Florida Man flies his 1000th Rescue Animal, Associated Press

Airborne Rescue Endangered Pets fly to Freedom AP

by: TAMARA LUSH, Associated Press

GREENVILLE, Ala. (AP) — On a recent June day, Jeff Bennett flew his four-seat plane from the mangrove-dotted Florida Keys, past some angry thunder clouds to the fertile hills of Greenville, Ala. His mission: to save 23 dogs destined for death row.

Bennett, a 53-year-old retired businessman, donates his time, fuel and plane to Pilots N Paws, a South Carolina-based charity that enlists small plane pilots to transport animals from overcrowded shelters that have high euthanasia rates to foster homes, rescue groups and less-crowded shelters that don’t kill the animals.

Bennett’s been airlifting animals for more than 3 years. Bennett is a dog lover; he has four of his own, including one that he adopted after a flight.

He’s carried mostly dogs, some cats, the occasional snake and once, a potbellied pig – earning his small Cirrus aircraft the nickname “All Species Airways” around the Pilots N Paws community.

But this month was special. On the Greenville trip, Bennett picked up his 1,000th animal.

Pilot Jeff Bennett holding the lucky 1,000th animal transported by him!

“This is a mile marker,” said Bennett, who had a pointy party hat decorated with pirates picked out for the special canine.

It’s a number few of Pilots N Paws’ 2,800 volunteer pilots reach, said Deborah Boies, the group’s president and co-founder.

“We have only one other pilot who has accomplished that goal,” said Boies. “It’s extremely unique. He is truly one of the most dedicated people to Pilots N Paws.”

The dogs arrived soon after Bennett landed at the small, one-runway airport. They were in two vans, crowded into cages. Some barked and others trembled with fear. A small army of volunteers stood by to help Bennett transfer the dogs into his empty crates.

“OK everybody, if one of the dogs gets loose, don’t chase it, get down on the ground and just call it to you,” said Rebecca Harshman, a volunteer in Alabama who fosters dogs and helps ferry animals to the airport if a Pilots N Paws flight arrives.

One by one, paperwork was checked, photos were snapped with Bennett in front of the plane and then the dogs were loaded into a crate and into the plane. Bennett had taken out two of his plane’s four seats to accommodate all the dogs; even then, an extra puppy had to ride on the lap of a reporter back to Florida.

It was decided that Rex, a floppy-eared, mixed-breed puppy was Bennett’s 1,000th animal. He kissed the pup’s snout and hugged him tight.

Soon after, the plane took off, bound for Florida.

The dogs barked during the ascent, then grew quiet. Bennett stopped in Lakeland and Naples to unload the dogs, who were greeted by new volunteers that would give them new homes.

Link to original story:

http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_PILOTS_AND_PAWS?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT

Link to AP video:

http://youtu.be/yCkIJeDfUOA

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13 Responses to “Florida Man flies his 1000th Rescue Animal, Associated Press”

  1. Save a dog that likes cats for me>

  2. As a former worker at a HS animal shelter I thank this man- and this organization- for all the wonderful, wonderful things you do. I cried every time dogs and cats, puppies and kittens were ptsd at my shelter. I even let one young dog “get loose” one day to avoid his date with the needle. All animals do go to Heaven- and a select few humans get to join them. This man- and these wonderful people- all have a place there when their time comes. Thank You.

  3. Jeff Bennett is an extraordinary man… In my book he qualifies as a saint… We need many many more like him… God bless you, Mr. Bennett…

  4. Way to go Jeff Bennett!!! A big thumbs-up…keep ‘em flying.

  5. Jeff Bennett gave me goosebumps. What a wonderful man to help all of these dogs. We love dogs and adopt as many as we can. If everyone would just do a small part, we could save so many more. God Bless you Mr. Jeff Bennett and I hope you wake up happy and healthy every day for the contribution you are making to saving these dogs. Bonnie Dogs Rule!!!!

  6. Betty Stewart 21. Jun, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    We need more people in this world like Jeff Bennett .. we also need to clone him for the Pilots n Paws Program in Canada .. Thank-you Jeff .. Safe travels ..

  7. Thank you Jeff Bennett for what you do! I agree with Lloyd and the others that posted here – you qualify as a Saint in my book too and we definitely need more people like you in this world. Thank you!!

  8. Jeff Bennett………You Rock!!!!!!!!!

  9. That is so wonderful. Hats off to Mr. Bennett… or a furry salute!

    I used to know a guy who flew his plane around CA to help rescue rabbits, who get so little attention and need so much help in finding homes.

    It is good to know there are people like Mr. Bennett willing to lend a paw… we need more people like him!

  10. Jeff Bennett, you are a HERO, a person who should be greatly rewarded for what you so kindly do without even hesitating..You are my HERO and I would love to meet you and work with you, but I realize this is not possible..Anyone as special and as kind as you are, will be rewarded…Seems that the reward you take away from saving those wonderful beautiful dogs is something you relish…Again from all us dog lovers who wished we could do more…THANK YOU

  11. Diane Vaccaro 22. Jun, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    Heart of Gold….

  12. How awesome!!! If only more people had the love this man has!

  13. Wonderful story about a man with a heart of gold! We love our adopted dogs.