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Pilots N Paws Saves Lives of Abandoned Pets Through Volunteer Work of Local Pilots

Tina George approached her husband Jon, an Oxnard-based pilot, in 2022 with the idea of getting involved with Pilots N Paws, a national non-profit organization launched in 2008 in response to the increase in animals being euthanized in shelters across the country.

The idea for Pilots N Paws stemmed from a simple need. Debi Boies wanted to adopt a dog in Florida. The only problem was that Debi lived in South Carolina. She reached out to pilot, Jon Wehrenberg, who provided roundtrip transportation for Debi to and from Florida.

At the time most shelter animals were transported only by ground, but Debi and Jon decided to change that and partnered as co-founders of Pilots N Paws with a goal of connecting volunteer pilots from all 50 states to the rescue and transportation of animals from shelters to the homes of their adopted families.

Similar to Debi and Jon, Tina and her husband Jon partnered Tina’s passion for animal welfare with Jon’s skills as a pilot. When they find a mission in an area they are either visiting or are able to travel to, they board their Piper Comanche with their Golden Retriever, Hattie, and head out to save the life of dog that would otherwise be facing death.

One particular mission caught up with Tina and Jon while they were away in Palm Springs. Six 7-month-old Queensland Heelers had been abandoned in the desert. They had been picked up and taken to a shelter and were going to be euthanized immediately due to a lack of space. Tina and Jon were able to assist and picked up one of the Heelers and flew to a rescue site in Paso Robles, all while Hattie sat next to and comforted her new flight companion.

“The Heeler had been abused,” Jon said. “It reacted immediately to touch and petting. It just wanted to be loved.”

Rescues are not exclusive to dogs. Pilots N Paws also rescues cats and, in addition to shelter rescues, the organization has partnered with the United States Coast Guard to rescue dolphins, bear cubs, snakes, and turtles. Locally, Pilots N Paws is credited with rescuing and transporting a variety of animals during the Thomas Fire in 2017. And the esteemed National Disaster Search Dog Foundation based in Santa Paula? Those dogs are all rescues, many of which have been transported to the training center by volunteer pilots for Pilots N Paws.

There is also an educational component to the organization that teaches youth and adults alike about the importance of being a responsible pet owner, including sharing the daunting statistic that nearly one million shelter animals are euthanized each year. So far, Pilots N Paws has proudly been able to rescue more than 200,000 animals since its founding.

“It’s a very heartwarming experience,” Tina said. “And you know you are doing something good.”