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A New Leash on Life: Over 50 At-Risk Pets Flown to Safety

A New Leash on Life


Did you know that roughly one million pets are euthanized each year? Some estimates are much higher and Texas, where Wondercide is headquartered, is one of the top states that has to put dogs and cats down. Our rural and municipal shelters here in Texas and nationwide are overcrowded as well as underfunded. They need our help. 

The Humane Society of the United States shares that there are 22 million pets living in underserved communities and 88% of them are not spayed or neutered. So pets proliferate and the community can’t support them properly. 

The shelters quickly fill to capacity and the basic needs of the pets exceed the funding and resources available. Some shelters don’t even have enough food for the pets they take in, much less proper flea-and-tick products or medical care. Then too, there are many pets who suffer with behavior issues including aggression. When life has been tough, it’s a coping mechanism. 

Our hometown of Austin is the largest and longest-running no-kill city in the nation because of a partnership between a non-profit organization called Austin Pets Alive! (APA!) and the city’s shelter, Austin Animal Center. And APA! is pioneering innovative programs designed to save animals most at risk. Their team coordinates with the most under-resourced shelters to identify pets who are running out of hope, offers transportation assistance to their facility, and provides medical care. 

This is just the beginning of the story though.

Each month, APA! partners with another incredible non-profit called Dog Is My CoPilot (DIMC) to fly these pets to other states and cities where loving foster and adoptive families are waiting for them. DIMC was founded by Peter E. Rork, a retired orthopedic surgeon and lifelong pilot. To date, the organization has flown almost 22,000 pets and that number keeps going up thanks to ongoing flights with APA!

Why not just drive the pets to another local shelter? Peter explained that the goal is “To get the animals as far away as possible. You can’t just drive the dogs two or three hours because those shelters tend to be in the same situation.” 

We were lucky to sponsor the May 10 flight that left out of Austin and flew over 50 dogs and cats to rescues in Colorado, Utah, and Idaho. In fact, our Creative Director, Chris, rode in the copilot seat with Frank the pilot and the pets, capturing special moments of the day. This is Chris and Frank. 👋

Chris and Frank

Peter also shared, “We believe that collaboration is key to saving more lives and are humbled by the generosity of companies like Wondercide and APA! who share our mission to help protect as many pets as possible. This rescue effort is a model for partnership and we hope it will inspire more people to work together for the greater good of our animal friends. These dogs think we’re saving them but at the end of the day, they save us. They give us the chance to do good and help, to live with a greater purpose than ourselves.” 

A new and important collaboration is with Matt Beisner, certified professional dog trainer (CPDT-KA) and star of the Disney+ show, “Dog: Impossible”.  Knowing behavior issues are one of the top reasons dogs end up in – and get returned to – shelters, Matt joined us to help change that. He spends time with the pups who are awaiting their rescue flight, getting to know them, offering support, and passing on any observations that may better  their chances of landing in a forever home..

Matt Beisner

Matt also serves as an ambassador of the Texas Humane Network and has long been a big supporter of the rescue community. He’s helped change dangerous, fearful, and confounding behaviors in dogs without relying on the use of fear, force, commands or control. He shared: “I try to approach each dog, as I do each person; that there’s a possibility for transformation regardless of the life we’ve been given. It’s our duty to teach those once impossible dogs, scared dogs and dogs who have never been loved by humans, that we are here to protect them so they can thrive.” 

Watch Matt’s interview at APA!

Here are the pets who will thrive thanks to this incredible rescue effort.

 

We followed the story of a dog named Camper. He's a big dog with big love to give. Karen Brophy of Erath County Humane Society explained that Camper came into their shelter as a stray, and no one came to claim him. 

“I think the number one question I get about Camper is ‘What is that dog doing in a shelter?’ I think that’s a common misconception that only “bad dogs” or “sick dogs” are in our municipal shelters when that isn’t the case…there are terrific dogs in every shelter.” She fostered Camper until the flight. Matt spent time on the tarmac with Camper to give him a little reassurance and got some pre-flight kisses in return. 

