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Debi Boies, co-founder of Pilots N Paws, tells about the genesis of the aviation transport non-profit here. But before that, she and the organization which specialises in connecting animal rescuers with pilots made experience with ground travel and volunteers still use the roads to transport pets in need.
However, the road can be tough, as she explains: “I did a Doberman transport that I had to set up that was a 16 hour drive. It was from Alabama to New England and I had to find 16 different drivers that were willing to drive and hour each.” She continues, “there is increased availability for a flight risk. The dog gets loose or takes off and it has happened sometimes before, as cautious as you can be, it still happens.”
“If someone’s car breaks down then you’re missing a person that was supposed to meet the next person.”
“It has to be monitored step by step,” she adds. By resorting to air travel, many transports can be dealt with within hours and without interchanges. “The downside with flying is they’re very controlled by weather. They have to watch the weather, so everyone that works with our pilot needs to know they have to be flexible as far as the day and time because if a weather front comes through and that pilot can’t fly in turbulent weather then they have to delay it a day or so.”
When you visit Pilots N Paws website, you can read the wonderful tales of success as over 10,000 pets have been flown around the country since 2008. But the main function of the site is to act as a portal for pilots and rescuers – here you can sign up to the notice board for a travel request and pilots will pick up the request when they can make the journey.
Debi and the rest of the team does not do any of the scheduling or connecting themselves, but leave it to the pilots “If we try to micromanage the form board and the website, very few animals would be helped because it stops your rate of growth, it stops the number of people who can participate.”
“Pilots already go through a very rigorous background check and training, they have a current pilots license, there is really no need for you to be worried.” Debi also adds that pilots are the only ones who know they conditions in which a transport would be optimal “We created it in such a way that people can really just work together and it works very well.”
The organization has more than 2500 pilots signed on but their ultimate goal is 10,000. “We’re hoping that eventually we have enough pilots so that most of the requests won’t have to go unanswered. The long-distance flights are next to impossible for us, we can’t do a coast to coast flight. It’s just not feasible for single engine planes to do that.”
The recruitment process is long and meticulous but besides reaching out to the aviation community via conventions and word of mouth, the initiative has more than 30,000 Facebook fans and continues to garner support and awareness around the country.
So far, their initiatives have touched the lives of animals and humans from around the world. Pilots N Paws have been part of many long and difficult journeys from the salvation of Egyptian cats, to Ally the dog and the incredible story of the Afghani eagle.
Debi tells us that especially soldiers must go through a lot of hoops to bring a pet home but Pilots N Paws have the experience which can help make a difference. “We don’t do the hands-on, getting them ready to come here, but we know who to connect you with if you’re a soldier and you’ve fallen in love and want to adopt an animal while you’re out – which is really frowned upon by the military I might add.”
Finally we ask Debi about her vision for Pilots N Paws what she hopes to leave as a legacy. “I’ve got some really great people on board” she says “but I have a niece who is 26 years old.”
“She helps me tremendously with Pilots N Paws in the day to day running of operations, answering the endless emails that we receive.” She continues “I have a vision of [her] stepping into my shoes and carrying on this work but my true vision is that we no longer will be needed. That’s my ultimate vision – she’s there for my backup plan”
Debi hopes that eventually the organization will be able to create enough awareness, “I personally would like to see us start some type of educational program in elementary school, teaching the children about pet responsibility and you know, that pets are not disposable items.”
She would also like to see enough funding being raised to create mobile neutering clinics in the Southern states that can reach rural areas. “The frustrating thing for me at times is that this is a completely solvable issue, it’s within our means and our grasp to stop it and we just need to encourage people to do that. It’s not insurmountable, it’s just a matter of cooperating, working together and the desire to stop this over-population”
“I’m really hoping that through the programs we hope to implement and the awareness we hope to bring, that we’ll no longer be needed.”
Visit Pilots N Paws online and save a life by donating today.
Image Courtesy of Pilots N Paws