for these dogs to get there," said Teresa Donnelly, Live Release Coordinator for Miami-Dade Animal Services.
Driver Fabricio Lioncio says he's made at least five or six similar trips, which have all been funded by the county and a non-profit group.
"It's a nice drive, I like it, I've done it many times," Lioncio said.
Inside the van, it's close quarters, a challenge to load up the animals and keep them comfortable.
"They calm down after a while," Lioncio said. "We leave the music on you know, nothing too loud."
For Tuesday's trip, Lioncio is riding with a human friend and a canine co-pilot named Sunny.
Staying in Miami-Dade would likely be a death sentence for the dogs, Donnelly said. Some of them have already spent three weeks at the county shelter without being adopted, and there's not enough room to keep them alive.
The shelter currently has 317 dogs and 127 cats. In April they took in 2,946 animals, including 1,600 dogs and 1,344 cats.
Donnelly said it's still hard to say goodbye.
"I get really really attached to them," she said, adding that she knows they're headed for a happy ending. "It just means the world to me."