On December 5th, IAC-CARE, The Israeli-American council, once again sponsored the Wings of Rescue Holiday Air Lift at Van Nuys Airport. The IAC is involved with a variety of programs that support LA needs; not just Israeli or Jewish related, but aimed at helping the entire community.
Los Angeles is a city with an estimated million homeless dogs. While the majority are healthy, they are mostly euthanized because there are too many to handle. In fact, more than 3 million healthy dogs are euthanized in America every year with a bill of approximately $1billion, paid by our taxes. California has some of the highest kill rates in the country because there are so many unwanted and stray dogs.
In support of the humane practices of Wings of Rescue, IAC-CARE came on-board with sponsorship that included breakfast, a team of nearly 50 volunteers, dog coats for each furry 4-legged friend that was flying to a colder climate, and a travel box so that each animal would be ready for their airplane journey. The volunteers lovingly dressed each dog, cared for them at the airport and then carried them in their travel boxes, to the small chartered airplanes that were taking them to a new home.
This is the 5th holiday air lift that Wings of Rescue has coordinated and it is the largest charity that transports dogs to successfully rehome them. At this event there were dogs from 40 pet shelters, rescue organizations and humane societies, although Wings of Rescue works with 120 Los Angeles rescue organizations. 660 dogs on the holiday airlift were flown to new homes with destinations in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and New York. All the pilots donated their time and the airplane fuel, to make the holiday air lift possible.
The dogs were a variety of breeds, mostly smaller in size and included 150 Chihuahuas who were requested by the North Shore Animal League on Long Island. Chihuahuas are easy dogs to care for but they have a death sentence once they reach rescue organizations because there are so many of them. The length of stay in a shelter is usually between 5 days and 14 days. Some shelters brand themselves as no-kill homes, but in reality it is impractical to keep so many unwanted dogs alive. A spokesperson for Downtown Dog Rescue explained the reality, “We’re not going to adopt our way out of this problem. Adoption is very important, but it’s going to take much more.”
Spay and neutering dogs would alleviate the problem and there are many free programs that offer this service, but pet owners don’t take up the opportunity and many dog owners are unaware of the programs and think it’s going to be an enormous expense. Wings of Rescue’s website has information on free services so there really is no excuse. Without pet owners taking the matter seriously, the overwhelming number of homeless dogs in the Downtown area will not subside.
Many of the dogs would have been put to sleep on the day of the airlift although it costs just $88 to fly a dog to a new home. Unfortunately there are not enough pilots or planes or budgets available to fly the dogs so frequently; the planes are chartered for $15,000 a day. There are other ways to transport the dogs, but this is mostly by truck and that makes for a long, hard journey.
Sharon Fall, is a Fund raiser and Press Relations Volunteer with Wings of Rescue. She explained that, “Flying dogs to new homes is the most efficient and humane way to rehome these lovable pets. Wings of Rescue flies approximately 100 dogs each week of the year with this program. Over the last four years we have saved the lives of more than 10,000 healthy dogs. It’s just a drop in the bucket, but at least it’s something. The dogs are adopted by families in different parts of America; Wings of Rescue does not have flight passage out of the US.”
While stroking a chestnut colored, long haired dachshund with a sweet disposition, Fall went on to explain, “In October, Wings of Rescue took 136 dogs to Bellingham, Washington in October. We set up a temporary shelter at the airport and by the end of the day, every single dog had been adopted. That same shelter, however, took in 75 dogs on the same day. It’s a fire hose; it never stops, yet I feel it’s important that we are at least doing something and we have a goal. We want to raise enough money to purchase our own plane that can rehabilitate 150 dogs twice a week.” The goal is sensible and yet the cost of a small, used plane is $1.8million.
Ori Pikoos manages community events at the IAC. She wasn’t sure that the IAC would be able to purchase something so costly, “There is only so much we can do! At the same time our investment in this program is close to our hearts. We take a great deal of care in sponsoring this program because it effects our community and the reward is meaningful; thousands of homes are made happier by the addition of a dog.”