ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. (WNCT) — In 2014, 120,000 animals were euthanized in North Carolina according to the Department of Agriculture. The number is alarming and the reality is heartbreaking for the rescues and shelters that work tirelessly to find homes for they animals that find themselves on death row. One group is working to help connect these animals with homes, even if they’re hundreds of miles away.
The sky is the limit for six rescue dogs in Rocky Mount and it looks like their ride is here.
“It means everything,” says Wilson County Humane Society Rescue Coordinator Jana Lake. “Without the group, a lot of dogs would be put to sleep.”
The group lake is talking about is Pilots N Paws. PNP helps transport homeless animals to areas where they can be adopted. On this day, WNCT tagged along with pilot Steve Shoop and his 16-year-old son Caelan. The duo flew to the Tar Heel State from Northern Virginia to help rescues in Wilson County. Shoop has made flights like this one for more than five years and has saved more than 100 dogs. He says every flight is different, but all are rewarding.
“With these dogs that are perhaps the most helpless of all passengers, it’s a very, very satisfying experience to get them to a place where they are going to be a lot better off than they were,” says Shoop.
The father-son team have traveled on many flights together. Caelan says he loves being a part of helping make a difference.
“We’re giving a chance to save lots of animals lives and do a part in making the world better,” says Caelan.
Many of the dogs looking for new homes live with fosters. Letting go can be tough but everyone agrees that the pilots who are willing to help their fostered fur babies are something special.
“They’re sent from God,” says Carolyn Wagner who dropped off Wayne on this day. “To do something like this, you’ve got to have a good heart and care about people and animals.”
Suzie, Cotton, Sabrina, Isa, Zaira, and Wayne are all cleared for takeoff. It’s a hot day in North Carolina so the dogs are ready to go and that excitement lasts all the way up. Fast forward and hour later and we’re nearly 500 miles away from our starting point at Rocky Mount-Wilson Airport in Caldwell, New Jersey where the rescues are waiting. Some of the workers in New Jersey say without the program, and the pilots like Shoop that volunteer their time, money, and plane, they wouldn’t be able to save as many animals as they do.
“We had the opportunity to rescue these three girls today because of Steve,” says Linda Barish with Eleventh Hour Rescue. “Otherwise, we don’t know if we could have found the transportation to get them down here. So, in all essence, Steve saved their lives today.”
It’s all in a days work on a flight for Pilots N Paws. Shoop says after the plane is landed and the dogs are rescued, he reflects on the trip with his own pup.
“I go home and I look at my dog and I say, ‘You don’t know how good you have it, buddy’,” says Shoop.
We checked in with the rescues to see how the dogs are transitioning to their new surroundings. Some of the dogs have new names but report to be fitting in well and feeling better already.
Updates on Dogs: One of the dogs, Cotton, had a severe skin condition. Her rescue reports she is settling well and her health is quickly improving.
Another dog, originally named Wayne, now has a new name, Merle. He was the only male dog on the trip and the hound is adjusting well to his foster home which includes two young girls that love having him at the house.
Suzie, the puppy of the group, was renamed to Treasure. Treasure had been shot in the foot in North Carolina and the rescue that is taking care of her was worried they may have to amputate the limb. Her new caregivers report she is coming out of her shell and making a lot of new friends. Treasure will see a surgeon on Thursday to be assessed to see what brace suits her foot. The rescue is optimistic she will be able to keep her foot.
Links for Rescue Organizations