INTRODUCING PILOTS N PAWS CANADA
How blessings brighten as they take their flight – Edward Young.
Santa’s mission is one of the most important of the year; delivering toys to well-behaved children across the world – and the not so well-behaved children. Everyone deserves a chance to experience hope and feel loved!
Santa could not complete the task on his own and relies on the help of his team: Mrs. Claus, the elves and of course his herd of flying reindeer.
Equally warm-hearted Samaritans are the Pilots N Paws Canada team who work tirelessly together to ensure animals in danger are relocated to safety. I have contacted founder Gini Green, and Senior Transport Coordinator Deanna Bliuvas on several occasions and have received a response the same day. Often within the hour!
It is hardly surprising that Gini and her team are so reactive. The coordination of ground transportation, flight crew, and rescue organizations is a lot to oversee. Especially considering the distance across which some of these missions occur. Extreme time management skills are required and demonstrated daily.
Thank you, Gini and Deanna for taking the time to speak with me about Pilots N Paws Canada.
When was Pilots N Paws Canada established? What inspired you to start the organization?
Gini Green launched Pilots N Paws Canada on June 15th, 2012 as a result of working with Deanna earlier in the year. The two women worked on a rescue mission for another organization involving more than 25 sled dogs that needed transport from Quebec to BC. Gini says, “The project turned out to be one and a half months of the most intense work ever!” It was expensive and time-consuming and although successful, Gini decided there had to be a better way. Gini contacted Debi Boies the Co-founder of Pilots N Paws in the US. With Gini’s background in rescue, Debi felt a Canadian Pilots N Paws program would do well with Gini leading the way. And so began Pilots N Paws Canada. Debi was happy to give her license and support by way of their trademarked branding and Green launched Pilots N Paws Canada as a Canadian run and operated, stand-alone organization.
Mission of Organization
To provide free air transport support to Canadian rescues and shelters for their injured, stray, abandoned, and abused animals – including wildlife. Gini says, “if someone will fly them we will consider it.”
The transport of animals between vast distances would be a large undertaking for just one person. Pilots N Paws Canada is a large team of people networking and working together in relay fashion. How big is your team and in what capacity do members participate?
The organization is comprised of two groups; private planes with owner/pilots and commercial flights with Petscorts. Currently, there are more than 190 volunteer pilots registered with PNPC across Canada. Everyone on the team is a volunteer.
Deanna, based in Osgoode Ontario, is the Senior Transport Coordinator for Ontario and Eastern Canada. This role involves working with the many different types of rescue groups and pilots located in those regions to collect current information and documentation (veterinary records, etc.). Deanna organizes everything from drop off in the beginning to the pick-up details at the other end. Including temporary fosters, ground transport to and from air fields, equipment aspects to providing advice on safe ways to transport a particular animal. Assistance is provided by Louise Shane, a PNPC Transport Coordinator from Almonte, Ontario.
Gini Green, based on Gabriola Island off the BC coast, handles all transports coming west from Manitoba to BC with the help of Shelly Loree another Transport Coordinator out of Airdre, Alberta.
Sometimes the pilots of the smaller planes are not able to take on a request due to distance or bad weather conditions. That is when members of the Petscort program assist.
Vicki Baker is the Senior Transport Coordinator for Petscorts and is based in Nova Scotia. Vicki works with volunteers from the general public who are taking commercial flights for business or pleasure. Coordinating with the commercial airlines, she helps rescue organizations and shelters fly animals that are added to the volunteer passengers’ tickets. Matching up the rescue/shelter needs with available flights is a major juggling act but more people are becoming aware of the need. Currently, Vicky is contacted by several regular travelers before they take a flight, to inquire as to whether there is an animal they can help transport. These passengers are called PETSCORTS.
Petscorts are met at the airport by the transporting rescue organization with proper crates and documentation for travel. They are also met at the other end of their flight. An easy, yet incredibly valuable gift provided by Petscorts. Vicky is assisted with her activities by Janice Templeman in the Ottawa region and Nicole Wilks in Kelowna BC.
