Tallulah Trice was checking on a few skinny pit bulls on St. Helena Island last week when, as often happens, she found a souvenir.
The Beaufort County Animal Shelter director brought back with her not the two dogs -- a job for another day -- but the kitten making daring passes at their food. Trice's operation, already stretched thin, got a little more crowded.
"I thought, 'You're not gonna be their dinner,' " she said.
On Saturday, though, the animal shelter and the Hilton Head Humane Association should be uncharacteristically roomy. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals plans to transport more than 65 of their dogs and cats to facilities up North, where Trice hopes they'll have a better shot at finding homes.
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Dubbed "Operation Special Delivery," the project will be the largest transport ever for local shelters. It kicks off the "Reduce" campaign, a joint effort between the shelter and humane association to decrease animal euthanization, overpopulation, disease and cruelty.
"We have a huge supply, but we don't have a high demand," Trice said. "There's too many animals breeding in our community. You can look on Beaufort yard sales, Craigslist; people are trying to give away animals free to good homes."
While the Lowcountry boasts many animal lovers with room to spare, they're outnumbered by the pets in need of adoption, said Franny Gerthoffer, executive director of the Hilton Head Humane Association.
"I think at some point we're going to be able to get a handle on this and become a no-kill county environment," Gerthoffer said. "That's what we're working toward, and I really hope we can achieve that.
"But that's why it's so important to move these animals out."
Sometimes that can be as simple as sending them down the street. At the Tabby House, a shelter the county launched in December 2012 using donations, only 20 cats are available for adoption at a time.
Many don't wait there for long. As of Tuesday, 187 Tabby House cats had found new homes, including a Siamese mix that was in their door and out again in just two days, according to operations director Tina Nixon.
For dozens of other animals, the journey to a fresh start will be hundreds of miles. On Saturday, the nonprofit group Loving Friends Transport of Clearwater, Fla., will caravan adoptable pets to their new communities, including St. Hubert's Animal Welfare Center in Madison, N.J., the Animal Welfare Association in Voorhees Township, N.J., the Washington Animal Rescue League in Washington, D.C., and the Atlanta Humane Society.
"I think it's just them being in the right place and the right person coming in and seeing them," Nixon said. "It's important."
Follow reporter Rebecca Lurye on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Rebecca