While television commercials might seem over dramatic in their portrayal of dogs and cats in need of a home, Texas really does have a problem when it comes to overcrowded shelters and humane societies.
Hank’s Flights, based out of Montgomery County, is helping dogs and cats find loving families or less crowded shelters all over the country. Howard Turek and his wife Kristi, along with his brother George Turek and his wife Linda have been able to relocate 183 dogs and 20 cats since the start of this charitable endeavor in October 2014.
“Houston has a huge issue with homeless animals,” Kristi said.
“We had talked about trying to start a no kill shelter,” Howard added. “It doesn’t work down here, because what happens is when they find out where you’re located, they just drop them and leave.”
The Turek Brothers both have long histories as pilots. George flew Navy A-4s in Vietnam and Howard spent many years as a Spirit Airlines Captain. George volunteers his personal jet to transport wounded veterans with an organization called Hero Flights, and Howard wanted to join him as Chief Pilot. George upgraded from Westwind to a Falcon 50, and that’s when Kristi and Linda approached him about using the Westwind to transport animals in need of new homes.
The most recent Hank’s Flights mission on July 23 involved transporting eight puppies to Colorado Springs, Colorado. Kara Dugall, from the West University area of Houston had been feeding a stray, who did not want to be caught, but kept having litters of puppies and abandoning them. A few weeks ago, Dugall found the latest litter under her porch and was able to save the eight.
“People don’t understand the importance of spaying and neutering,” Howard said of the stray population. “They just don’t want to do it for some reason.”
Another mission in early July was a one-dog flight to Atlanta, Georgia. Devon, a yellow lab, was found nearly dead by animal control. The four-year-old dog had serious injuries from a gunshot wound and from being dragged behind a car. Devon was briefly fostered until an Atlanta woman wanted to adopt her, which was when the Tureks stepped in and offered to make the trip.
“Generally speaking, if we’re going someplace it’s not hard to find a dog needing to go somewhere,” Howard said of the flights they volunteer to make. “There’s just so many.”
Hank’s Flights works closely with Operation Pets Alive and Pilots n’ Paws, and they charitably offer their time and airplane so that dogs and cats with lower survival rates might have a better chance at the care they deserve. The Tureks are strong advocates for getting pets spayed and neutered so that the overpopulation Texas sees might be kept at bay.
“We’re not just after saving a single life or a single litter,” Operation Pets Alive founder Marcia Piotter said. “We’re after a bigger goal. We’re after changing our community.”
To learn more about Hank’s Flights, visit hanksflights.com. For more information on volunteering your time or donating to downsizing Montgomery County’s shelter populations through adoption, fostering and relocation rather than euthanizing, visit operationpetsalive.org and pilotsnpaws.org.