The entire team of transport coordinators is spread out across our country to provide the best use of time differences possible. All these women do this on a voluntary basis and get as much joy out of seeing a successful transport as the rescues do.
What security measures are in place to ensure the safety of animals (and Petscorts) during transportation? For example screening, training workshops or online training seminars?
Rescues are required to provide veterinary records and current documentation regarding the condition of the animal being transported. The information is recorded and accessible by all members of the team so that, at a moment’s notice; another person can pick up and go if needed.
Transport can be less stressful on animals when flying in small private planes. They have the dull steady sound of the engine and calming environment with the pilot. Many pilots have noticed a positive change in a dog’s physiology from the time they are picked up to the time they are dropped off. The dogs seem calmer as if they know they are safe and going somewhere good.
The other benefit to flying in smaller airplanes; they normally go through small airfields rather than major airports. Meaning there is a reduced threat to the general public health wise.
Most of our pilot volunteers work in professional fields and are very respectful of the safety measures and protocols we have put in place. All animals must be secured during flight, of course, so we use crates or harness restraints to keep them from hopping in a pilot’s lap during the trip or moving around the cabin.
The Transport Coordinators go through several weeks of training and have access to a training manual that covers most situations. Working as a team means there is always someone more senior who can offer advice. We have learned that no two flights are the same, so we try to maintain best practices and allow for flexibility in special situations. For example, an emergency flight for an injured animal can’t be delayed for two weeks of quarantine. Instead, we would have the pilot, and all involved, follow special instructions on how to prepare the plane interior, how the animal is to be handled etc. We do our best to follow international standards for safe transportation of animals. Volunteers are shadowed, when putting together their first few transports until they acquire the confidence and knowledge to handle things on their own.
As a registered Petscort, I am aware that the terms ‘typical’ and ‘generally’ do not apply. Each situation is unique. Can you describe to readers what the work entails, the transportation process and requirements?
The Pilots N Paws Canada Transportation Coordinator will liaise with Rescue Organizations and Pilots and work out schedules, destinations and any special requirements (medication requirements, etc.). There is a forum where requests for ground transport assistance are posted. Pilots, and Petscorts in and around these areas can log on and offer to assist with sections of the relay. The forum can be reached at www.pilotsnpawscanadaforum.com
Unfortunately, there may be some turbulence within this well-organized process; weather can make things difficult; strong wind over the lakes and our Canadian below freezing temperatures. Also, remote locations where no one is around is also a challenge as it can prove unsafe for a pilot to have to land where there is no fuel or help available. Pilots N Paws demonstrates strong determination and will and do what they can to come up with plans B and C in such cases. They have been known to even go up to plan H in some cases, rejuggling to fit a rescue groups needs.
How is the program funded?
PNPC does not receive any formal funding. They, like most, non profit organizations, rely on donations from the general public to keep things going.
Unlike rescue organizations, which have veterinary costs to deal with, PNPC’s running costs are small (less than $10,000/year). Even so, running any organization, getting the word out to encourage more pilots to join and generating awareness to rescues across Canada become familiar with the program does cost money.
Pilots N Paws Canada do try other fund raising activities to reduce costs including their online ‘Anniversary Auction,’ featuring amazing products and beautiful Canadian artwork donated by supporters across the country.
They also offer items like a clothing line through a Canadian company Garage Rocks,’ that specializes in working with non- profit groups. They make the product available to the general public and pay PNPC a percentage of each sale. http://www.garagerockapparel.com/stores/pilots-n-paws-canada/
The thing that makes these trips possible is that each pilot donates hundreds of dollars of their own money to cover fuel costs and landing fees for these flights.
PNPC has a goal set for 2015 to help offset some of the costs for travel to harder to reach remote locations. They plan to do this by starting a special Fur Flying Fuel Fund. Donors will know that 100% of their donation will go directly towards making a flight happen. Each flight costs approximately $150-$350 per hour. Donors will be able to select the amount they wish to contribute. Ideally, a group or a company might sponsor an entire flight. Similar to the expense incurred by our pilots, these contributors would also be eligible for a tax receipt for their donation.
As a fellow volunteer, I understand there are days that can be overwhelming, and it may be hard to stay focused and positive. Tell us about a story that inspires you – one that warms your heart and reminds you why you do what you do.
