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Pilots Help Give Dogs New Lease on Life

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    Pilots Help Give Dogs New Lease on Life
    Mon, Jan 11

    By Kris O’Donnell

    Pilot Jeff Bennett loves to fly all over the state of Florida from his home base in the Florida Keys. But he’s not flying merely for recreation. On most days, he’s a pilot with a purpose.

    "This was probably the best group of puppies I’ve ever taken. We loaded them up and didn’t hear virtually anything from them," Bennett said. "There were no messes in the crates, they slept the whole way. It was a great trip."

    On this particular day, Bennett picked up 19 puppies and one adult dog in Tallahassee and flew them to a rescue group in Lakeland, Florida. It’s just a typical day for the pilots who volunteer their time with the organization, Pilots N Paws.

    "This gives me a great excuse to be in the air and hopefully I’m doing some good at the same time," Bennett said.

    Founded in February 2008, the goal of Pilots N Paws is to deliver dogs in kill shelters to rescue organizations and other shelters across the country.

    "When you see the life of an animal that’s destined to be euthanized taken to a place where they have their forever home, with loving hands and kind hearts, there’s nothing more rewarding than that," co-founder Debi Boies said.

    So far, Boies says more than 1,300 pilots have joined the organization. The pilots who join then coordinate flights with rescue groups via the Pilots N Paws website. Boies says her goal is to have 10,000 pilots join the group.

    "It sounds like an unrealistic goal but when you consider that there are 350,000 to 400,000 general aviation pilots in the U.S. alone, that’s a very small percentage of that," Boies said.

    Boies says the group needs pilots from the southeast in particular.

    "Most requests come from those areas and that’s where we have the least amount of pilot volunteers," she said.

    The pilots are not compensated. They donate all their time and resources.

    "The appreciation they show for these pilots is almost beyond words," Boies said. "It’s kind of a mutual admiration society. The pilots admire the rescue groups and the rescue groups think the pilots are just angels."

    Since its inception, Boies estimates Pilots N Paws has helped thousands of animals escape euthanasia. Although most of the rescues involve dogs, some pilots like Jeff Bennett have also transported cats, snakes, rats, rabbits, pigs, and the occasional chicken. But whether he’s helping dogs or cats, Bennett says he always tries to get a simple message across.

    "I’ve been trying to emphasize spaying and neutering your animals," Bennett said.

    And Boies says her ultimate goal is that Pilots N Paws will no longer be needed.

    "That’s because people will have become responsible pet owners by spaying and neutering their animals and we won’t have to worry about the overcrowding and euthanasia rates that we have right now," Boies said.

    For more information about Pilots N Paws, log onto their website at pilotsnpaws.org.

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