SIKESTON — An animal rescue organization has found a way to put homeless animals in the hands of those who want them — even if those hands are hundreds of miles away.
Pilots N Paws is a website that provides a forum used by animal rescues and animal-loving pilots to arrange and coordinate air transportation for animals.
"Pilots volunteer their gas and time and fly puppies all over the United States," said Laura Holloway of the SEMO Animal Rescue Alliance in Lilbourn.
Holloway and Julie Adams, also of the SEMO Animal Rescue Alliance, handed off nine dogs recently at the Sikeston Memorial Municipal Airport to Don Rieser, a private pilot who lives in Antioch, Ill.
"This is the third or fourth time to fly my dogs out," Holloway said.
Animals helped by the SEMO Animal Rescue Alliance come from "shelters, off the streets — dumped, abandoned," she said.
When the rescue gets an animal in, workers post pictures and short bios with the hope that an animal rescue elsewhere will contact them with an e-mail about an adoption home.
"We have a lot of regular rescues that we send dogs to," Holloway said.
Lately, most of the animals from the SEMO Animal Rescue Alliance are going to Chances Animal Rescue in Appleton, Wis., she said.
"They take 90 percent of our puppies," Holloway said. "The northern states have tons of low-cost spay/neuter clinics, and they don't have the overpopulation that the south does. Here in Missouri there are puppy mills, and people here do not spay/neuter like they should."
Prevention of overpopulation by spaying and neutering pets is an important part of keeping animals from being euthanized, she noted. Holloway said the SEMO Animal Rescue Alliance estimated it prevented 7,000 puppies in the area from being born last year.
But over the last 12 months, the SEMO Animal Rescue Alliance has also shipped 1,000 animals, most of those via ground transportation but more than a few through the Pilots N Paws program.
"Most go to Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, Colorado, Pennsylvania," Holloway said.
Holloway said she has personally arranged flights for about 60 animals.
The recent furry air travelers included five puppies from a feral dog that the rescue plans to trap, spay and release and a mother dog and her four puppies that were recently dumped in Adams' front yard.
Rieser said he volunteers for a Pilots N Paws flight about every three months or so.
He got involved in the program after retiring about two years ago.
"My first flight was right here," Rieser said. "It seemed like a good thing to do with my time. I like dogs and cats."