Media Room

Media Coverage

Press Releases

Videos

 

Save a Life. Donate Now.

Adopt a Pet!

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram

Out of the Cage! The Blog of the Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals

AmazonSmile

iGive.com

Guidestar Platinum Participant

Rescued dog Newman gets comfortable in the cockpit with Pilots N Paws pilot Rhonda Miles en route to his new home. (Photo by Rhonda Miles)

Rescued dog Newman gets comfortable in the cockpit with Pilots N Paws pilot Rhonda Miles en route to his new home.

Photo by Rhonda Miles

Out of the Cage! (June 2010)

Pilots N Paws Gives Rescued Animals the Flight of Their Lives

When Harriet Zucker of Red Hook Rescue, an Alliance Participating Organization (APO), needed to transport Cinnie — a six-year-old blind Pit Bull mix she took from Animal Care & Control of NYC in February — to her new adoptive home outside Chicago, she realized that arranging transportation for the long road trip would be complicated, and the car travel would be hard on Cinnie. So she turned to Pilots N Paws to make arrangements for Cinnie to be flown to her new home.

Pilots N Paws is an online meeting place for pilots and other volunteers who help to transport rescue animals by air. Created two years ago by Debi Boies and her pilot friend Jon Wehrenberg, Pilots N Paws is the lynchpin that pairs homeless animals awaiting transport to new homes with pilots willing to fly them there on their planes. Rescuers and shelters connect with pilots through the website and then the individual pilots and rescue organizations work together to set up the transport.

Since its inaugural flight in February 2008, Pilots N Paws has registered more than 1,700 pilots, representing nearly every state in the U.S. (including Hawaii), and helped to make thousands of air transports possible.

Because most of the pilots registered with Pilots N Paws fly small planes with a maximum capacity of 300 miles or so, many of the transports involve two, three, or more legs, and coordinating multiple pilots' availabilities is a challenge. For Cinnie's transport, Harriet needed three different pilots.

Cinnie's multi-leg journey from New York City to Gary, Indiana, involved numerous players, including pilot Drew Koltis' wife Kayci Koltis (right) and her sister Karli Kordish (left). (Photo by Drew Koltis)

Cinnie's multi-leg journey from New York City to Gary, Indiana, involved numerous players, including pilot Drew Koltis' wife Kayci Koltis (right) and her sister Karli Kordish (left).

Photo by Drew Koltis

"It took a bit of work to coordinate three pilots to fly on one day and have good weather," she says. "It all happened in March when the weather was so bad. It took more than three weeks to coordinate." Despite best laid plans, on the day of the transport, the first pilot needed unexpected repairs to his plane, so Harriet drove Cinnie to Scranton, PA, to meet Drew Koltis, the pilot scheduled for the second leg of the journey. "He was fantastic," says Harriet. "Cinnie spent the night with him and the next day they flew to Ohio to meet Rich Traunero, the next pilot. I believe he had to fight some big winds." But Cinnie arrived on schedule in Gary, IN, where her adopter, Aubrey, finally met her. Harriet says the whole experience was very exciting…"and the pilots were great."

While the majority of the animals involved in Pilots N Paws transports are dogs, past passenger lists have also included cats, baby chicks, a potbellied pig, and a lizard. Debi describes one incident in which a group of Beagles was delivered to their destination and, after disembarking the plane, a herd of bunnies was loaded in for the next transport.

Occasionally transports for animals outside the traditional rescue scenario are set up through Pilots N Paws. Among them are military working dogs, therapy dogs, and dogs arriving in the U.S. from Iraq or Afghanistan that have been adopted by soldiers.

Pilots N Paws pilot Joe Radford and his canine passenger Seven get ready for take-off. (Photo courtesy of Pilots N Paws)

Pilots N Paws pilot Joe Radford and his canine passenger Seven get ready for take-off.

(Photo courtesy of Pilots N Paws

All the work being done by Pilots N Paws is voluntary. Neither Debi nor the pilots are paid, nor are the volunteers who maintain the Pilots N Paws website or assist newbies to the site — especially rescuers registering for the first time. Currently, 6,624 individuals (including 1,720 pilots) are registered with Pilots N Paws. Debi's goal is to increase the number of registered pilots to 10,000 — and to attract jet pilots with larger planes that can transport longer distances, even coast-to-coast.

"Some of the really long transports are nearly impossible to set up because they involve so many different pilots," Debi explains. "But if we have access to larger planes that can handle long distance flights, we'll be able to set up transports that today are out of our reach."

Gaining greater visibility is key to Pilots N Paws' success in attracting new pilots as well as rescue groups looking to arrange transport for their animals. Sponsorships and promotional networks provided by two companies — Subaru and Petmate — are helping, and a first-time-ever fly-in event this month in Greenville, SC, in conjunction with the South Carolina Breakfast Club, attracted dozens of potential volunteer pilots from around the country to learn about Pilots N Paws' lifesaving opportunities. Debi says she also would like to gain participation by commercial airlines that can offer cargo space — especially on non-stop long-distance flights.

Pilot Art Dreyer flew Lizzie, a dog rescued by the Miniature Bull Terrier Club of America, from Florida to the June 19 fly-in in South Carolina, where she caught her second flight to Ohio with another pilot the following day. (Photo by Debi Boies)

Pilot Art Dreyer flew Lizzie, a dog rescued by the Miniature Bull Terrier Club of America, from Florida to the June 19 fly-in in South Carolina, where she caught her second flight to Ohio with another pilot the following day.

Photo by Debi Boies

Pilots N Paws will be honored at next month's Broadway Barks 12! on Saturday, July 10, in Manhattan's Shubert Alley, where Debi will receive a certificate of recognition for the lifesaving work being done by Pilots N Paws. Anyone who wants to help Pilots N Paws propel more animals toward the promise of a loving home should check out the Pilots N Paws website at www.PilotsNPaws.org and contact Debi at pilotsnpaws@gmail.com.