Dogs in danger are catching a flight to a new life through the volunteer pilots at Pilots N Paws. Pets in need are flown out of harm’s way and into loving arms, quickly and safely, all because of pilots who care.
Dr. Mark Mosier’s first mission for Pilots N Paws was during Hurricane Harvey. He is based out of Kerrville, TX and flies a Lancair Columbia. As soon as there was a runway at the West Houston airport dry enough to land his small plane, he was there picking up Burt, a blind poodle that would fly with him to a waiting foster home with blind dog experience. From there, he would be placed in a permanent home. Dr. Mosier’s daughter held the dog the entire flight, and Burt responded to her kindness by nestling into her arms and falling fast asleep. “We didn’t know what he’d been through”, says Dr. Mosier, “but we knew his life was going to improve starting right then.” Burt was flown to Abilene, TX where he was greeted on the runway by his new caregiver.
Sometimes life-saving flights are carrying not live animals, but supplies to keep pets in place and healthy. Steve Clegg was one of the first pilots into Key West after the devastation from Hurricane Irma that knocked out nearly all the infrastructure for Big Pine Key and all the way up to Marathon. “The airport was closed at Marathon. I landed in Key West with a full load of pet food and heartworm preventative for a shelter there”, says Clegg. “The control tower was knocked out so they had guys on the runway with hand-held lights waving me in.” Clegg has also flown several missions to Miami to run supplies for pets to the ships that make their way to Puerto Rico and St. Thomas to help people keep their pets with them in the areas with the worst hurricane damage. “Sometimes all people have left is their beloved pets, so if they just need food and medicine for them, we can help make that happen.”
Now Pilots N Paws is getting a helping hand from social publisher Sniff & Barkens. “Our first venture into retail sales had to be a good one, and we wanted to stay true to our mission of helping rescue organizations. Our Barkens Holiday Bucket seemed a perfect match for Pilots N Paws”, says Sniff & Barkens founder Joe Pappalardo. The Barkens Holiday Bucket is an air-tight, food-safe, easy to use designer bucket full of all the high-quality toys for your best friend. “From the first day we were in business, we have been spreading the word about the awesome work of rescue groups. Now, through this value-driven offering, we can make a substantial contribution, thanks to our audience’s buying power.” Sniff & Barkens will donate a full 10% of sales revenue to Pilots N Paws. Kate Quinn, executive director, has plans for the donation. “This will be big for us,” she says. “We can use the funds to improve our online communication forum to facilitate even more flights. We can also reach out to people who want to help, but aren’t pilots. We need more foster homes and drivers to take pets to the airport, and we can revamp our website to make that a reality.”
Quinn proudly runs down the numbers. “Over 100,000 animals have been rescued since Pilots N Paws inception in 2008, all made possible through the more than 5,000 volunteer pilots that are registered on our site”, she states. “We are very fortunate, and very grateful.” Pilots log into the Pilots N Paws forum to look for rescues requesting transport, or to post space available on a planned flight. Pilots work directly with the sending and receiving parties, so they coach each other to ask for paperwork, check rescue group nonprofit credentials and get health certificates on pets being transported.
Pilot Jeff Bennett of Big Pine Key rates the feeling of helping animals second to none. “Until I started with Pilots N Paws, I had no idea how big the homeless pets problem is”, he said. “One of my first flights was to pick up a Border collie who was still alive at a high volume shelter only because the freezer was full and they couldn’t euthanize any more pets that day. Border collie breed rescue volunteers stepped up and I flew him out of there.” Bennett flies a Cirrus SR 22 composite aircraft with its own parachute for the whole plane. He has been flying with Pilots N Paws almost since the beginning, and has logged 5,018 flights so far. He has flown dogs, cats, snakes, guinea pigs, hawks, pelicans and juvenile Ridley sea turtles that washed up near Cape Cod. The Coast Guard flew the wayward turtles to Orlando where Jeff took over, flying them to the renowned Turtle Hospital in Marathon key.
As long as there are pets in need, there will be those willing to go above and beyond to help them. Now you can help Pilots N Paws with their work just by buying a great gift for your dog that you can enjoy, too. Shop for the Barkens Holiday Bucket for you or a friend and help save a life today!