GALLIPOLIS — Friends of Gallia County’s Animals may have found a way to alleviate the pressure on the county’s animal shelter. Last week, a small private plane piloted by Dan Drennan and Chuck DiBella flew in to Gallia-Meigs Regional Airport directly from Buffalo-Lancaster Regional Airport just outside Buffalo, N.Y., to pick up 13 puppies. Twelve of the dogs were from Gallia County and one from Meigs County.
After a quick stop around 11 a.m. last Friday, the pilots ferried the dogs back to western New York, where the Ohio pups were given to volunteers awaiting their arrival. Some of the dogs already had adoptive homes waiting for them when they arrived.
It was made possible via Pilots N Paws, an online message board on which the two pilots participate. The message board places animal rescuers in touch with private pilots around the country who may be able to transport the animals to a particular location for adoption purposes.
Drennan said there is also a wide network of volunteers used to temporarily house animals being transported from one place to another.
“This can be useful if a flight must take place over several days,” he said. “The animal can possibly stay with volunteers along the way for a day or two to accommodate pilot schedules, weather delays, etc.”
“Once the ride is requested, a pilot may post a reply for part or all the distance,” Drennan said. “Each pilot and plane have different capabilities.”
Nathan Weatherholt, president of Friends of Gallia County’s Animals, said last week’s flight was the fourth time his group as used the service to fly dogs into other rescue organizations.
“They go to areas that, in most cases, have much stricter spay/neuter requirements,” he said, “which is a win-win on both ends. We have decreased our euthanasia rate to almost nothing.”
Euthanasia has been a touchy issue in Gallia County ever since 11 dogs were improperly euthanized Feb. 14 at the Gallia County Animal Shelter and three people — a current and former dog warden, as well as an assistant — were charged with multiple counts of second-degree misdemeanor animal cruelty. All three are awaiting court hearings next week.
Weatherholt said FGCA regularly transports animals to the New York City area, “ensuring they are safe from euthanasia.” One of the animals, he said, had a litter of pups, had been “lice-infested” and had very little social interaction.
“Because of our wonderful foster volunteers, monetary supporters and drivers, we were able to get them to a place where (the dog) could be fully rehabilitated and sent to a good home,” he said.
Pilots N Paws does not charge animal rescue organizations like FGCA to transport the animals to other locations.
“The cost for the flight is funded entirely by the pilots,” Drennan said. “We don’t take donations — the FAA (has regulations) about this. For this flight, (DiBella) and I split the cost.”
The pilots — either Drennan, DiBella or others — may also return soon to pick up more dogs, if the need arises.
“We would like to do it more often,” Weatherholt said.