California is currently facing a huge crisis when it comes to stray and abandoned cats and dogs: there are so many that shelters can”t house them all, and have to resort to euthanizing healthy, adoptable animals. Meanwhile, in Southern California, business owner and pilot Yehuda Netanel knew he had to help out.
“The whole thing is one big mess,” he says. He knew that there were many attempts to transport these animals to areas where they could be housed, but those places were many hundreds of miles away, and ground transport could take over 24 hours — an unhealthy amount of time for an animal to be in transit.
But Netanel has a fast, far-flying plane. And that”s when he got his idea.
He started ferrying animals from high-kill shelters in California to points north, like Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana, bringing about 30 dogs and cats to shelters where they were welcomed with open arms. But one person can only do so much, so Netanel started recruiting other pilots to volunteer their time to fly animals out of California and out of danger.
It was no simple task, he says, to convince his fellow pilots, all of whom had plenty of other responsibilities, to chip in. But once they tried it, the passion for saving animals took over, and their sense of gratification at saving lives made them come back. The pilots became the rescue organization Wings of Rescue, a nonprofit that links high-kill, overcrowded shelters in California with more spacious shelters and adoptive homes in other states. Today, they have 28 pilots and move thousands of animals.
Besides personal planes, Wings of Rescue also charters a commercial cargo plane to carry greater numbers of animals.
The problem of animal overpopulation isn”t limited to California, but the state has a major problem with abandoned animals.
Thanks to the wonder of technology, Netanel and his logistics volunteers can coordinate, pick up, and fly out animals from high-kill shelters incredibly quickly. Wings of Rescue, he says, has become a hub of information between high-kill and no-kill shelters, so they”re constantly making lists of which places have animals, which places have room, and which animals go where. “We”re not doing things the easy way,” he says, “but we”re doing it the right way.” The constant communication also makes the flights more efficient, with more pets per flight, and so pilots are more willing to volunteer their time and fuel costs to save more animals at once.
Naturally, special considerations have to be made for these special passengers.
Each cargo flight is named after a specific dog with a special story.
Sometimes, the pets don”t make it to their intended destinations, Netanel says. When we heard this, we feared the worst, but don”t worry: Netanel says that the only reason a pet won”t make it to the destination is because a pilot will fall in love and adopt them right on the spot! One dog didn”t even make it onto the plane when Netanel”s wife decided to take it home right then and there.
The volunteers at Wings of Rescue work hard to make sure a happy ending like this one is in every pet”s future.
(via YouTube / Wings of Rescue)
So if you don”t have a plane but still want to help animals, what can you do? Netanel says that the easiest thing to do is to donate money to your local shelter or rescue organization. You can also donate to Wings of Rescue on their website or Facebook page, which will help them fund the cargo flights and rescue huge numbers of cats and dogs at once. It”s a strictly volunteer organization, so 90% of donations go right to saving the animals, with the rest used for marketing and awareness raising.
If you want to get more involved, you can also volunteer at your local shelter to play with the animals, as a well-socialized, friendly animal has a better chance of getting adopted. And if you already have pets, be sure to spay or neuter them, because it”s healthier and reduces overpopulation.
Wings of Rescue was featured on the PBS series Shelter Me, which will be available on Netflix shortly, so you can see even more amazing stories of dogs and cats getting a second chance. You can also keep up with their latest events on Facebook and Twitter.