Not all heroes wear capes. Some fly their own airplanes and rescue animals from grave conditions.
Who doesn’t love slobbery kisses from a big oversized fluffy dog, an avalanche of cute puppies, or the purring of a kitty cat that just seems to make everything in the world all right? Next time you give your possibly adopted fur baby a treat, you might also want to thank a pilot. Pilots worldwide are coming together and loading their airplanes full of “pawssengers.” By doing so, they raise awareness and save animals from being euthanized, displaced, or from a grim fate.
The ASPCA states, “Each year, approximately 920,000 shelter animals are euthanized (390,000 dogs and 530,000 cats) in the U.S. alone.” With the help of non-profit organizations like Pilots to the Rescue, Pilots N Paws, Animal Rescue Flights, and various other animal rescue pilots, over 200,000 animals have been rescued up to date, with over 16,000 animals flying yearly. Get to know the heroes behind these extraordinary operations below!
Pilots to the Rescue
With over 1,000 animals saved, over 11,989 miles flown, and 61 dogs plus 53 cats getting a new shot in life, Pilots to the Rescue (PTTR) are determined to save as many animals as possible. PTTR is a non-profit organization comprised of trained pilot volunteers and a 501c3 public benefit aviation organization. Pilots from all over the U.S. transport domestic and endangered animals who might be facing euthanasia, need to leave a dire situation, or just need transportation to their new home or shelter.
Founder Michael Schneider started this ever-growing foundation by combining his love for animals with his passion for aviation. “So it took 45 years to realize what I wanted to do when I grew up. This is a real passion of mine; it gives me such a sense of fulfillment, and I love doing this work. It’s tremendous.” Schneider stated. PPTR has also saved wolves and sea turtles and helped release them back into the wild.
Pilots N Paws
Pilots N Paws is a non-profit organization that brings pilots and animals together, free of charge. The organization has over 4,200 pilots in 50 U.S. states and flies around 15,000 animals yearly. Over 15 years ago, animal lover Debi Boies and pilot Jon Wehrenberg joined forces after realizing that animal transportation was not readily available for animals in need. They paired up with aircraft maker Cirrus, which supports them financially. Together they have transported dogs, cats, dolphins, bears, turtles, eagles, and other wild animals who have suffered from wildfires! Pilots N Paws serves as a mediator between the shelter, a new home, or clients.
Pilot Jackie Gaertner shared this story: “On one particular flight, we were able to fit seven pet crates in the cabin, carrying a total of 39 animals. They were transported safely and comfortably in our pressurized cabin from Visalia, California, to Hillsboro, Oregon – a 2.5-hour flight. This included three momma dogs, 30 puppies (22 less than a week old), and six kittens.”
Animal Rescue Flights
Animal Rescue Flights (ARF) has been helping animals since early 2008. Pilots, crews, drivers, shelters, and volunteers from all over the U.S. have come together with the platform Doobert to transport everyone safely. ARF promotes animal welfare, saves animals from death, and takes them to their new families. Both the senders and the receivers will never face a fee.
Rain, shine, hail, or stormy, pilots are helping animals in need and helping them reach their next and hopefully happy destination.
Log hours, save animals
“I hope other pilots will get involved. They will find it to be so very rewarding. You are using your unique gift of being able to fly an airplane to do something really worthwhile.” Said volunteer pilot Sue Haas for Pilots N Paws.
From logging hours, taking your plane for a personal trip, or looking to give back. Joining one of the organizations above can be just what you are looking for; in return, you can be a hero to someone or even a whole family. Humanitarian flights help to move out overpopulated areas and save animals in return. They help to free up space. And who knows, you might find yourself alongside a dolphin or a cute puppy that might become the love of your life.
When all else fails, look to the skies, you may just witness one of the many pilots behind one of the cutest and furry operations out there. “It’s not just the 1,000+ animals that I’ve saved. Many times I’ve saved the families, too, because they say they’re the best part of their lives, their best friends,” he explained. “That kind of energy that comes back to you is priceless. And that’s really why I do this work.”- Schneider, PTTR.