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Pilots To The Rescue: Nonprofit flies 14 dogs to find fur-ever homes

Updated: May. 6, 2021 at 6:47 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Fourteen dogs from Louisiana made a stop in Knoxville Thursday afternoon, before boarding a flight to find their fur-ever homes.

The trip was made possible by Pilots To The Rescue. It’s a nonprofit based in New Jersey working to transport at-risk animals from over-crowded shelters into safer situations.

Michael Schneider is the founder and “top dog” of the organization. He said he started Pilots To The Rescue back in 2015, combining his love of flying with his love for animals to make a difference.

“Using a plane is great for senior dogs, disabled dogs, any medical conditions, puppies — because they can’t endure these types of drives, it’s a lot of stress,” said Schneider.

Schneider flies out to meet volunteers from shelters in need, to pick up animals looking for a loving, caring home.

Thursday afternoon Schneider made a stop at the Downtown Knoxville Airport to pick up 14 dogs driven up from shelters in Louisiana. Once on board the plane, they’ll go to shelters in New Jersey where they’ll have a better chance of being adopted.

“We are a major lifeline for these amazing ground transports that are going every day or every week, like this woman coming to meet us [Thursday]. She’s pouring her heart and soul on these highways driving 24 hours,” Schneider said. “I mean, a four hour flight is nothing to drive 24 hours. So by us doing this [Thursday], we’re giving them a bit of break.”

Some of the dogs on the flight included eight lab puppies rescued from a hoarding situation, a dog that had been thrown from a vehicle and another dog discovered starving and injured on the street.

So far this year, Pilots To The Rescue has completed 13 missions with more than 200 animals saved. The goal is complete 500 missions by the end of 2021.

Schneider said the key to saving animals is to adopt, don’t shop.

“If you go out and buy an animal or purchase an animal from a breeder, there’s a rescue animal that you didn’t adopt,” said Schneider. “So you’re helping to reduce the number of euthanasia, of these animals being killed and reducing the number of these over-crowded shelters when you adopt an animal.”

Thursday’s rescue was done in part with the Bissell Pet Foundation, which is currently sponsoring an “Empty the Shelters” event across the country. Participating shelters are offering reduced adoption fees through May 9.

Local participating shelters include:

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