Pilots N Paws, a 501c3 non-profit organization, has helped transport thousands of rescued animals to new homes. Christophe Masiero is one of many private pilots who donate their time, planes, and fuel to travel across the United States. Ever since 2009, he has logged over 900 flying hours.
Masiero first learned of Pilots N Paws through his wife. “Since we both love animals and I love flying so much, she felt it would be a great activity for me. It actually allows me to plan missions with ground volunteers, fly hours to stay current and proficient, and last but not least, be part of the solution, helping our community and innocent animals at the same time,” said Masiero.
Christopher Masiero and Birdie with her adoptive mother, Julie In the United States, four million pets are euthanized every year because they cannot find a caretaker. In his two years with the organization, Masiero has flown 51 missions and has helped rescue a total of 124 animals: 113 dogs and 11 cats.
Pilots N Paws is unique in its goal to make sure there is transportation available to rescued animals no matter how far the destination may be. This has proved beneficial to the pilots in strengthening their flying skills. “ Stretching my comfort zone is also a great bonus for a pilot. This allows me to go to busy airports like in the Washington, D. C. or Atlanta, Georgia area. I would not necessarily go to otherwise,” said Masiero. The organization helps the volunteer pilots by distributing a percentage of their donation towards aviation events that help educate pilots about the task they are undertaking.
Even though the pilots supply their own equipment and fuel, the knowledge they are partaking in something helpful for the community is satisfying. “With each trip, the idea of helping the lives of innocent animals is a great joy. In addition, being part of a team and helping the volunteers on the ground (who tirelessly visit kill shelters every day to save lives) put together a rescue trip on a short notice gives great satisfaction,” said Masiero.
Nonetheless, the Pilots N Paws attempts to help its charitable pilots as much as it can. One way it has done this is by making it possible to claim part of their flight expenses as a donation.
Masiero’s last mission took place less than two months ago when he flew from Shelby to Mannassas, Virginia, to rescue a white German shepherd. Many times these long trips are aided by other volunteers, who exchange information with the pilots on the organization’s discussion board website. Entire trips can be arranged like this to sustainably save as many animals as possible.
Masiero has experience in working with others to accomplish this goal. “Last September, I noticed a shelter was trying to transport Birdie, a sweet dog, to its adoptive mother, Julie, who lives in Northeast Ohio. The original plan was to find three pilots to do the legs necessary to cover this long distance. After several weeks of unsuccessful trials, and since my company, Dimension Data, generously offers each employee eight hours of work time a year to donate to a charity of their choice, I gained approval to do the full trip for Pilots N Paws to finally bring Birdie to Julie.
“Two days before, I heard about two mix pits in South Carolina in need of an urgent ride to Kentucky, or they would end up in a kill shelter. I arranged the logistics to go to Camden, South Carolina, to pick up Birdie, then to Newberry, South Carolina, to get the two pits and drop them at the Taylor County Kentucky Airport.” The trip took over nine hours and spanned 1,300 miles, but it was well worth it for the three dogs that were saved.