At least 40 dogs from the Madera County Animal Shelter took flight Nov. 20 as they joined the annual Wings of Rescue Holiday Airlift. This year’s record-setting transport moved more than 1,000 dogs from overcrowded shelters in Central and Southern California to rescue organizations in areas flush with adopters.
Wings of Rescue is a Southern California based group of about 30 volunteer pilots and private planes offering free transportation for dogs in high kill shelters to areas that actually have a need for adoptable dogs.
It’s all about supply and demand. Madera County has an enormous supply of animals with almost no demand. Places such as Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Montana and Utah have the reverse situation and welcome these dogs.
Participating in the airlift is just one part of the Friends of Madera County Animal Shelter’s (FMAS) new Rescue Transport Program. When volunteer Robin Bell joined the group, it was apparent to her that Madera animals could benefit from the type of rescue transport program she had volunteered with in Merced.
When the idea was presented to the FMAS board, they didn’t hesitate to jump on the band wagon. Soon to follow was a team of volunteers who devote countless hours and who are willing to get up at absurdly early times to load dogs onto transports.
FMAS owes a debt of gratitude to the Merced group who inspired the program, New Beginnings for Merced County Animals.
“They have allowed county lines to blur and share resources, contacts and transports. Without their help, Madera’s program couldn’t have jump-started so quickly.” said Bell.
In just the first two months of the program, more than 200 dogs and puppies will be moved out of the shelter via custom pet carrying trucks and buses, FMAS vans and planes. The pets are delivered to safe havens at rescues and humane societies throughout the northwest, which has speedy adoption rates.
FMAS president Judy Wedding said of the transport program, “Before there wasn’t much hope for many of our dogs, but now there is.”
“With more than 7,000 animals dropped off at the Madera County Animal Shelter every year, the challenge of placing all of them is overwhelming. Now, with the assistance of dozens of dedicated FMAS volunteers, incredible rescue efforts, and adoption programs, we can finally see a light at the end of the tunnel,” Kirsten Gross, Madera County Shelter director said. “Hundreds of innocent animals are now home for the holidays due to the partnerships between counties and these devoted rescue organizations.”
The future of the FMAS Rescue Transport Program depends on help. The program is all expenses with no financial return and is completely dependent on donations. Volunteers are needed to help fundraise, assist in the hands-on-work with the dogs, arrange transports and to drive both local and out of state transports. Donations of used crates are also critical as the crates used for plane travel are typically not returned.
To get involved, contact either FMAS at (559) 363-5106 or Madera Animal Shelter, (559) 675-7891.
The mega-transport will be spotlighted on a FOX TV special “All-Star Dog Rescue Celebration” airing Thanksgiving evening.
Madera County Animal Shelter