Camper made friends every step of his journey from Texas to Fort Collins, Colorado, where he was placed at Animal Friends Alliance. Unfortunately, big dogs tend to have a harder time getting adopted, explained Mariah McCully of Animal Friends Alliance. “A lot of people are looking for an animal that’s easy, that might be less physically engaging - maybe there’s less mess.” Small dogs get adopted faster, but organizations like this one specialize on homing bigger pups, like Camper. 

See Camper’s journey.:

We learned that Camper was adopted just a few days after landing in Colorado! Yay, Camper.

Ellie is another particularly lucky puppy who got a new leash on life. She is an adorable 7-month-old heeler mix from Del Rio Animal Control. Our founder and CEO, Stephanie Boone, volunteered to foster Ellie before the flight. She and her littles fell head over heels for Ellie, who made herself right at home. After a week of adventures together, there was no separating this sweet girl from her newfound family.  Ellie found her forever home with Stephanie and her two kids. They’re already having fun adventures together and lots of snuggles. 

Ellie and family Ellie on an adventure

Ellie taking a nap

Ellie and Stephanie had a private session with Matt to work on things like overcoming  anxiety and developing confidence. His unique training methods are based on understanding dogs’ natural behavior and building upon it to help them thrive in their new homes. Matt shared with us that a common misconception is that there are “unxfixable dogs.” “Dogs can’t be fixed because they’re not broken. Dogs are behaving in a way that’s totally appropriate to their experience of the world. Just as you or I might be.” We’ll be sharing more about our partnership with Matt and some of his training tips in another post. 

Matt working with Ellie

It takes a village to save pets in need. Rescue flights like these are not possible without the support of such an amazing community of shelters, volunteers, and animal lovers like you. 

Clare Callison, Director of National Pet Supply & Demand, Austin Pets Alive!
Clare Callison, Director of National Pet Supply & Demand, Austin Pets Alive!

In addition to Austin Pets Alive!, Dog Is My CoPilot, and Matt Beisner, the furry friends on our flight came from eleven Texas animal shelters 

  • Del Rio Animal Services
  • Bryan Animal Shelter
  • Mission Animal Control
  • SPCA of Polk County
  • San Angelo Animal Services/Concho Valley Paws
  • Laredo Animal Care Services
  • Pecos Animal Shelter
  • Cleburne Animal Services, 
  • Erath County Animal Shelter
  • Alpine Animal Shelter
  • Harlingen Humane Society

 
And made their way to these six rescues in Colorado, Utah, and Idaho:

  • Animal Friends Alliance
  • Black Dog Animal Rescue
  • Bounce Animal Rescue
  • Cuddles Rescue and Lounge
  • Idaho humane society
  • Kootenia Humane Society

 
About the May 10 flight, Stephanie said “We’ll continue to find ways to support the rescue community and the organizations that go to the end of the earth to save pets across the country. The volunteers at DIMC, APA!, and the underfunded shelters are shining examples of leading with Fierce Love. These inspiring people are doing everything in their power and beyond to save pets and we couldn’t be more honored to be a small part of this big love.” 

Volunteers carry the rescued pets to their new life.
Volunteers carry the rescued pets to their new life.

Thank you, Wonder Pack for joining us on this life-changing adventure. Your purchases help us help others. If you want to do more, consider adopting or fostering. Contact your local shelter and spread the love.

Interested to learn more? Watch these videos:

Interview with Serena Wright, Executive Director of Erath County Humane Society

Interview with Clare Callison, Director of National Pet Supply & Demand at Austin Pets Alive!

Interview with Peter Rork, Chief Pilot and President of Dog Is My CoPilot

Interview with our Founder and CEO Stephanie Boone

Interview with Mariah McCully – Director of Operations Animal Friends Alliance

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