Pilots N Paws was founded in 2008 by Debi Boies and pilot Jon Wehrenberg. The idea for the organization was born when Jon agreed to help Debi fly a rescued Doberman from Florida to South Carolina to save the dog’s life.
The trip was a success and the two started thinking about how to rescue other animals, since pet overpopulation was, and still is, a big problem, especially in the south, where heartbreaking numbers of former pets are needlessly put to sleep every day (according to statistics, 70% of dogs that come into shelters in the south are euthanized).
They came up with the idea of a website where organizations and people who rescue and foster animals could connect with pilots willing to fly the animals to wherever they needed to go. That website was Pilots N Paws, and today, they have 8,281 volunteers and 2,466 pilot volunteers working with them. Rescue organizations with animals in need of transport sign up on the website and post their request on the board. When a pilot sees the request and is able to make the flight, he/she contacts the rescue directly. The flights are considered “humanitarian” by the FAA, so part of the expenses for the pilots are tax deductible.
Since the organization was founded, thousands of animals have been saved, and not only dogs – the pilots have also transported cats, rabbits, reptiles and even pigs!
This coming weekend, September 28-29, Pilots N Paws are holding their fourth annual awareness event, the “Dog Is My Copilot” Flyway, at the Charlotte-Monroe Executive Airport. Several pilots arrive on Friday evening and get ready to fly more than 200 animals out to various rescue organizations on Saturday. The event, which gets its name from Patrick Regan’s book (left), is expected to be the largest to date. At the 2011 event, 174 dogs and 1 kitten were flown out of Florence, SC, and in 2010 (after the BP oil incident), 171 animals were transported out of New Orleans.
If you are neither a rescue person nor a pilot but still would like to help, you can do that by donating money, shopping in their store, buying the book above, or simply by spreading the word.