This Thursday, Dec. 15, Van Nuys Airport will be the staging area for the departure of approximately 100 dogs of all shapes and sizes that will be transported via private aircraft to loving new families just in time for the holidays. The dogs will arrive on the tarmac at 7:30 AM in a specially designed bus before being loaded into a Jet Prop and a Pilatus PC 12 bearing the Wings of Rescue logo and the tag line, “Flying Home.”
The people behind the “Wings of Rescue Holiday Airlift” are a coalition of Los Angeles area individuals and groups, including Wings of Rescue, S.T.A.R.T. (Shelter Transport Animal Rescue Team) and the IL Care branch of the Israeli Leadership Council. These diverse groups have joined together to create a network dedicated to rescuing dogs destined for euthanasia in California’s high kill shelters and flying them to new homes in states where demand for adoption exceeds the supply of available pets.
Wings of Rescue, founded by local resident and private pilot Yehuda Netanel, is an all volunteer organization of pilots who have combined a passion for flying with a desire to save shelter animals from euthanasia. Netanel, himself an owner of six dogs, says that one day he came to the realization that “Every day, amazing dogs awake to their last,” and decided to use his personal resources to do something about it. As word spread, the flights grew more frequent and the rescue dogs more plentiful; expanding to the 100 or more dogs being transported on Thurdays’s “Wings of Rescue Holiday Airlift.”
S.T.A.R.T. (Shelter Transport Animal Rescue Team) operates the specially retrofitted bus that provides the ground transport component of the rescue effort. Steve Spiro, commenting on the group’s purpose says, “START is dedicated to saving animals on death row and giving them a new beginning by sending them to out of state rescue groups where they are wanted and will be loved.” With literally thousands of dogs in the Los Angeles shelter system being euthanized weekly due to a lack of capacity and adoptive homes, Spiro adds, “Our purpose for the transports is the possibility and hope that one day … we will be out of business.”