Russ Landau is a pet owner and pilot from Los Angeles, CA, and Kate Quinn is the Executive Director of Pilots N Paws. Petcentric caught up with both of them to find out more about how private pilots can make a life-changing difference for rescue animals.

Tell us about Pilots N Paws and how you assist in pet rescues.

The program was established in 2008 when pilot Jon Wehrenberg agreed to assist animal-lover Debi Boies in flying a rescued Doberman from Florida to South Carolina to save the dog's life. Their first pet rescue mission quickly grew into the idea for Pilots N Paws, a website where private pilots could connect with rescue organizations to help fly animals from overcrowded shelters to new homes and families in other states.

Animal rescue organizations can post their transport needs on the website, where they will be paired with pilots who are available to fly. The organization has grown to include 5,000 pilots, has assisted in over 75,000 rescue transports since it began, and is growing bigger every year.

How does the program benefit pets?

Pet overpopulation is more prevalent in certain regions of the country. In order to give those pets a chance at adoption, we move them to other states where new pet owners are available. Transporting animals on the ground can be a long, slow process and can prove very stressful on an animal that may already be anxious after having spent time in a shelter. Flying is a lot faster and less stressful on the animals, since one or two pilots can usually cover the distance of ten drivers. Most pets are lulled by the engine noise to a comfortable sleep while flying.

Russ — you recently flew your first pet rescue for Pilots N Paws. Can you tell us about your experience?

I had flown my first cross-country trip from Los Angeles to Connecticut with my son and our dog the previous summer. My dog loved the fight and slept comfortably nearly the entire time, so I knew flying for Pilots N Paws would be a great experience. When my son left for his first year of college in Santa Cruz this fall I decided to sign up to assist in transporting a rescue dog headed to a forever home. An animal handler flew with us and held the dog in his lap, so he was comfortable and happy the entire time.

What's the best part about flying for the program?

I've always been an animal person and have several pets at home, so the experience hasn't changed me in that sense, however, it has made me feel good about doing something that's otherwise just for me. Flying is a hobby, but helping to get an animal to a loving home in the process makes flying twice as great. I will definitely be doing it again.

Kate — can you tell us about one of Pilots N Paws most amazing rescues?

Pilots N Paws has helped to write so many heartwarming rescue stories, but one of the biggest and most amazing was the recent Greenville Rescue Airlift, a massive rescue event that had hundreds of pilots transporting 490 animals to new homes in a single day. Besides saving the lives of so many animals, the event generated lots of attention for pet adoption as well as emphasizing the importance of spaying and neutering.

Thank you, Russ and Kate!

Does your pet have a unique rescue story? Please share your experience in the comments!