FFAF Founder and Director Vikki Smith works with national organization Wings of Rescue and volunteer pilots to charter flights with the precious cargo. The organizations have now partnered to fly out 259 Oklahoma dogs since the first trip in February, ensuring they get a second chance at no-kill shelters in Washington and Idaho.
“These shelters have a wait list for people that are wanting to adopt animals,” said Smith, “so 90% of these animals will be adopted and in a forever home within 24 hours of arriving.”
All of the dogs were left in Oklahoma shelters, waiting to die because they had not been adopted. FFAF welcomed groups from as far away as Tulsa, Enid and Altus at the AAR Aircraft Services building of Will Rogers World Airport Friday. Rescue groups brought some of their dogs to make room for others that are currently awaiting euthanasia in their local pounds.
Altus Animal Control drove 20 dogs to catch the flight because there is simply no room for them there.
“We get more owner surrenders than we do adoptions,” said Altus kennel worker Michele Boggs. “It’s really sad.”
Shelter workers say they wished they could protect every animal in their care, but euthanasia is a legal means to relieve overcrowding.
Boggs said, “We’re there more than we’re with our families, and when you see one that has to get put down it’s heartbreaking.”
The shelters are glad to work with Smith to save some dogs, even though they have to pay out of pocket to make sure health records are up to date before the trip.
Smith’s goal is to charter a flight every month, but each trip costs $15,000.
“When you’re in rescue, you know that you’re not making money,” said Smith. “You’re spending money to save animals.”
Smith said her mission will continue as long as pets are getting euthanized in Oklahoma shelters. She believes the solution to overcrowding lies in enforcing spay and neuter laws. “The laws that we do have here are not enforced very well at all,” she said. “This is a very small Band-Aid to a gaping wound.”
Boggs says the blame also lies with irresponsible owners. She said, “A lot of the dogs that come in, they were just thrown in the backyard. They weren’t socialized, so they get picked up because maybe they got loose and then you can’t interact with them, and we don’t have the time to rehabilitate them…they’re mean because they’re afraid. Those are the ones that get put down first.”
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