When it comes to saving animals, volunteer pilots take rescue efforts to new heights. These pilots transport pets from kill shelters to places where rescue groups are waiting to find the animals new homes. One recent flight landed at the Buffalo-Lancaster Regional Airport with a phenomenal 27 rescued dogs aboard.
The high-flying rescue took place on Aug. 9, 2015, when volunteer pilot Dan Drennan and his co-pilot Jennifer Goss picked up the 27 pups from various sites in Ohio and West Virginia and flew them back to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The entire rescue effort took about seven hours, which is exceptionally quick when compared to the conventional method of driving each rescue from a kill shelter to a faraway no-kill shelter or volunteer foster home.
Some of the organizations involved included Pibbles & More Animal Rescue and Buddy’s Second Chance Rescue. These organizations provide temporary foster homes for the rescued dogs until permanent homes can be found; the foster families were present at the airport to collect the dogs as soon as they came off the plane. For Drennan, the rescue wasn’t especially unusual, although this was a larger batch of animals than he typically carries on a single flight. He generally makes 20 to 30 flights a year, mostly in and around western New York state. He estimates that he has rescued over 400 pets during the four years he has been a volunteer pet pilot. As a dog owner himself with two lovable canines at home, Drennan views his rescue flights as a way he can use his unique skills to help animals in need.
The plane Drennan uses is a Piper Archer, a small private aircraft designed to seat up to six human occupants. In this particular plane, two seats have been removed to make transporting animals easier, and the canine passengers travel in crates to ensure their safety and comfort throughout the flight. Most of the dogs Drennan rescues spend the flight asleep, as the cool, thin, high-altitude air helps to keep the animals calm.
This volunteer flight was coordinated using Pilots N Paws, a non-profit organization that operates an electronic meeting place to help match no-kill rescue organizations with pilots who want to volunteer their time. While Pilots N Paws does not operate the flights itself, it is a vital resource for groups and pilots who want to do this kind of volunteer work. The organization’s database of volunteer pilots includes people with planes all across America, with the largest concentrations of volunteer pilots based in New York and Washington, D.C.
Once on the ground, the rescued pups enjoyed the attention from the adult and child volunteers who met them at the airport. The volunteers provided plenty of cuddles as well as fresh water for the new arrivals. Many of the transported animals were puppies, and the canine cargo included everything from Newfoundland-Labrador mixes to boxers.
While flying dogs across country might seem to be an unusual way to help homeless pets, these flights are truly life-saving efforts. Because many shelters only have a limited amount of space to keep animals they take in, there are many pets who do not get a second chance. With Pilots N Paws and generous aviators such as Dan Drennan, these 27 pets — and many more like them — get a chance at a new life.
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