The dog climbed into the cockpit and found a nice spot on the human’s lap. From there, she could see out of the window and down to the floor below. As she peered out, the ground got smaller, until all she could see was clouds. But her journey was just beginning.
Animal shelters are often a place of hope and new beginnings for their non-human residents. All too often, though, the truth is quite the opposite. While shelters do save strays from a life on the streets, sometimes the dogs can end up paying the ultimate price.
That’s because there are places in the U.S. where animal shelters are both overcrowded and underfunded. They can’t cope with the influx of abused and abandoned pets. It becomes even more of an issue if the shelter has a congestion fail-safe.
To be more specific, people call these places “kill” or “high-kill” shelters. Whereas most shelters have a policy on killing their residents in worst-case scenarios, high-kill shelters employ euthanasia in other scenarios. For example, when they reach maximum animal capacity.
Another case might be if the high-kill shelter has kept an animal long enough to deem them “unadoptable.” Regardless of the reasons, the results are the same. Rescuers pulled animals from the streets only for them to die because of overcrowding.
Furthermore, the numbers of animals killed by euthanasia are huge. The Daily Mail reports that four million domestic animals in the U.S. are euthanized annually. But, fortunately, hope’s not lost for the residents straddling the pet version of death row.
There are several charities working to take animals out of high-kill shelters and into less crowded ones. On the other hand, doing so presents its own set of problems. One of those issues is transporting the threatened strays over long distances.
Ground travel is the most accessible method of transportation, but it’s not an ideal solution. Road trips can often take more than a day of constant traveling. And, sometimes, the rescued animals are in cramped conditions, with no chance to move or access to basic refreshments.
However, there’s now another alternative that’s both faster and more comfortable. A few charities, including Pilots N Paws (PNP) and Wings of Rescue (WOR), transport animals by air. Indeed, they’re saving thousands of animals from uncertain fates.
PNP has operated out of South Carolina since 2008, while Ric Browde created WOR in 2012. Volunteer pilots who devote their own time to saving shelter animals staff both organizations. But surely shelters are fit to burst all over the U.S., right?
Actually, there are shelters in some states just crying out for animals to adopt into loving homes. These flight-of-life charities have made it their goal to take cats and dogs off death row and into desirable – and uncrowded – no-kill shelters. But the organizations and their amazing pilots aren’t facing up to the transport challenge alone.
They’re being supported by the Second Chance Movement. This program sells merchandise online to fund the transportation and deliverance of yet more dogs to their forever homes. And it’s important all this good work is continued, as it’s not just the suffering animals that benefit.
Browde revealed the further benefit to Fox News in an interview in June 2018. “Pets enrich people’s lives,” he explained. “Older people live longer when they have pets; it’s just pets help people have normal, healthy lives.”
All the volunteer pilots understand this, and thus they go the extra mile to make a difference. One of those aviators is John Jordan, who documented his first WOR flight on May 13, 2016. He explained why he joined and what he experienced that day.
Jordan was tasked with flying 17 dogs from Livermore, California, to Boise, Indiana. “I’ve been a pilot since I was 17 years old,” Jordan said, “and I’ve had rescue dogs all my adult life. That’s why I’m excited to be part of Wings of Rescue.”
Jordan described how the humane society and shelter staff were waiting to collect the dogs on his arrival. As impressive as it is to rescue 17 animals, a later operation saved even more. Browde revealed just how many on a YouTube video from March 2017.
In the footage, Browde tells the camera how the pilots are actually part-way through their rescue. He said, “This is our fifth flight today from Memphis, Tennessee; we’re going today to Seattle, Washington. We’re carrying 55 kittens and 85 dogs – a total of 140 pets.”
That’s a staggering number, but it’s only a fraction of the pets that WOR have actually saved. “That’s going to bring it over to 770 pets that we’ve transferred on five different transports,” Browde said. The rescue operation required eight different planes to execute.
“Wings of Rescue are really pleased to fly,” Browde continued. But he also explained how it’s only treating a symptom of stray animal overpopulation, not the cause. “We’re the band-aid. We’re taking the excess inventory – that would otherwise be exposed of very unpleasantly – to safety.”
The animal rescuer concluded on how spaying and neutering needs to be taken more seriously. “The Memphis area and throughout the country – specifically in the South – has to pass some responsible pet ownership bills,” Browde said. “And that means spay-neuter.” Let’s just hope dog owners around the U.S. listen to what this amazing pet rescuer has to say.