Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Ooltewah resident William Tomlinson spent five years in the Civil Air Patrol, a civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, doing search and rescue missions. Now, when not instructing people how to fly in inclement weather for Crystal Air and Moccasin Flying Club, he uses his pilot license and plane to rescue pets along the East Coast.
Since starting his flying mission in 2008, he estimates he has rescued 70 pets that otherwise could have been euthanized in the kill shelters from which he transported them. He transports the pets to no-kill shelters up north.
“The dogs are generally scared and shake,” he said, adding that he rescues three to four pets per flight. “We spend time with the pets first before we fly them. Pilots N Paws has people on the ground walking the dogs.”
His two pet Shih Tzus Baskin and Casey ride in his 1966 Mooney M20C plane with him to rescue pets. Tomlinson’s wife Pauline also accompanies him on rescue missions. Since their plane is smaller they specialize in rescuing small dogs and cats.
They rescue pets mainly from Kentucky, North Carolina and South Carolina, but also from Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee, he said.
Normally Tomlinson transports pets from shelters, but in some cases he helps rescue pets from illegal breeding environments. He said he rescues many Shih Tzus from puppy mills. Fellow Pilots N Paws volunteers go to the mills and rescue the pets and meet Tomlinson at the airport with the puppies. He said he has also rescued Maltese, Westie, Beagle and German Shepherd puppies.
“One dog I rescued, Newman, was tied up all the time and he was angry,” said Tomlinson. “One lady from Bowling Green, Kentucky, said to bring him to her because she had success in rehabilitating dogs. He passed with flying colors and now serves as a service dog helping people in a retirement home. They planned to put him down, so it was a time-sensitive rescue.”
He said Pilots in Paws 200 pilots collectively have rescued thousands of pets since the organization started.
In addition to the many pilots involved, many others work behind the scenes transporting pets on the ground to the airports. Tomlinson said some volunteers go to a shelter, pull a pet out and keep it at their home until a pilot can come pick it up. He said volunteers pay for their own plane or car fuel, so donations are always appreciated.
“Most of these guys are like me; we’re not wealthy, but we like to help pets get to a no-kill shelter or a home to be taken care of,” said Tomlinson. “I rescue about five pets per month. I was rescuing two a week for awhile, but had to slow down.”
Once per year, he said about 30 to 40 Pilots N Paws pilots get together for a big project to sweep one area and rescue many pets. He said one year the pilots went to rescue pets from New Orleans left behind from Hurricane Katrina. He said this fall pilots will work together to sweep Charlotte to rescue numerous pets to take to no-kill shelters.
Tomlinson said Pilots N Paws also seeks to educate people about the importance of spaying and neutering in order to lower the unwanted pet population.