I am a student pilot and animal lover working to create an e-mail network of pilots in the western-pennsylvania area who I could contact in case of a transport need (rather than waiting for them to come to this message board). I have been asked the question several times about compensation for pilots. They are not looking to be paid, per se, just wondering if there was any opportunity to off-set some of the expenses.
My first step was to reserch the Federal Air Regulations (FARs). Section 61.113 is very clear that "no person who holds a private pilot certificate may act as pilot in command of an aircraft that is carrying passengers or property for compensation or hire" but later it says "A private pilot may not pay less than the pro rata share of the operating expenses of a flight with passengers, provided the expenses involve only fuel, oil, airport expenditures, or rental fees." So, is the animal being transported considered a passenger or property? (Not judging here---my pet is DEFINITELY a passenger!) My guess is that the FAA would say "property" so that would mean the pilot could accept no reimbursement. However, if a human handler came along for the ride, the human passenger could contribute up to their pro-rata share of the expenses listed above.
The other thought is that at least some of the expenses would be deductable as a charitable donation. I am sure there are some rules here, starting with the sponsoring organization being a non-priofit organization, but I don't know what else would be involved.
Can anyone clarify on either the FAA or IRS regulations at play here? I want to give those interested the right answer and, if the out-of-pocket expense to the pilot can be reduced, more pilots would be willing to help. Nearly all pilots I know are looking for an excuse to fly more and cost is a significant barrier to most of them.