Each year thousands of animals are killed in animal shelters in West Virginia and surrounding states. There has been a recent push by some groups to find ways to lower those numbers. Part of that effort includes looking for out of state rescue organizations that have space to take in animals until they can find a permanent home.
Dog Bless is a rescue group that has saved over 600 dogs from the Kanawha Charleston Animal Shelter in the last year. Part of their work includes sending dogs from West Virginia to other rescue organizations across the country. Group leaders say volunteers screen the rescues to make certain animals that go to the locations will be handled safely. They regularly send vans full of dogs on transport missions to the approved rescues. But occasionally they get the opportunity to put the dogs on planes to get them there faster.
Transport Coordinator for Dog Bless Janet Schoen and her most recent foster dog Sadie formed a close connection during the days they spent together recently. Sadie and three other dogs were rescued from the Kanawha Charleston Animal Shelter toward the end of April. This month they flew out of Executive Air in Charleston to the Delaware County SPCA in Pennsylvania. The flight was free. A network of 3,000 volunteers called Pilots n' Paws offers the trips to non-profit animal rescues for free. Pilot Scott Messinger said he loves dogs and tries to do at least one rescue flight every week.
"What we do is we provide free transportation for rescues," said Messinger. "They are mostly from kill shelters. A lot of those are in the south. It is more rewarding than you can imagine."
For Janet Schoen watching her foster dog and the others fly away was bittersweet.
"I'm gonna miss you Sadie. I want you to go have a wonderful life," Schoen said, as she watched Sadie get on the plane. "She is crying for me. I could hear her as we were walking away. I am going to miss her but I am glad she is on her way to a forever home."
Officials at the Delaware County SPCA No Kill facility found homes almost immediately for Sadie and two of the other dogs. Another dog was pregnant and had to be placed in foster care until she has her puppies and they are weaned.
"There is a tremendous amount of effort that goes into every dog. There may never be an end to that. But it matters to the dogs on this plane," said Chelsea Staley, with Dog Bless. It might have been a lot of effort by a lot of people. But to these dogs it was the only chance they had."
Justina Calgiano, the Director of Community Relations at the Delaware County SPCA said the adoption center is able to take in dogs from West Virginia because in their specific community they do not have the overwhelming pet overpopulation problems that exist in many parts of West Virginia and surrounding states.
Calgiano said aggressive adoption programs, low cost spay and neuter services and programs to help people temporarily struggling to feed their pets are all steps they've taken to reduce the number of homeless animals in their community. The group also set daily, weekly, monthly and yearly adoption goals. Their goal for 2013 is to place 3,300 animals. Last year they placed 3,139 homeless pets. Calgiano said the group also operates humane investigations and humane education programs. She said they also have close to one hundred volunteers who offer foster homes to animals waiting to be adopted.
For information about becoming a foster volunteer for Dog Bless you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To find out about low cost spay and neuter options in Kanawha County you can call 304-415-0096 or 304-342-1576.
If you live outside of Kanawha County you can follow the link to Help for Animals, a low cost spay and neuter clinic in Barboursville http://www.helpforanimals.net/ or call 304-736-8555.
To learn more about the Delaware County SPCA follow this link http://delcospca.org/.
To learn more about Pilots n' Paws click here http://pilotsnpaws.org/about/