News-Press Covers Operation Special Delivery
Operation Special Delivery changed the lives for 400 animals as hundreds of volunteer pilots and rescues came together in Hinesville, Georgia and surrounding areas. Chris Umpierre covered the story for News-Press.com in “Pilots N Paws Rescues Puppies, Flies Them to Naples for Adoption” posted on October 5, 2013.
After landing her white, single-engine plane at Naples Municipal Airport, Ellen Herr emerged from the passenger door, stood on the wing and raised a gray retriever puppy into the air.
“Who wants a dog?” Herr smiled.
The Fort Myers resident was one of 50 pilots who volunteered their plane, time and gas money Saturday to rescue more than 400 dogs scheduled to be killed at Georgia pet shelters.
Herr flew 11 dogs — 10 mixed mixed retriever puppies and an adult Chihuahua— and delivered them to the Naples Humane Society, which expects to have the dogs adopted in several weeks. Other dogs were flown to other parts of Florida, New Jersey, Washington D.C. and Virginia.
Pilots N Paws, the South Carolina organization that spearheaded the event, called it the largest single-day air and land rescue of animals in the Southeast. Herr, a retired physical therapist who has been flying for 30 years, said it was a no-brainer to participate in the event.
“It’s a nine and a half hour drive from Georgia to here,” Herr said as she opened several puppy cages inside her small airplane. “Flying is a lot easier. It’s a lot less stressful on the dogs.”
Her 2006 Cirrus plane burns 14 gallons per hour. She purchased gas in Hinesville, Ga. for $5.40 a gallon.
Matt Miller, a dog trainer at the Naples Humane Society, was thrilled Herr donated her plane for the event. Miller helped Herr unload the dogs, which were kept inside several cages in the plane. Herr removed the two back seats in her four-seat plane. A cage also was placed in the belly of the plane.
“This is saving more lives,” Miller said. “We like to take dogs from rural areas, and these are small dogs. Since there are so many condos in Naples, small dogs work well here. These dogs will probably be adopted in a week.”
Herr said the dogs hardly barked or made noise during the flight. After the first 10 minutes of flying, the dogs quieted down.
Herr said she has made several rescue flights through the years, and has learned to make sure the dog cages are bolted shut. During a rescue flight several years ago, a boxer chewed at the zipper of a paper cage and escaped.
“He just kind of sat on top of the passenger seat and was just looking around,” Herr said. “Boxers are smart dogs. He just wanted to be with another person.”
Herr said her day began at 7 a.m. in Hinesville. In addition to the flights, Pilots N Paws volunteers drove about 100 additional dogs to various rescue organizations.
The Fort Stewart (Ga.) Military Pet Shelter was one of the shelters emptied. Pets from the military shelter were turned over by soldiers who had to go serve. Some of the dogs are being trained as service and comfort dogs and are going to injured veterans through the Paws of War program.
Petmate, a maker of innovative pet products, has supported Pilots N Paws the past four years by donating more than $100,000 in pet travel gear to facilitate the safe transport of pets to rescue organizations across the country for adoption.
“The work done by Pilots N Paws and its hundreds of volunteers not only has saved countless wet-nosed lives, it’s brought joy to the many families who have welcomed these animals into their homes,” Petmate spokesman Larry Baab said.