Pets, people and planes

Dec. 27, 2012 @ 05:49 PM

(Last in a series)

In states where pet populations are in better control than North Carolina, many families are wanting to adopt pets.

But getting from North Carolina to a state hundreds or even thousands of miles away can be a challenge. Airplanes help, and the organization Pilots N Paws has become a leading networking tool to save animals, moving them from shelters to families looking to adopt.

Henderson’s local rescue organization, the Ruin Creek Animal Protection Society, is among many that often work with the group.

“We may go several weeks, or a couple of months, and not have a pilot come through,” said Angie Rowland, one of the volunteers with the group. “And then we may have a couple real close. It just varies and depends on animals and what we find.”

Michael Young, a commercial pilot based out of McLean, Va., comes through often. On a recent December Sunday, he flew in for a pick-up of six dogs that came not only from Vance County’s shelter but also two others driven to the Oxford Henderson Airport from Newton (Catawba County) and Rockingham (Richmond County).

“They were from kill shelters,” Young said.

Young said the ground transport and planes make a good combination.

“We have had some animals go to Canada,” Young said. “ The SPCA they have taken right many of our animals to Canada.”

Donations for rescue organizations come from across the nation, helped tremendously through social media like Facebook. When Young arrived, he had enough blankets and other donations to fill the back of Rowland’s SUV.

The group has saved thousands of animals in a short time, a long journey from where Rowland began.

“It started with just me and I posted on this page, an advocate website and a lady named Ruthie Dickerson,” Rowland said. “Me and her got close from doing this and for awhile it was just me and her.”

Rowland’s work evolved and the core volunteer team here now numbers five with Lisa Dickerson, and Dawn and Alan Hedgepeth. Charles Boyd, a local automobile dealer, has given support as well, including financial.

“It’s very emotional,” Rowland said. “We work so hard to save them.”

PayPal donations help defray some costs. But the network is immense.

“Terry Kelly, she lives in Nebraska, and she helps do a lot for our networking with animals,” Rowland said. “She is wonderful. She helps put our runs together. There is a sheet we have. She puts together our transport sheet and navigates them. Without her, there is no way we could do what we do.”

Just getting animals from Point A to Point B would be easier. But with any rescue group is a sense of accountability, and Rowland said an emphasis is placed on finding good homes, not just homes.

“We do the best we can to do extensive checks to make sure that the animals are taken to a good home,” Rowland said.

In addition PayPal and local donations, Iams has provided food for dogs and cats.

“At the beginning we had to pay it, but now we don’t have to worry about food,” Rowland said. “We need funds badly. If it wasn’t for other states up north, we couldn’t make it.”

And the animals don’t stop coming. Rowland laments the owners who have an injured or sick animal and feel if they leave it at the shelter, it’ll be fine.

“I wish people understood,” Rowland said. “We clean up everyone else’s mess.”

She’s had the urge to help for a long time.

“I have always been an animal freak,” Rowland said. “And ever since I was a child I have always been tender-hearted. I saw a dog on the side of the road that got hit. It broke my heart.”

After college at East Carolina, she returned home and eventually became involved in the pet adoption process. It hasn’t stopped since.

“If animals aren’t rescued, then they go through chambers,” Rowland said. “This is all I do, this and a full-time job. It’s constant.”

Contact the writer at news@hendersondispatch.com.