Marcello Forte is getting ready to hit the open road.
He's got a new van and a backbreaking plan to drive more than half way across the country - all the way from New York City to southern Utah. And he's not going alone.
He's taking four old, hard-luck dogs - Ziggy, Brat, Amanda and Buddy - from a shelter he runs to a place the animals can finally call home. Troy Roberts reports on this unique destination.
Forte has always loved animals but up until three years ago he was a fulltime speech pathologist with a masters degree from Columbia.
Then he discovered Animal Haven, a shelter with a "no-kill" policy, meaning no animal is ever put to sleep unless it is suffering. Today he is the director.
"It's a huge responsibility and every animal's life in that shelter is my responsibility," Forte says of his new job. To solve a space problem, Forte made a deal: His four older dogs will live in an animal sanctuary in Utah and in return, he'll bring back two younger dogs and try to find them homes.
The four older dogs are headed for Best Friends, the country's largest animal sanctuary., a sort of desert spa for pets where their every need is fulfilled until the animals are adopted or die naturally.
"The early dreams were simply to have a beautiful place for cats and dogs and other animals nobody wanted," says Michael Mountain, president of Best Friends. "The dream grew then to what it is now. which is, to bring an end altogether to the killing of homeless animals."
Last year in the U. S., five million dogs and cats were put to sleep.
While some people believe it's impossible to have a no-kill nation, Mountain says, "All it takes is a few very dedicated people building a kind of grass roots movement and it'll happen."
There is a pricetag. At Best Friends, 700 dogs go through 10 tons of food each month. It costs $7.5 million to care for the 1,800 animals there and the money comes exclusively from member donations.
What began with group of maybe 50 members has grown to about a quarter of a million supporters around the country.
When he makes the long drive back to New York , Forte is accompanied by Mina and Corgette, the two new dogs.
In New York, the new dogs live the high life, having breakfast at a Park Avenue hotel - at an animal shelter fund-raiser. It is there that the animals are introduced to potential owners. Days later, both dogs found grateful owners.
That's when Forte got his reward. "Bringing a dog into their new home, getting an animal to a family that's going to love it and care for it and that's the win," he says. "When we do that, that's what we want to happen."