Pilots N Paws
When it comes to unwanted dogs, cats and other pets most of us try to do the right thing. We adopt, we have our pets neutered or spayed and we make charitable contributions to local humane societies and animal shelters. Debi Boies has literally gone the extra mile. She founded Pilots N Paws a national organization that delivers dogs to no-kill shelters throughout the South. The organization is based in Landrum, South Carolina.
“Prior to founding Pilots N Paws I worked with Doberman rescue organizations and was an animal rescuer in general,” said Debi. “I was one of the founders of Doberman Assistance Network and a case worker for Special Needs Doberman. In my previous life I was an OB/GYN/Infertility nurse and also bred and raised world champion Morgan horses.
“PNP became a reality in 2008. I had lost my 12-year-old Doberman to cancer and found an adult Dobe who was recovering with a rescue in Florida. Brock had been used as a sparring partner for fighting dogs.” Brock had many wounds. His teeth had been filed down, he had scars and was recovering from heartworm. “When he recovered from his treatments I put the word out to friends asking if any of them were traveling towards South Carolina from Florida and if so would they consider bringing my rescue dog part way. Immediately a friend of mine from Knoxville, TN (Jon Wehrenberg, a co-founder of PNP) replied. He would fly to Florida, pick Brock up and bring him to me. I have since found out that over 4,000 general aviation pilots will do the same. Jon asked me if rescue animals needed transportation often and I had no idea. I shared information about animal rescue with him, he shared information about pilots and flying with me and immediately we just knew we had to jump in and make a difference. The name Pilots N Paws came to me.”
It was a eureka moment and Debi’s passion for rescuing animals is truly heartfelt. “I feel strongly that it is our responsibility, as humans, to be the guardians for animals others have abandoned, abused or simply can no longer care for. If we don’t who will?”
The number of total animals Pilots N Paws saves annually increases due to the expansion of the volunteer pilot base. Last year their pilots flew over 15,000 animals and in the past six years, since the inception of Pilots N Paws an estimated, astounding total of over 60,000 animals have been rescued. “There is no specific criteria other than a severe need to be moved from one part of the country to another in order to find acceptable adoptive homes and escape euthanasia,” said Debi.
“Pilots N Paws is an all species airway,” explained Debi. “Our pilots have flows dogs, cats, snakes, monitor lizards, potbellied pigs, eagles, falcons, a burned bear cub, rats, hamsters, and guinea pigs. If the animal needs us our pilots do their best to be there.” PNP has approximately 4,000 pilots registered in the U.S. “We are a national charity with pilots volunteering in every state. The majority of animals come from areas that have extreme overcrowding, normally due to the lack of spaying and neutering pets. We have also licensed our name to an outstanding group on Canada, Pilots N Paws Canada run by a phenomenal rescuer Gini Green,” added Debi.
The adoption rate is, “100%,” said Debi. “We do not always have follow-up from the sending and receiving groups. However in most cases the animals we assist normally have approved adoptive homes or will shortly after arriving at their new rescue location.”
Pilots N Paws does face obstacles. “The major obstacles we faced was reaching out to pilots. We had to reach out to specific groups, organizations, attend events and host a booth sharing with them our mission. Once they learned that 4 million animals a year were being euthanized because they had nowhere to go it did not take them long to join PNP. They are going to fly anyway so why not make a difference? Various pilot organizations such as AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association), Air Care Alliance and others have been extremely important in profiling what we do in their publications both online and in print. Our goal is to reach 10,000 pilots and hopefully that goal will be realized.”
PNP is not resting on its laurels. “We will continue to fly animals out of high kill areas to their adoptive homes or animals who are therapy dogs, need medical care or simply need a chance for adoption. Our major goal for the coming year is to implement our educational program for kids. We have a new book, “Radar’s Dream,” targeted for 7 – 8 -year-olds and a coloring book and video, “Too Many Puppies, Too Many Kittens.” It is our hope to create change through teaching kids about pet responsibility and how they can get involved in their own communities. The problem of animal overcrowding is a completely solvable problem,” said Debi.
Pilots are not permitted by the FAA to receive monetary compensation for their flights. However a letter from the FAA that states their flights are considered humanitarian allows pilots to be eligible to claim part of their expenses through PNP’s 501c3 charitable status. If you think the dogs, cats and other critters are being transported in overloaded baggage compartments or flying in bi-planes, think again. The pooches and pusses go first class in single and twin engine planes that are relatively expensive.
Pat Picornell who flies out of Indialantic, Fla is representative of PNP’s ethos. “My love of flying started about 10 years ago,” she said. “I convinced my husband, an experienced pilot we should buy an airplane. We chose a 1976 Rockwell Commander 114A. I then decided to get my license which I did at age 49. When a pilot friend told us about PNP in the spring of 2012 we jumped at the chance to transport an animal in need. We started with a dog here and there until the annual PNP Annual flyway in the fall of 2012. Sixty pilots with their planes volunteered to fly 400 animals from high kill shelters in Georgia/Alabama to rescues throughout the east coast. We were assigned 22 pups to be delivered to a Humane Society on the west coast of Florida. We pulled out the back seats of the airplane and loaded it with crates. We now typically transport about 250 pups a year. My normal routes are from Copperhill, Tennessee to rescues in central Florida and also from Freeport, Bahamas into Fort Pierce, Florida. The island dogs are called “Potcakes” and the majority of those continue onto rescue groups in Canada and Colorado. I hear they love the snow. It is so rewarding to transport these animals. They know they are going to a better place. They are usually so happy and we have never had a problem.”
How cool is that?
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