Fluvanna SPCA and Pilots to the Rescue team up to help dogs

By Page H. Gifford

There was no interest in Dax, Carlisle, and Jacob at the Fluvanna SPCA. Jacob had been at the shelter for 16 months, and Dax and Carlisle had been there since November 2023.  The three sweet, loving hounds would soon embark on an adventure that would lead to their forever homes.

“The Fluvanna SPCA was over capacity with dogs and there had been no interest in any of them. The staff and the dogs were becoming stressed. Finding other shelters willing and able to take additional dogs is next to impossible. Many shelters are also full,” said FSPCA volunteer and Board member Pam VanDerBeek. “Father John’s Animal House in Lafayette, N.J. had taken three hounds a few years ago when we were doing a transport. Typically, there are fewer hounds up north than in Virginia. Thankfully, they were willing to help us again.”

Pilots to the Rescue was the answer in how to get Dax, Jacob, and Carlisle to N.J. A non-profit, volunteer aviation group, the organization was started in 2014, by Michael Schneider, a pilot and an animal lover, who rescued a litter of puppies from North Carolina. The puppies had been abandoned in a ditch and due to be euthanized because of lack of space in the shelter.

It was a beautiful sunny afternoon at the Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport on March 13, and FSPCA volunteers along with the three dogs waited to get them loaded on board for their once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Not many dogs get to fly. One volunteer called it their freedom flight. The dogs seemed a bit calm overall as they waited to board. Even with all the strange noises of propellers and single twin engines being revved up for the trip they seemed more curious than frightened. Once on board the volunteers waved goodbye, and they set off for New Jersey to Father John’s Animal House.

Once there, they were greeted with love and caring individuals. Not long after his arrival Dax was adopted, and it looks like the other two have homes pending.

There are 920,000 cats and dogs euthanized every year. In 2024, Pilots to the Rescue have already flown 13 missions, 15,481 miles, and taken 70 dogs, and 157 cats to shelters where they have better chances to find forever homes. The pilots are not compensated for the flights. They do it as a mission of love.

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