It's a bird, it's a plane ... it's a dog?
Date October 16, 2009
Brief By STEVE EIGHINGER
By STEVE EIGHINGER
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Bella, an American Staffordshire Terrier, will be earning her first frequent flyer miles today.
Bella will be flown to her new home in Blaine, Minn., thanks to the efforts of the Quincy Kennel Club and Pilots N Paws program. Pilots N Paws is a group of volunteer pilots and private plane owners who transport rescued pets to new homes across the country.
The plush plane ride and loving family that awaits will be a far cry from what the rescued pooch previously endured.
"Bella was found in a ditch in Quincy," said Mary Welk, a Kennel Club member. "She was starving, cold ... and homeless. She was in bad shape."
Bella is one of more than 1,000 dogs the Kennel Club's K-9 Rescue program has saved this year alone. She was later adopted by a local family that recently lost its home and had to give her up to the city of Quincy Animal Shelter, where she could have eventually faced euthanization.
The Kennel Club posted Bella's picture online, where it was seen by representatives of the Midwest Animal Rescue in Brooklyn Park, Minn., who have worked to place Bella with a family up north. Midwest Animal Rescue is the largest rescue operation in Minnesota.
"With the help of a group of dedicated volunteer pilots, Bella is heading for new and better horizons," Welk said. "This is the first time we have used the (Pilots and Paws program)."
Pilots N Paws, a Web-based message board where pilots can access information about animals in need, is headquartered in Landrum, S.C. Relocation missions are flown by general aviation pilots who have signed on with the volunteer group. There are 440 pilots involved with the program, which started in February 2008.
Pilots N Paws has been featured numerous times by the national media, including USA Today, NBC News and Good Morning America on ABC.
"The goal of Pilots N Paws ... is to increase awareness about different ways people can help animals in need, whether it's by providing air transportation, becoming a foster home or general volunteering," co-founder Jon Wehrenberg said on the http://www.thepilot.com Web site. "It's a unique way for people to donate their time and talent to a very worthy cause."
According to the National Council on Pet Population, 9.6 million shelter animals are euthanized each year. The aim of Pilots N Paws is to decrease this number by connecting shelters and rescue groups with pilots willing to transport animals to safe homes.
"I think it's awesome," Welk said.
Bella was scheduled to leave at about 9 a.m. today from the Quincy Regional Airport. Adams County Animal Warden Jenny Benjamin will help coordinate the event.