Five thousand animals are literally going on the ride of their lives. A group of volunteer pilots today launched a sky-high goal of rescuing thousands of pets from shelters and flying them to safety -- in only one week.
Established in February 2008, the nonprofit group Pilots N Paws organizes volunteer pilots to rescue shelter animals from euthanasia by flying them to new homes. To date, Pilots N Paws estimates it has rescued more than 2,000 animals.
Pilots N Paws co-founder Debi Boies admits her goal is lofty but says a tremendous volunteer network will help accomplish its objectives. "Pilots have taken the week off from work and informed their families that they may be late for dinner," Boies says.
If animals are amputees, older, pregnant or have medical needs, flying is easier and safer. Boies says ground transportation is an option for rescues traveling short distances, but for new homes that are far away, "the journey is long and the animals need to change vehicles every hour. It's stressful for them," she says.
Flying animal rescue missions is not cheap. Volunteer pilot Steve Edwards says the average animal airlift will cost $2,500. "Between the fuel, maintenance and plane permits, it's expensive," Edwards says.
Flight schools such as the Empire Flight Academy in New York will help lessen the cost to pilots by volunteering the use of their planes for free. "It is absolutely worth it, though," Edwards says. "If you ask the dogs if it's worth it ... I think they'd say it is."
Edwards hopes other pilots will follow his example and sign up to save shelter animals from being put to sleep.
"As pilots, we have the ability to fly, and it's our duty to use it for good," he says.
For more information on Pilots N Paws visit http://www.pilotsnpaws.org/.