The trip began as a way out for dogs of the Logan Pound, (a very high kill facility), but a distemper outbreak resulted in a complete quarantine of that facility. No dogs were allowed in or out of Logan. All dogs at the facility were to be put down. Most people would have just accepted it as fate, but not the people at Pilots N Paws.
They had already committed to bring out a pregnant beagle that was in foster care; they quickly scrambled to find other rescues. Finally, a deal was struck and the organisation was allowed to bring out among others, 2 pregnant beagles, a starved abused beagle boy, plus a few more.
The dogs were eventually flown out to a better place and homes that would love them. All of it was only possible thanks to an exciting organisation – Pilots N Paws.
Pilots N Paws (PNP) was founded in 2008 by animal lover Debi Boies and pilot Jon Wehrenberg. The idea first took flight when Jon agreed to help Debi by flying a rescued Doberman from Florida to South Carolina, to save the dog’s life. The trip was a success and the two brainstormed on how to rescue other animals. Spay/Neuter campaigns in parts of the country were working, while in others parts, primarily in the south, pet overpopulation was still a huge problem. There had to be a way to turn a problem into a solution. Former pets were dying needlessly. They needed transport.
The dream quickly became a reality when the website, www.pilotsnpaws.org was launched to provide a location where private pilots willing to provide free transport, and people and organisations who rescue, shelter or foster animals, could connect to save lives. Today, the organisation has 3,168 pilot volunteers and 10,551 volunteers.
Each year, the volunteers of Pilots N Paws save thousands of lives. Those lives come in the form of any animal that can be transported using a plane. “Dogs, cats, pigs, reptiles and rabbits are just a few who have taken one of our flights,” says Executive Director Kathleen Quinn Charleston SC of Pilots N Paws.
“The main objective of PNP is to provide free transport for every animal that has a forever home or rescue waiting for it. The issue of unwanted pets in shelters has a geographical component that relates to supply and demand. If there are too many unwanted dogs in one state, but there is a demand for these dogs and people willing to adopt them in another state/location then it is our goal to provide the transport needed to facilitate this adoption,” insists Kathleen.
“A staggering 70% of dogs that enter shelters in the southern part of the country are euthanised. Until now, there have been few options for these innocent victims. Pilots N Paws is helping to change that.”
Pilots N Paws is free for rescue animals and operates from volunteer efforts, donations, and the support of sponsors Subaru and Petmate. It takes a lot of people working together to keep PNP operating.
The majority of the pilots who volunteer their time and skills are incredibly dedicated to the work they do. Tanya Card learned about Pilots N Paws from a friend that moved a near-starved-to-death boxer to specialty care who never would have survived the journey by ground transportation. The boxer is now thriving. “The introduction was all I needed to see I could mix my passion for flying with a good cause of helping animals that just need a second chance,” says Tanya. “The reward of doing just that keeps me involved.”
The pilots with PNP are limited to flying about 250 miles at a time, and they are very influenced by the weather. Safety is a primary concern, and inclement weather sometimes causes the pilots to delay or cancel transports. ”We try to attract more and more pilots to our cause, so spreading the word to other pilots is one of the difficulties we face,” says Kathleen. “But getting the word out about our program usually leads to more volunteers, which means that fewer transport requests are going unfilled.”
Since PNP was conceptualised, they have never looked back. “A lot of the times these animals end up bettering the lives of the people who adopt them,” states Kathleen. “Animals provide unconditional love to their owners, and we have heard from several of the people we have flown animals for that the pets have changed their lives and given them a more optimistic outlook and a reason to carry on.”
A woman who recently adopted a dog said, “When I look at our little furry family, I remember how close the boys were to not being with us, and when they want a cuddle on our worst days and bring a toy to play just when the world seems to be too much, it’s easy to see that it’s them that rescue us time and again.”