ONLY ON 3: Pilots go to lengths to give shelter dogs new homes

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The overpopulation of dogs and cats in the United States is a growing problem. With more animals available than potential pet owners, thousands of animals are euthanized every year.

A Wilmington man is teaming up with a nationwide group called Pilots n’ Paws to help get more pets adopted, even if that means moving the animals to a safe location himself.

Pack ’em up and move ’em out. This Austrialian shepherd and her puppies were left for dead at an area animal shelter. With overcrowding and more animal surrenders than ever, time was quickly running out.

The mom and her litter were days away from death when an animal rescue group reached out to save them. The only problem? The group is based in Melbourne, FL, about 615 miles away from Wilmington.

“These are tough times, and it’s hard to find the money to do something like this, but sometimes you just have to,” Doug Oakley said.

This is Oakley’s third trip with Pilots n’ Paws. The volunteer pilots move adopted dogs to their new homes. Oakley spends his own money and flies his own plane to get the animals to safety.

On this day we ride along for the more than two and a half hour flight to Jessup, GA. Along the way Penelope and her puppies got a bird’s eye view of the east coast.

“I guess we do it because the dogs are in such need,” Oakley said. “The animals are in such need of help. These are animals that would have been put down, euthanized had somebody not stepped up.”

Oakley spent hundreds of dollars on fuel to fly the eight dogs out of harm’s way. As a real estate agent on Bald Head Island in a down economy, he says times are tough, but he and other pilots try to focus on the benefit of their efforts.

“We try to put the cost of it aside, though, with the benefit of the need,” Oakley said.

Oakley says there is a network of other pilots around the country that also work to move the animals to safety. One met us in Georgia to take penelope and her pups the rest of the way to their new home.

On the ride back to Wilmington, Oakley confessed that it’s sad to say goodbye to the pets he moves, but it’s important to remember that he did what he could for them.

Oakley says he plans to do more trips in the future as soon as he can get the funding together.

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