This Spring, our team hit the road to visit our shelter partners in Texas. This was one of the most impactful rescue trips we’ve ever made! Let me take you along to meet the incredible people and wonderful animals that Lynette Duford (Rescue Flight Coordinator) and Kara Pollard (Executive Director) worked with as they visited our partners. They witnessed firsthand the struggles many overcrowded animal shelters face on a daily basis. Each worker and volunteer plays a crucial role in the well-being of every animal that comes through their door, as they prepare for a flight to their forever home with Dog Is My CoPilot.
Lynette and Kara traveled over 2,000 miles, toured over a dozen animal shelters both large and small, connected with hundreds of staff and volunteers, and met thousands of animals in need of a forever home. They were welcomed at every shelter with open arms and smiles, and were humbled by the hard work of each staff member and the army of volunteers that are working to save the lives of the animals in their care.
At first glance the shelters could be seen as sad, tragic places. It can be overwhelming to think that on any one day, these organizations are caring for thousands of animals. The shelters are up against what seems to be insurmountable circumstances because of the sheer volume of dogs and cats in their care. Kara and Lynette were anticipating some tears throughout the week, but the opposite happened. They left this trip inspired, hopeful, and excited to work even harder with their partners to rescue more animals in our upcoming rescue season.
Shelters making a difference
Lynette and Kara visited several large municipal and private animal shelters like Austin Pets Alive, San Antonio Pets Alive, Laredo Animal Care Services, El Paso Animal Services, and Fort Worth Animal Care & Control. At many locations, there were animals in every area of the shelter, multiple animals per kennel. To meet the demand, sometimes the shelters used tarps outside to house the overflowing numbers under their care. At one shelter visit, it took them over three hours just to walk by each kennel, and of course they made sure to surprise the animals with treats. Kara and Lynette were amazed that the staff and volunteers knew all the dogs’ names and how long the animals had been in the shelter and their backstories.
In addition to working with Dog Is My CoPilot to provide rescue flights, many of the large shelters are running spay and neuter clinics, community vaccine clinics, and adoption drives, and engaging the local community to help provide homes for strays. Kara and Lynette were heartened to see how the rescue flights not only save lives but also boost morale and inspire the workers at these shelters. They left Texas feeling more motivated than ever to work with their partners to rescue more animals and create positive change.
Small shelters have the same struggle
From some of the largest to some of the smallest, Kara and Lynette got to meet with the staff and volunteers at Luling Animal Shelter that has only six kennels, and Robert Pedraza who created Paws and Strides Rescue out of his home. At first glance you would think smaller shelters would have it much easier than a massive shelter, but it’s all about scale. Fewer dogs means fewer staff, no walk-in traffic of potential adopters, yet every week new animals arrive that need a home. No matter how big or small a shelter, there is always a need for more shelter space. However, what stood out to Kara and Lynette was the level of dedication and passion that the staff and volunteers put into saving every animal’s life. They were humbled by Robert’s huge heart and all the love this incredible man had for each dog in his care.
Austin Pets Alive! (APA!) has created a unique transportation hub where they collect animals from these smaller rural shelters where adopters are sparse and veterinary resources are limited. APA! then works with receiving organizations and provides health screenings before animals are transported. Through our partnership with APA! we help fly hundreds of animals a month into homes across the country, both on the west and east coasts. For many shelter workers, knowing that all the hard work and time resulted in an animal finding a home is rewarding enough to come back to face the challenges at the shelters every day.
Kara and Lynette met Sweet Tia at Laredo Animal Care Services in Laredo, Texas. Shelter and in 48 hours, was with a foster family in Wyoming. Tia, a little cattle dog, had been overlooked for weeks in the shelter but won the heart of Kara and together with the Animal Adoption Center she found a loving home in the Tetons!
What we learned
After reflecting on their trip, Kara and Lynette were struck by the importance of partnerships, the humbling nature of their experiences, and the hope and gratitude they felt.
At Dog Is My CoPilot, the mission to save the lives of animals in need is wholly dependent on the support and collaboration of shelter and rescue partners. As such, it is critical that everyone involved in the organization’s efforts, from its staff and volunteers to its supporters, recognizes and values the vital work being done by these partners every day
One such partner is El Paso Animal Services (EPAS), which takes in anywhere from 50 to 100 animals per day and houses up to 800 dogs and cats at any given time. Given the staggering number of animals in their care, and the fact that only about ten adoptions are made on a good day, EPAS is always struggling with overcrowding. This is why the work of organizations like Dog Is My CoPilot is so important: by flying out 75-100 animals from this one shelter every three weeks, the team is making a significant difference in the lives of the animals left behind. Kara and Lynette were grateful for the opportunity to meet the hardworking people behind the scenes and express their appreciation in person. They left their visit feeling even more connected to their partners, knowing that they are all united in their goal to help save adoptable pets.
We are forever grateful to the shelter workers and volunteers who tirelessly care for animals in need. They carry a heavy load, yet they do it with unwavering love and compassion. We are humbled by their dedication and inspired by their selflessness, said Kara Pollard, Executive Director
In addition, Kara and Lynette saw first hand how your support makes a difference in the lives of these pets. With two airplanes in operation and over 100 flights scheduled all over the country, we are anticipating flying over 5,000 animals to safety this year.
Thank you to our entire community who have prioritized saving animals, spreading love, and keeping our planes, the Sequel and the Big Dog, wheels up for years to come.