Animal rescue reaches new heights, thanks to pilots

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Pilots to the Rescue founder Michael Schneider (left) and volunteer Jason Eckardt prepare for another mission. COURTESY PILOTS TO THE RESCUE

As a no-kill rescue organization, Palmetto Animal League vows to embrace compassionate and innovative strategies that save lives. One example is PAL's transport program, which arranges for at-risk shelter animals in Beaufort, Jasper and nearby counties to be driven carefully and lovingly to other no-kill shelters farther north where they are more likely to be adopted quickly.

This year, PAL has added a new mode of transportation known as "freedom flights" to help connect homeless pets with eager adopters. Thanks to the Pilots to the Rescue organization, these high-flying, multi-state rescue missions have saved the lives of more than 70 dogs and puppies so far in 2019.

"Pilots to the Rescue is saving lives one flight at a time," said PAL president Amy Campanini.

PAL rescues many of the pets from euthanasia lists at overcrowded shelters in the Southeast and cares for them until it's time for their flight. Pilots to the Rescue provides the planes and "Top Dog Pilots" for these life-saving missions at no cost, and they can only do this because of generous donations.

Pilots to the Rescue founder and chief pilot Michael Schneider recently took part in a freedom flight carrying 20 puppies from the Lowcountry toward a bright new future.

"These little girls and boys now have a chance of having a wonderful life with families that will love and care for them," said Schneider.

The animals board their freedom flights at the Ridgeland Airport, often bound for the Ulster County SPCA in New York or the New Fairfield/Sherman Animal Welfare Society in Connecticut.

Their destination might vary, but one thing is for certain. Each animal who boards a freedom flight was at risk of an uncertain fate before being rescued by PAL.

"Dozens of lives are being saved," said Campanini. "These dogs go from discards to superstars, and we are so grateful to everyone involved in making these rescues a reality."

PAL's transport program guarantees that the animals will stay within the no-kill network and that the newly arriving animals are not displacing other pets at the destination shelter.

"It's powerful when you consider that so many sweet souls are alive today thanks to these freedom flights, which are made possible by kindhearted people," said Stephanie Bashaw, PAL development coordinator.

PAL has more freedom flights already in the planning stages, bringing people and organizations together up and down the east coast to save lives. Learn more about the flights at PalmettoAnimalLeague.org.

Lindsay Perry is the marketing coordinator for Palmetto Animal League. PalmettoAnimalLeague.org

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