There will be lots of waggy-tailed love in the air this Valentine's Day as more than 700 homeless dogs and cats soar to safety.
Many animal shelters are packed with homeless pets, yet in some parts of the country, there are waiting lists of people looking for dogs and cats to adopt. To help fix that math problem, Freekibble.com and GreaterGood.org have teamed up to sponsor Flights to Freedom, which partners with Wings of Rescue, a group of volunteer pilots who take healthy pets from crowded shelters and fly them to shelters that have room to spare in the United States and Canada.
The animals will be coming from overcrowded shelters in the South and going to eager shelters across the country where they likely will be quickly adopted. Users donate to the program to help fund any costs associated with the flights. In addition, the group will be donating 500 cases of Halo treats to shelters on both ends of the flight, to share the love with all the furry residents.
Pets will leave on Feb. 13 and 14, heading for their new lives.
The best part is that this is an ongoing push. Freekibble and GreaterGood's Flight to Freedom program has flown 17,629 dogs & cats (and 2 pot-bellied pigs!) to safety — and they're just getting started.
'Another chance to live'
This isn't the first time pets have flown to their forever homes courtesy of this volunteer flying program.
In spring 2017, for example, more than 100 dogs and cats caught flights from overflowing shelters in the Memphis area to facilities in the Northwest.
The passenger list included 110 pets from the West Memphis Animal Shelter and the Humane Society of the Delta in nearby Helena, Arkansas. They flew to no-kill shelters including the Kootenai Humane Society in Hayden, Idaho, and SpokAnimal in Spokane, Washington.
Since the nonprofit Wings of Rescue was created in 2012, more than 31,000 pets have been flown to shelters for a chance at finding homes. They are taken by volunteer pilots who fly in their own planes, as well as chartered cargo planes.
The reason the system works, the organization points out, is because of donations, partnerships and volunteers.
Pilot Cassandra Schultz wrote about her first volunteer experience, "After some quick flight planning and fueling, we were ready to go. As I looked back at the load of anxious passengers from the cockpit, I wanted to brief them. I wanted to tell them how long the flight was and to expect some bad weather. I wanted to pet every single one them and tell them that they were all going to be OK. But I couldn’t. I just stared at their fearful faces wishing they understood that they were given another chance to live."
Editor's note: This story was originally written in April 2017 and has been updated with new information.