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In 2008, pilot Jeff Bennett was volunteering at a Key West animal shelter when he came across an article in an aircraft magazine about a newly launched nonprofit called Pilots N Paws. The group’s mission is to connect volunteers who rescue, shelter and foster abandoned animals in danger of being euthanized with pilots who can transport them to foster or forever homes.
Inspired by what he read, Bennett, a Florida Keys resident, decided that he could better use his time transporting animals rather than cleaning cages. “Anyone can clean a crate or cage,” Bennett says. “But since I already had a plane and my license, I felt that my time could be much better used in transporting these homeless animals to help prevent them from being euthanized.”
Jeff Bennett was exactly the type of volunteer Pilots N Paws needed, particularly in 2008. Early on, the organization’s greatest struggle was simply getting the word out to pilots and shelter workers. Thanks to some good news coverage, though, PNP was soon flooded with donations and offers of help.
Today there are more than 3,000 pilots, including Bennett, registered on PNP; the organization’s goal is 10,000 participating pilots. Pilots donate both their planes and their flying time. As an extra incentive, the cost of fuel and plane rentals are considered charitable donations and are tax deductible — which makes it even easier for these pilots to lend a helping hand.
Since he began working with the group, Bennett has flown an amazing range of exotic four-legged refugees, including a pot-bellied pig, a Kinkajou, a Guinea pig, hamsters, rats and rabbits — even a tortoise. Bennett has four rescued dogs of his own who love to fly with him.
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