02/14/2013 03:38 EST | Updated 04/16/2013 05:12 EDT

Homeless dogs arrive in Halifax after eight-day RV road trip from California

HALIFAX - Little Louis shivered in the crisp air of the Maritimes on Thursday as the tiny, blind, black-and-brown puppy was placed in the arms of his new owner, Brittni Milligan.

After an eight-day road trip to Halifax from California with 47 canine companions, Louis was finally home.

"It's overwhelming. I'm really excited," said Milligan, a 23-year-old veterinary student, as Louis cowered in her arms.

"I'm glad he's going to be safe now and not have to live in a shelter."

The 5,700-kilometre trek aboard an RV was organized by the Animal Rescue Corps, an international non-profit animal protection organization that partnered with rescue organizations in the Maritimes to find the dogs new homes.

The dogs — of all ages, sizes and breeds — hail from a no-kill shelter in Palm Springs, Calif., that was struggling with overcrowding.

A number of the dogs were recently rescued from a dilapidated home in Palm Springs, said Scotlund Haisley, president of the Animal Rescue Corps.

"The conditions were very grim," said Haisley, who made the trip to Halifax from California. "These dogs have never really felt a kind touch from a human before."

He said all of the animals have already been placed in adoptive or foster homes, primarily in Halifax.

Another RV with about 20 dogs and 50 cats is expected in about three weeks. The cats are destined for Prince Edward Island.

Halifax animal advocate Linda Felix says she applauds the efforts of the rescue organizations involved, but believes there should be a greater emphasis on finding homes for unwanted animals already living in shelters in the Maritimes.

"It's hard to criticize an organization that's helping animals because that's certainly admirable," said Felix, president of Spay Day HRM, a non-profit organization based in Halifax that assists low-income pet owners to spay and neuter cats.

"But on the other hand, I have to question why there isn't such great efforts in helping animals locally."

Tiffany Sullivan, a shelter director for the Animal Rescue Corps, said it only took a few emails to find new homes for the animals from California.

"They just ran with it," said Sullivan, a Halifax native. "That's what we love about the Maritimes."

She said rescue organizations in the region need to work together to place homeless animals with loving families.

"I think just more people need to reach out," she said.