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Thursday, August 8, 2013
Pilots N Paws Interview
Can you tell us a little about yourself and
how did you come up with Pilots N Paws’ idea?
I have always had a deep connection with
animals. I am a retired nurse, have raised Morgan Horses for 25 years, and
share my life with my wonderful husband, two Dobermans, one Lhasa Apso who
definitely rules, and of course our barn kitties. Prior to Pilots N Paws, I was one of the
founding members of a rescue organization known as Doberman Assistance Network,
a national Doberman rescue group. When we lost our 12 year old Doberman to
cancer, we wanted our next dobie family member to be a rescue dog. The perfect dog for our family ended up being
in Florida and we are in South Carolina.
Due to his condition, we knew he was used as a sparring partner to teach
other dogs how to fight. We had to bring
him home, of that, there was no question.
I asked a group of friends if anyone was traveling my direction from
Florida. Our friend in Tennesse who is a
pilot with a private plane replied that he would just fly over, pick up my
husband and fly to Florida and bring our boy home to us.
I was astounded at his generous offer. After the flight he asked if
there was a need to move rescue animals. After sharing the trials of ground transportation,
the only means available to rescue groups to move these animals , he agreed that we needed
to do something. I knew rescue work, he
knew pilots and told me that they are always looking for a good reason to
fly. What better reason then to save a
life? The name Pilots N Paws immediately
came to my mind and with that, the program literally took flight. 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?
What are Pilots N Paws main points?
Our Public Service Announcement says it best: “Four million former pets are euthanized
in the United States every year. They’re
killed because they don’t have homes. Pilots N Paws is a national charity helping to
change that. Working with rescue groups
across the country, pilots donate their time, their planes, and their fuel, to
transport animals to places where they will be adopted. These rescues happen
because spay/neuter programs in some parts of our country are working – making
room for the homeless from other areas.
Pilots N Paws facilitates rescue transport - airlifting domestic pets –
to new lives. It’s the goal of Pilots N Paws to make transport available for
all rescued animals that have homes waiting for them – no matter where those
homes are”. It is our intention to go
beyond just the transport of these animals in need. We are interested in pursuing educational
platforms to teach others about this problem and also to create a mobile spay
and neuter clinic that would be free to those who need it for their animals.
How many estimated animals have you guys
saved so far?
Due to the way Pilots N Paws operates by
providing an online platform for pilots and rescues to connect directly, we can
only give an estimate of the number of animals saved. It is in the thousands. One pilot alone recently passed the 1,000
animals transported mark by himself.
With over 2100 pilots registered with Pilots N Paws, the number is
indeed in the thousands.
What kind of volunteers does Pilots N Paws
have? How do you recruit them?
Pilots N Paws has volunteers who are of course
pilots, but others who have an interest in animal welfare. Over 10,000 registered users are on the
working forum board of our website. We
work with social media and the internet primarily. The rescue animal networks are far reaching
and prolific in spreading the word. We
attend specific aviation events in order to get our message to general aviation
pilots. Once they are aware of the need,
they readily engage in the program.
Does Pilots N Paws have its own fleet or the
volunteers use their own planes?
All pilots either own their own planes or have
access to a plane. 100% of the rental
fee for a plane is tax deductible in the U.S. due to the fact that we are a
501c3 non-profit organization. General
Aviation pilots (non-commercial) are not permitted to receive any monetary
compensation for their flights according to our FAA regulations. They volunteer their time and their resources
to make these life saving flights. The
upside for these pilots, expense wise, is that portions of their flights are
tax deductible due to our 501c3 status. The FAA legal counsel has also issued
us a specific letter stating our flights are considered “Humanitarian”.
How do you organize an animal rescue or
Pilots and rescues work together directly to
organize their flights via our forum board.
Rescues register and post their requests on the “Ride Board:Animals
Needing Transport”. Pilots are notified
with an automatic email that there is a request in there are. Due to the fact
that every pilot has a specific set of weather conditions they can fly under, they
are in charge of choosing the day, time, sending and receiving locations. Rescues understand the gift they are being
given and work with the pilots to accommodate their schedules. It is truly the best of humanity working
We suppose that most of the times you guys
can feel the gratitude in the animals’ eyes.
What’s the moment you’ve been most proud of being part of Pilots N Paws?
Every time an animal is saved from euthanasia,
an abusive situation, or any other hardship they encounter has and continues to
be my proudest moment. Somehow, these
animals know we are here to help them and it is true, there is nothing quite
like the shining light in the eyes of an animal who has just felt a kind hand.
What do you think is the cause of such
animal overpopulation? Are there any solutions that might be applied to solve
The cause of animal overpopulation is simple--people
do not alter their pets. There are
specific areas of the country where overpopulation abounds. In these areas you will generally find
people who have lower incomes and perhaps are not aware of the low cost spay/neuter
clinics available. Invariably there will
be people who are aware and simply refuse to “do that to their male dog”. I have personally seen that having mobile
spay and neuter clinics that travel to outlying rural areas does make a
difference. This includes trapping feral
cats, altering them, and returning them to their colonies. Education is always the key, in my
opinion. Start teaching our children
responsible pet care in schools and change the mindset. We each have the power to eliminate the problem
of overcrowding, let’s do it!
Are there any other events, besides the
transportations, that you’re involved with?
Each year Pilots N Paws holds a large scale
awareness event in a specific location.
The locations are chosen by the tremendous need to move animals out of
that area and to educate. Normally we
move almost 200 animals in one day on numerous planes. We are involved with various media
publications , have been highlighted on all major news networks, participated
in two shows for Animal Planet, and continue to educate wherever possible. We are extremely fortunate to have the
support of our sponsors, Subaru Inc and Petmate. We do combined events with them, once again
to bring awareness and educate.
We suppose that the great work Pilots N
Paws does must have many supporters and sponsors. Can you tell us about them
and how they help Pilots N Paws being a reality?
Public support for our organization is
phenomenal. We are extremely grateful
for those who support us not only with donations, but with their kind
words. For the past two years, we have
been partners with Subaru and Petmate.
Both companies are essential to our growth. Petmate provides all crates, harnesses,
collars, leashes for use by our pilots at no cost to them which is extremely
beneficial. Subaru is a progressive
philanthropic company giving us support at events, with the production of our
website, providing promotional material and a list of countless other
provisions. We are very fortunate to be
proud partners with both.
We’ve heard that Scott Messinger have
helped with the rescue of more than a thousand animals. It sounds like a very
committed individual, almost a “superhero”. What can you tell us about him?
Scott is all about helping as many animals as
possible. It is his goal to “give back”
and he is doing so in a very profound way.
He is not a person who expects accolades; he flies these animals because
it is his passion. I find that “passion”
is a common trait with all involved with Pilots N Paws. Scott is phenomenal, just a fabulous caring
person who is out to make a difference.
Have you ever thought about a Pilots N paws
The logistics of having a European branch would
likely be prohibitive on many levels.
That being said, I would welcome discussions with anyone in any country
who might be interested in creating a similar organization in their area. It takes dedication and knowledge which we
are happy to share.
We try to interview and give voice to
activists, charities and organizations with a fresh and innovative approach.
Anyone you can recommend us?
I would need to give this some thought. There are organizations we work with that
transport rescue animals our soldiers and their families adopt from war
zones. Our pilots often fly retired
military working dogs, service dogs, and
those who have been adopted by soldiers.
Perhaps one of those organizations would be interesting to you.