What has 5,002 feet and 8 paws? A single-engine airplane (at 5,000 ft), a pilot and 2 puppies that were just rescued as part of the PilotsNPaws (PNP) program.
PNP is a volunteer program that teams animals in jeopardy with pilots and rescuers through the internet. Moving animals to rescue centers with greater resources (people, money, facilities) has saved many domestic animals from kill shelters.
Leesburg based pilot, Nick Aitken, is one of the volunteer PNP pilots.
Recently, through internet message boards, Aitken found 2 shepherd-hound-collie puppies in jeopardy of being euthanized.
Aitken began his day at the Leesburg Executive Airport. He rented a Cessna 172 and flew from Leesburg to Charlottesville, VA which is just under 100 miles away. In Charlottesville, he met up with Jon Wells, another pilot who brought the puppies from the Halifax Humane Society in South Boston, VA. His aircraft rental fee was about $350.
After getting the pups situated in the back seat of his plane with a pillow and a towel, Aitken and puppies took off and headed to Gaithersburg, MD where the volunteers from PetConnect and the foster parents met him. Once they were handed off, Aitken hopped back in the plane and flew it back to Leesburg.
Flights like this are generally paid for by the pilots themselves. Whether they own or rent the plane or friends and supporters chip in, the financial responsibility is borne by the pilots.
Some pilots just love to fly. Some absolutely love pets. When those two traits are found in the same person, animals are saved.
“This is my 12th flight in just over a year and I have now saved 39 dogs and 6 cats from having their lives terminated,” said Aitken.
PNP is operated by volunteers who attempt to balance their schedules around the requester’s needs. Those requesting rescues for transfer have to consider that many of PNP pilots have full-time jobs and family obligations.
Pilots also have varying sizes of planes, amounts of free time and, of course, financial ability! Often, pilots will team together for a rescue as Aitken did with the pilot from South Boston.
Aitken stated, if a person is a pilot who loves animals they should be encouraged to become a volunteer PNP pilot. Others can consider helping with donations and/or supporting the pilots who participate in these missions.
Pet lovers can even team up with PNP pilots just to go along for the ride, comfort the animals and assist with their handling.
For more information, to sign up, to request a rescue or to donate, please visit PilotsNPaws.org