Vol­un­teer pi­lots help dogs land a new life

The China Post - - LIFE - BY SUE MAN­NING

For some dogs, a chance at the good life takes off when the pi­lots do.

Thou­sands of pooches fac­ing eu­thana­sia — some just hours from death — get loaded on planes each year and flown to new homes in places with short­ages of adopt­able pets. Groups such as Cal­i­for­nia-based Wings of Res­cue or South Carolin­abased Pi­lots N Paws lead the charge, re­cruit­ing pi­lots to vol­un­teer their planes, fuel and time in a trend that’s grow­ing as more dogs end up in shel­ters and more peo­ple seek out ca­nine love.

More than 4 mil­lion U.S. pets are eu­th­a­nized ev­ery year. Both pi­lot groups en­cour­age spay­ing and neu­ter­ing as a so­lu­tion but know that air­lifts will in­crease ev­ery year as they be­come more vis­i­ble and the num­ber of needy dogs grows.

States such as Cal­i­for­nia, Ge­or­gia and South Carolina typ­i­cally have too many dogs in shel­ters, while places such as Wash­ing­ton, Ore­gon, New York, New Jer­sey and Florida need more pets to sat­isfy de­mand. To solve the lo­ca­tion co­nun­drum, pi­lots fire up their en­gines.

In Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, re­tirees want smaller dogs, which are eas­ier to take care of but a tough find in the area with the high de­mand.

So, the Koote­nai Hu­mane So­ci­ety or­ders a planeload of dogs un­der 16 pounds ev­ery month, or more than 1,000 an­i­mals in the last 16 months, Ex­ec­u­tive Direc­tor Deb­bie Jef­frey said.

“It’s just been a real suc­cess. As fast as they come in, they are adopted,” she said.

The suc­cesses in­crease more pi­lots sign up to help.

“We have seen the num­ber of an­i­mals res­cued go up ev­ery year since we started in 2008,” said Kate Quinn, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of Pi­lots N Paws.

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The group’s 5,000-plus pi­lots have flown more than 15,000 dogs to new homes each of the past two years, re­lo­cat­ing more than 75,000 an­i­mals over the last seven years, she said. And the num­bers keep ris­ing.

“Pi­lots love a rea­son to fly. They love mak­ing th­ese flights,” Quinn said, adding that all dogs have to be spayed or neutered, mi­crochipped and vac­ci­nated be­fore they take off.

Ye­huda Ne­tanel, founder and pres­i­dent of Wings of Res­cue, says busi­ness has dou­bled each of the past four and a half years. He started as the lone pi­lot who res­cued 300 dogs, and now the group ex­pects to fly 7,000 pets in 2015, he said.

The pi­lot of 27 years will char­ter planes to move dogs if there aren’t enough pri­vate planes, mean­ing flights cost about US$80 per dog.

Ne­tanel and his 28 pi­lots are pre­par­ing to take flight this week­end with 250 dogs from San Bernardino, 150 from Bak­ers­field and smaller num­bers from other lo­ca­tions.

Pi­lots Kale and Anj Garcia of Seat­tle will be in San Bernardino to bring as many as 50 dogs back to Wash­ing­ton state in their seven-pas­sen­ger Cessna 414. The cou­ple have flown 16 mis­sions for Wings of Res­cue.

Most dogs sleep dur­ing the flight, and only a few have had air sick­ness, said Anj Garcia, who will take each one out of its crate and cud­dle it dur­ing the jour­ney.

The flights al­lowed Cathy Parker of Coeur d’Alene to find her dogs: Bella, a poo­dle-Chi­huahua mix, and Sid­ney, a poodlePomera­nian mix, who Wings of Res­cue de­liv­ered from dif­fer­ent shel­ters about nine months apart.

“They’ve been a real good match for each other and me,” she said.

AP

Yahuda Ne­tanel car­ries two res­cue dogs prior to a flight out of the Van Nuys Air­port, in Van Nuys, Cal­i­for­nia on Wed­nes­day, April 8.

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