Saturday, December 20, 2014

Cirrus pilot Jeff Bennett: 3,000th animal rescue for Pilots N Paws

JEFF BENNETT ARRIVES IN TAMPA with his 3,000th rescue animal after six years of flying as a volunteer for Pilots N Paws. 

TAMPA | A black-and- white French bulldog named Reggie became a milestone for retired businessman Jeff Bennett.

The squirmy canine became the 3,000th creature Bennett has flown to a better life.

Bennett volunteers with Pilots N Paws. The South Carolina-based charity enlists small plane pilots to take animals from over­crowded shelters that have high euthanasia rates to foster homes, rescue groups and less crowded shelters that don't kill them.

On a windy December day, Bennett flew in his four-seat plane from the Florida Keys to Gainesville, where he dropped off a potbellied pig named Iggy at a swine shelter. Then he went on to the Panhandle, where he collected nearly two dozen dogs, including Reggie, from a shelter in Alabama.

The dog was surrendered by his owners and is headed for new owners in South Florida.

Bennett estimates he's flown about 1,100 hours in his small four-seat Cirrus aircraft since starting his volunteer work with the group six years ago.

"Most of the time I do puppies and kittens, but I've done snakes, rats, rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, ... tortoises, sea turtles, falcons, pigs and a kinkajou," he said.

Ruth Douthitt of Second Chance Puppies and Kittens Rescue in West Palm Beach was waiting to take most of the two dozen dogs and two kittens back to South Florida when Bennett stopped in Tampa on his way south.

"They're such rural areas up there, they have shelters that may hold only 10 animals," Douthitt said.

Once the 10-animal limit is reached, officials put a sign on the door saying the shelter can't take any more.

Reggie had people waiting to adopt him, and all of the other animals on Bennett's flight that day will be taken in by foster homes or no-kill shelters.


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