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Mission to Save Vulnerable Pets Takes Flight

Photo from upstate Today dot com

Photo by Jessica Nelms
Steve Edwards, right, will fly three dogs from Greenville to Virginia on Saturday as part of the Pilots 'N Paws program. Pictured with him are his daughter Jenna, to his left, his niece Alyssa and their dog, Buddie. (courtesy of

By Andrew Moore (Contact / Staff Bio)
September 11, 2009 - 12:59 a.m. EST
Article reprinted from

SENECA — In the United States, 76,000 animals are euthanized each week, and Debi Boies wants to save as many of those adoptable pets as she can.

Pilots ‘N Paws, a 501c3 nonprofit program, gets pilots to volunteer their time and planes to take adoptable dogs that would otherwise be euthanized to rescue shelters and adoptive homes.

“Oftentimes, when shelters are overcrowded, overpopulated, there just aren’t as many adoptive homes out there,” Boies said, adding that Southern states generally have the most overcrowded animal shelter. “We provide a means to transport the animals that are about to be euthanized to places where there’s actually a waiting list for adoptive homes in other areas of the country.”

On Saturday, Steve Edwards, who owns Eagle Media along with his brother, Jerry, will use his piloting skills to pitch in. He’ll fly his plane from Oconee County to Greenville, where he’ll pick up three dogs that had been scheduled to be put down and fly them to Virginia for rescue. It’s all part of Pilots ‘N Pets 5,000, a nationwide effort to save 5,000 vulnerable pets from euthanasia Sept. 12-20.

While the South has the most dire need to rescue adoptable pets, it has also been the most reluctant to participate in the program. “It seems to be very slow in the South in general for some reason. I’m not sure if they just haven’t heard about us yet, but in other parts of country, we’ve got pilots clamoring to come aboard.”

Since Pilots ‘N Paws is a 501c3 corporation, the IRS will allow expenses relating to transports to be treated as a charitable donation. The opportunity to use his plane to help helpless animals is a bigger benefit than any dollar amount, Edwards said after bringing his daughter and niece to the hangar.

“It’s a good example for kids to see that it’s important to give back,” Edwards said. “Anyone who has a plane, big or small, should give back.”

Boies attributed lack of participation in the South to lack of word-of-mouth about the program. Edwards is one such pilot, who just found out about Pilots ‘N Pets two weeks ago in a USA Today article. “We know that when the news media gets involved we do see an increase in pilots joining because they love to fly; most of them will be flying somewhere anyway, so why not make your flight even more worth while?” Boies said. Pilots ‘N Paws 5,000 is also geared toward bringing about an awareness of the importance of general aviation, which Boies said has taken a hit through new federal policies. The program’s Web site,, provides prospective participants a forum to discuss and take part of the movement. On the site, a statement is provided regarding the importance of aviation in the U.S. “The threats range from onerous Homeland Security directives to crippling and expensive fees imposed on general aviation. We want to see general aviation perceived by the public accurately as a driving force in our economy,” it reads.