There have been so many success stories that were one of a kind, it is hard for Gini and Deanna to choose just one. Both agree the story of Nala was incredibly emotional and inspirational.
What are some issues that frustrate you when it comes to the welfare and rescue of animals? What are your thoughts on how these issues might be addressed and overcome?
Overpopulation of animals due to people not being responsible and not having their pets spayed/neutered. The irrational desire to breed their own pet which will likely result in a hundred homeless animals being euthanized or spending their short lives in shelters unwanted. There are only so many homes available – more people need to adopt and not shop for their new pet.
The lack of awareness by the general public that many puppy mills exist here in Canada. There are also many hoarding situations in every province that rescues continually need to step up to help. Homes are needed for the survivors of these horrible situations.
Saddest of all is the culling of regular dogs, where unwanted and abandoned dogs are shot and killed. These things are all happening in our country yet most of the general public is unaware.
We need more media interest and coverage to make the general public aware of the issues happening here in Canada.
For people who might be wondering how they can help – even if their time is limited, what would you suggest and how can they apply to assist?
Wherever people are in their lives, there is a rescue group or shelter that would benefit from their support. There are so many groups that take care of a wide range of animals, specializing in their care and helping to rehome them into a perfect situation. West Coast Rottweiler’s who focus on the black and tan dogs, Friendly Giants who specialize in large breeds. Small Animal Rescue who take care of the bunnies, chinchillas, hedgehogs and all things furry and small, reptile rescues, horse rescues, exotic bird rescues. There are also many wonderful wildlife rescues that all could use a helping hand. Donations of crates, food, towels, blankets, leashes, and toys. To have all these things provided would make a difference for groups with small to no budget.
PNPC themselves are always looking for volunteers to become part of their team of Transport Coordinators. There are also many events that PNPC gets invited to attend across the country so having people volunteer to attend a one or two-day event to assist our team is extremely valuable to us.
There are many ways any person can become involved. Including becoming a PETSCORT!
Do you mind sharing with us your goals for the future?
To help MORE, in MORE areas and to expand the team. More Pilots and Petscorts mean more animals are transported to safety.
Short term goal: To implement the Fuel Fund in 2015 to help offset costs for the volunteer pilots.
Long term goal: To be able to expand our support to Spay/Neuter Clinics across the country.
Is there anything else you would like people to know about PNP Canada?
Pilots N Paws Canada are in the semi-finals in the AVIVA contest. Their goal is to draw attention to the issues and help six remote communities with spay and neuter. http://tinyurl.com/voteforpilotsnpawscanada
The event ends Dec 10 (tomorrow). PLEASE VOTE FOR THEM!
Team members offer encouragement and support to one other. Encouragement is especially important during winter months when travel is put on hold due to poor weather conditions. The team ensures morale does not waiver and spirits remain high. The missions performed by the team often mean the difference between life and death for many animals. The Pilots N Paws Canada team celebrates each successfully completed mission and does not hesitate for a moment before scheduling the next transport. In fact, there are often several transports being arranged at one time. A true-north strong spirit indeed!
Each mission is different and may have a variety of requirements. Depending on flights arrival and departure times, a foster home may be required for the animal(s) being transported until the final leg of the journey can be completed. Members of each mission are selected based on location and availability, ensuring the transport is as seamless as possible.
I am proud to be a registered Petscort with Pilots and Paws. Although I have not yet been scheduled to assist with transport, I continue to check the forum and will respond to transport postings I am able to assist. That’s okay; Rudolph was an underdog too. When called upon that foggy Christmas Eve, he proudly led his team ensuring another successful mission.
Pilot’s N Paws Canada have completed more than 500 missions and continue to work hard throughout the year to transport animals to safety. Success stories such as Nala’s will truly warm your heart this holiday season – the season of giving.
Well done Pilot’s N Paws Canada, your generosity and beautiful tales of rescue will go down in history!
To find out more about Pilots N Paws Canada, and how you can register to become a Petscort or assist as a Pilot, please visit their website http://www.pilotsnpawscanada.com/