‘Pilots N Paws’ flies dogs to Atlanta

Published 4:56 pm Friday, June 26, 2009

Two dogs from Decatur County took to the air Thursday as they caught a ride from a Pilots N Paws pilot, who flew them to a rescue organization in Atlanta, Ga.

Pilots N Paws is an organization of people who dedicate their time and money to help save the lives of animals. Those involved including people who rescue, shelter or foster animals, and pilots or plane owners willing to assist with the transportation of animals. The pilots who take part in flying the animals do so at their own expense and the flights take place all across the country.

The Decatur-Bainbridge Humane Society has been working with the organization from more than a year, said Animal Shelter Director Beth Eck. She explained how they became involved, which happened by chance.

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A little more than a year ago, a Pilots N Paws pilot was transporting two dogs through the area when bad weather forced him to land at the Decatur County Airport. Having to spend the night, the pilot didn’t have anywhere to house the animals.

Tony Scott, an airport employee whose daughter works at the Animal Shelter, called Eck and explained to her the situation. Eck said she was more than willing to keep the animals overnight.

“We got into the loop,” said Eck. “Doing a good deed turned into 20 fold.”

She said the Humane Society works closely with a contact person in Jacksonville, Fla., who is a part of a rescue—a group that takes dogs from shelters and provides foster care and adoptions—and a contact person in Tallahassee, Fla., that coordinates the flights.

“It takes a lot of coordinating to make it all work,” said Eck. She went on to say that the Humane Society also drives animals to rescues when flights are not available.

On Thursday, pilot Don Leon arrived at the Decatur County Airport to pick up Roo, a Labrador mix, and Angus, a long-coat Labrador retriever, to take them to the Atlanta Dog Squad—a breed specific rescue group that rescues Labradors.

Leon is a retired army helicopter pilot and corporate pilot who lives in Atlanta, Ga. He said he found out about Pilots N Paws from a television program and decided to get involved. Flying his single engine Cirrus SR22, Leon says he has now flies hundreds of animals to locations throughout the Southeast.

On one specific rescue flight, Leon said he fell in love with a black German Shepherd he was transporting named Ace. He decided to adopt Ace himself and instead of dropping him off, Ace flew on to a new home. Leon said Ace is a big fan of flying in the airplane and goes almost everywhere with him.

“I love the dogs,” said Leon. “I even took one home!”

On Thursday, both Roo and Angus seemed eager to fly with Roo actually jumping up onto the wing of the plane before everyone was ready. Leon helped the two dogs into the back seat of the plane and away they flew with high hopes of finding a new home.