Are you a person who loves animals?  Do you know a pilot who has a soft spot for critters? Perhaps you are a pilot yourself?  A simple act of kindness on your part can  not only change lives, but also save lives of animals in need. Want to know how you can make the difference between life and death for countless animals?  Read on:

According to the ASPCA, approximately 7.6 companion animals enter animal shelters annually.  Of these, approximately 3.9 million dogs and 3.4 million cats.   The estimated percentage of adoptions is 35% for dogs and 37% for cats. A staggering 2.7 million animals are euthanized each year, approximately 1.2 million dogs and 1.4 million cats.

Pilots and Paws,  a non-profit organization connects hundreds of volunteers made up of pilots and animal rescue organizations.  They have been instrumental in helping to decrease the number of animal deaths, by eliminating logistical boundaries,  making it possible to transport thousands of animals annually to no-kill rescue shelters all around the country.

The way it works is simple.  Pilots and other volunteers, including rescues and those willing to foster animals, join an online forum.  Pilot volunteers search the postings for animals in need of transport.  The searches can be filtered to show transports needed in a specific distance from volunteer’s home airport. ie. perhaps only those requiring a flight of 100 miles or less or in-state, etc.  When you join, there is no pressure or obligation to take on transports.  You sign on only for those transports you wish to fly.  Once you take an assignment, a rescue coordinator will contact you and put you in touch with other pilots who will be flying additional legs for the transport.  It quickly morphs into a team effort as you work together to coordinate a transport schedule that is agreeable to all.

As volunteers for Pilots N Paws, Randy and I flew our most current mission on November 5. We travelled to Marion, IN where we picked up two Shih tzus, a father and son who began their journey at the Hardin County Animal Shelter in Elizabethtown, KY, where they were relinquished by their owners.  The first pilot flew the dogs from Elizabethtown to Marion, IN where we picked them up for remaining leg of their journey to Holland, MI.

The amazing woman who coordinated Silas and Slipper’s rescue, Roberta is a volunteer at the Kentucky Animal Relief Fund, a rescue primarily for senior dogs.  With limited room, Roberta contacted a rescue she has worked with in the past that has taken in Shih tzus, in the hopes they had room for Silas and Slipper.  Julie, a volunteer for the Animal Placement Bureau, in Lansing, MI, coordinated with the APB to accept the dogs.  The volunteer we met in Holland, MI, Diane who resides there, agreed to foster Silas and Slipper until they could be placed in a forever home.

Each rescue mission is a team effort.  It is quite an experience to be a part of.

For pilots who may wonder how these animals travel, Randy and I have had no problems transporting animals. (In fact, our very first mission consisted of  fifteen dogs –  yes – fifteen dogs in one airplane, including 13 puppies and an adult Rottweiler!)   In most cases once airborne, they just lay quietly or go to sleep.  Pilots N Paws will even send you crates and supplies for your transports.

There is no feeling as knowing you have been an advocate for a helpless creature who is fully dependent on those willing to take on it’s cause.  We are always in awe of the rescue groups who put their hearts, souls and lives into helping these animals.

Pilots N Paws and the animal rescue groups they work with always need volunteers.  You do not have to be a pilot.  All you need is a big heart, a love for animals and the willingness to share your time and perhaps your home to animals as they make their way to finding a family to call their own. Donations are always welcome as well.

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